Sunday, 16 July 2017

How the Apostles Responded to Scripture

James, in Acts 15:16&17, instead of quoting the Masoretic (Hebrew) text of Amos 9:11&12, quoted from the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) - which some say mistranslated, or at least paraphrased, verse 12.

If he'd quoted the Hebrew Old Testament, he might have said something like:

AMOS 9:11&12
In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:

12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this.

But instead he said:

Acts 15:16-17

16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:

17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.

That sounds more like he's quoted the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), even though he changes the word-order a bit.  The Septuagint, translated it (by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton 1851), says:

AMOS 9:11&12

11 In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and will rebuild the ruins of it, and will set up the parts thereof that have been broken down, and will build it up as in the ancient days: 
12 that the remnant of men, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, may earnestly seek me, saith the Lord who does all these things.
James appears to quote a paraphrased version, in a critical situation where it was crucial that he got it right. So he obviously did so knowing that the Jews in his audience would be totally okay with what he was doing, or the way he was doing it.

That might be shocking to the rigid and narrow definitions with which we modern readers sometimes approach the Bible. But it tells me that not only the Apostles, but also the Jews of their day, had broader word-pictures (and ideas - and expectations - and conclusions) created in their minds when they read the Old Testament than what our systems allow us to happily have when we read the same Scriptures.

We approach the Scriptures with our own rigid parameters, impose that upon the Scripture we're reading - and then require that what our minds allow is what the Scripture was saying. The Jews didn't always seem to put the same mental parameters on the Scriptures that we often seem to. They allowed the words to create a broader picture in their minds that we often seem to.

We sometimes approach the Scriptures with our own mental parameters, our own rules, our own questions, our own issues - then impose that onto the Scriptures - and draw conclusions about what the Scripture must mean and what it cannot mean, based on what we bring to the Scriptures. When the Jews themselves might have read their own Scriptures differently.

Because we don't think the way they thought, it might be harder for us to understand that it's been fulfilled like the Apostles understood that it had been. And that can give rise to alternative models of thought - like Dispensationalism.

Seeing prophecy as fulfilled, and seeing it fulfilled in a certain way, rather than as postponed 'til the future, doesn't however imply that we alter identities in prophecy - that's not something the Apostles always did either. What God said He would do for Israel, He did for Israel. And having done it for them, Gentiles then came to participate in it as well. And all of that might have involved a broader view of what certain Scriptures meant than what our minds might have thought the said Scriptures allowed. That's the Gospel!

"To the Jew first, and also to the Greek". 

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