Scripture: Written For, Not To Us

I believe that Scripture is best understood as something that was written for us, but not to us.  Now, before you make up your mind as to what you think about this assertion, let me explain.

The Scriptures were written by real people who lived in a very different time.  They are Ancient Near Eastern in their world view and thinking.  They were Hebrew in their language and culture, and they adhered to TORAH (i.e. the teachings).  As a result, everything they wrote must be viewed through the same lens with which they saw and understood the world.  Otherwise, we run a very real risk of misunderstanding the finer points of their messages.

By way of example, I often offer this illustration.  What does this statement mean to you?

“I keep my contacts in the cloud.”

Today, my twenty-something son might read this and tell me it means I keep my list of personal contact information n a server belonging to an on-line storage company.  But what if I had read it when I was in my twenties?

If I had read this same sentence when I was in my twenties, I would have thought you were telling me that you keep your corrective eye-wear in some water-vapor floating in the sky.  But what if my father read that sentence?

When my father was in his twenties, he might have read that same sentence and concluded that you kept parts of an ignition system in that water-vapor floating in the sky.

See how meanings can change?  In this illustration, I used an example that belongs to a group of people who share the same language and culture.  What’s more, I used an illustration where my son, myself and my father are all still alive and able to talk to each other.  Yet, we could all read that simple sentence and still get a different meaning out of it.  Now, how much more wrought with peril would it be for us to read the Scriptures as though they were speaking to us with a modern,Western mindset?  Or even just using the modern English language?

I humbly submit that, unless we learn as much as possible about the world view, language and culture of the ancient Hebrews, then we will almost certainly misunderstand the finer points of Scripture.  Worse, we might miss important concepts all together — simply because we are not looking at the message tho=rough the same frame of reference as those who wrote the Scriptures, or as their first audience would have first received it.  This is why I say:

Scripture was written for us, but it was not written to us.