Rightly Dividing "rightly dividing": 2 Tim. 2:18

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Dec 3, 2009.

  1. asterisktom

    asterisktom
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    Rightly Dividing "rightly dividing"
    Reclaiming 2nd Timothy 2:18
    from Dispensationalism

    Ever since Scofield's special and limited use of 2 Timothy 2:18 a trend has been set in interpreting that phrase "rightly dividing" in an eschatological and dispensational sense. Scofield says this in the beginning of his tract "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth":

    "In 2 Timothy 15 [the Bible student] is told what is required of him as a workman: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

    "The Word of truth, then, has right divisions, and it must be evident that, as one cannot be "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed" without observing them, so any study of that Word which ignores those divisions must be in large measure profitless and confusing. Many Christians freely confess that they find the study of the Bible weary work. More find it so, who are ashamed to make the confession."

    "The purpose of this pamphlet is to indicate the more important divisions of the Word of truth...."

    For Scofield, "dividing" leads to "divisions" and that translates, we are told, into dividing the Word of God into it's proper sections and time periods. But 2 Timothy 2:18 is not about divisions at all. The more accurate handling of the word "orthotomeo" would be either "handling accurately" or "cutting straight" the Word of Truth.

    Jamieson, Faussett & Brown is real helpful here in putting the verse back into its proper setting:

    " rightly dividing - "rightly handling" [Vulgate]; "rightly administering" [ALFORD]; literally, cutting "straight" or "right": the metaphor being from a father or a steward (1 Corinthians 4:1) cutting and distributing bread among his children [VITRINGA and CALVIN], (Luke 12:42). The Septuagint, Proverbs 3:6 11:5, use it of "making one's way": so BENGEL here takes Paul to mean that Timothy may make ready a straight way for "the word of truth," and may himself walk straight forward according to this line, turning neither to the right nor to the left, "teaching no other doctrine" (1 Timothy 1:3). The same image of a way appears in the Greek for "increase" (see on 2 Timothy 2:16). The opposite to "rightly handling," or "dispensing," is, 2 Corinthians 2:17, "corrupt the word of God.""

    So what is the point of all this? Scofield, Larkin and those who follow their lead, consciously or not, are guilty of obscuring the true meaning of this verse in order to buttress a system, just because "dividing" is conveniently used in the KJV of this verse. Do a search on "rightly dividing" on the Net and you will find that the majority of pages understand the phrase to refer exclusively to dispensationalism. Typical among the web pages is this:

    "Christians need to know which scriptures apply to them, and which do not. The Apostle Paul expected Christians to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15)."

    But read the whole Timothy passage and you will see that this is not what Paul was talking about. The issue was about being either a sincere or false handler of the Word of God, not being Dispensationalist or not. "handling the truth accurately" means not handling it like a charlatan (as in 2 Cor. 2:17) or in a display of worldly wisdom (verse 14), but being straightforward in the presentation of it. A sincere speaking of the Word from unfeigned hearts (2 Cor. 4.ff).

    According to the Bible, those who do not handle the Word are not non-dispensationalists, they are false teachers and, if they persist unrepentantly on this course, in danger of being reprobates, wresting the Word of God to their own destruction and to that of others as well.

    "Orthotomeo" may mean:

    1." Cutting straight" paths for the truth. In this case it would line up with John the Baptist's "Make straight the paths of the Lord". The idea being that we ourselves need to be straightforward and upright, since we are bearers of the perfect Word. If this is the meaning, Paul may have been thinking of his tentmaking trade, where fabric sections must be cut straight in order to be fitted together. The different passages of the Bible must be handled accurately to understood the whole counsel.

    2. It may have a dispensational meaning (though not in the modern sense) of a steward dispensing, bringing out of his treasury of the Word of God instruction that is fitting to the purpose and need of the moment. Matt.13:51- 52:

    "Jesus said unto them, Have you understood all these things? They say unto him, Yes, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which brings forth out of his treasure things new and old."

    (See also Luke 12:42)

    These are possible meanings of the Greek word "orthotomeo". The modern dispensational co-opting of the term - and the verse - is not feasible. It is a means of accounting for a system that is not found in Scripture.

    But let's end on a positive note. After careful study of this word "orthotomeo" we can discover, ironically to some, that it is not at all about division, but about unity! A proper understanding of this concept leads us to see the unified Word of God, and the unified people of God - Jew and gentile - enjoying the same blessings of eternal life from our one God.
     
  2. AnotherBaptist

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    I agree with the overall spirit of your post in that Scofield, Larkin and other Classic Dispies err in misapplying the unfortunate rendering of the text in 2 Tim 2:15. However, you shouldn't say there was no eschatological importance in Paul's admonition to "accurately handle" the Word of Truth, as in the immediate context following, two men were given as examples of not doing this, spreading the error that the resurrection of dead Church saints had already occurred.

    At least in that vein, handling the Word of God "accurately" could be surmised to include keeping things in a proper eschatological order. Still not enough ammunition to create segmented dispensational charts, though. :laugh:
     
  3. asterisktom

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    Agreed. Your point (in both paragraphs) is well-taken.
     
  4. ReformedBaptist

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    Great post. Thanks for sharing.
     
  5. djames_abi

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    I was saved 25 years ago at age 26 and came to believe early on that pretribulational dispensationalism is the most consistent result of a grammatical historical hermeneutic. After 25 years of study, I continue to believe this to be true.

    However, my intention is not to defend this position in this response, but rather to take exception to the characterization of dispensationalism and dispensationalists in your opening sentence. I have heard dozens of dispensational teachers and preachers, read many books on the subject, and graduated from DTS - and in 25 years I have never once encountered anyone who ever brought up Scofield's interpretation, let alone attempt to defend dispensationalism using that verse.

    There may still be someone here or there who is dispensational who holds to this, but there is nothing close to an ongoing trend and hasn't been for decades as far as I know.

    Dave James
    The Alliance for Biblical Integrity
     
  6. Marcia

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    Right. Another straw man burns.
     
  7. asterisktom

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    My opening statement came from both my personal study and from my experiences at Bob Jones University in the 70s and 80s. Probably there is a difference between the views of the two schools on this subject.

    I am quite surprised that you never encountered the view, however, since I have seen it several times on websites since then.

    There is more that needs to be answered here, but it will have to wait for later.

    Thanks for the response.
     
    #7 asterisktom, Dec 4, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 4, 2009
  8. djames_abi

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    I think the 70's and 80's counts as "for decades" - and doesn't indicate that whatever trend that may have been set among certain dispensationalists is broadly characteristic of dispensationalism as a whole - which seems to be part of the argument against dispensationalism.

    It isn't appropriate to attempt to discredit dispensationalism as a whole on the basis of some mishandling a particular verse when dispensationalism doesn't stand or fall to any degree on either interpretation of the verse.

    It's not significantly different from trying to discredit dispensationalism as a whole because someone set the date for the rapture in 1988, then 1989 - and others set it for September, then October, then November of this year.

    I think that is a scarecrow, er um, straw-man argument :)

    Dave
     
  9. swaimj

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    Yes. Thank you.

    I don't know of any academic dispensational writer, writing in the last 25 years who uses the verse the way Scofield used it. If you are gonna argue against dispensationalism, argue against what its proponents say now, not some argument that its defenders dropped long ago.
     
  10. asterisktom

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    I appreciate all of this feedback. While I am still totally against dispensationalism I see now that I cannot pursue the matter in this way. If my point is a dated one, well, no need
    beating an old horse to death (mixed metaphor alert).

    Seriously, I will stick with a more biblical, less personalities, approach.
     

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