Our service Sunday was cancelled, and we will backtrack next Sunday. This week we continue with a passage that prompts a different kind of discussion about the nature of the Bible itself.
2 Timothy 3:16says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Most Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God, but there is much debate about what that means. Words and phrases like “trustworthy,” “authoritative,” “inerrant” (a word that the Bible doesn’t use of itself) and “in the original manuscripts” (which, of course, have long ago disintegrated) are often used in statements about how Scripture is seen, but often seem like verbal gymnastics.
What is your own view of the inspiration of Scripture? How did God inspire it? To what degreeis it inspired? Note: Don’t worry about whether it’s the “right” view or the one shared by others in your group. This is a time for honest sharing/listening, not a time to make sure everyone is “in line.” It’s important to think this through for ourselves, not just parrot what we’ve heard. If, after discussion, you want to check out our denomination’s statement on Scripture, see https://www.brethrenchurch.org/bible)
Looking at Scripture:
Read John 7:53-8:11.
The reason we began with a discussion of the inspiration of Scripture is that the words we find in the first part of our passage today can complicate how we view the Bible: “[The most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include…].” Most modern translations say something similar, and some even italicize the passage. Reading a statement like this about a passage as well-known and beloved as the one we just read can make us wonder what we cantrust in the Bible.
Today we have thousands of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, stretching back all the way to the first few centuries after the books were first written. Copies of copies of copies of copies were meticulously made, but along the way small changes and errors crept in. “Textual criticism” is the art/science of determining what the originals likely said. You will see many notes about possible discrepancies in the footnotes of your Bible. However, what is most remarkable is not that there are minor variances here and there, but that there is so much consistency across the manuscripts that very few notes like this one are necessary!
The manuscripts the KJV was based on contained this story; but scholars have since discovered much older manuscripts which do not include this particular section. They are almost certain it was not original to the gospel, but a later addition. So today’s translators are faced with a difficult choice: Should they leave out this beloved passage? Or should they leave it in, because of its popularity and familiarity? What would you have done?
Read John 8:12-20.
Jesus claims to be the light of the world, but the self-righteous religious leaders (Pharisees) were skeptical. Earlier in his gospel, John explained why some people responded negatively to the light Jesus brought (use the thematic cross references in the side-columns if needed to find the passage). What might this tell us about the real reasons the religious leaders didn’t accept Jesus? What might it tell us about self-righteous religious people today? What might it tell us about ourselves?
In verse 13, the Pharisees are again questioning Jesus’ authority (v. 13). Since Jesus hadn’t trained under a Rabbi, he didn’t have any of the proper credentials (it would almost be like someone practicing medicine without a license today). If you were them, how would you have felt about or reacted to his answer (vv. 14-19)?
Read John 8:21-30
How is Jesus (and John) foreshadowing what is going to happen to him in the future? Why is it important that we know that Jesus was aware that his life was moving toward the cross?
In verse 28, the translators have added the words “on the cross” to clarify for us what they think Jesus meant (note that this is one of the weaknesses of a translation like the NLT we are using, in that while it is easier to read, it is sometimes less accurate). In the literal reading, Jesus told them they would recognize him once they had “lifted him up,” a word that could have a very positive sense like “exalt” or “praise.” How does this add a different sense to what he is saying to them?
Twice in this passage we see the phrase “I am” in small caps (vv. 24, 28). What is the significance of this phrase, and what does it tell us about how Jesus saw himself (see Exodus 3:14)?
Today’s study has been more analytical than most. This is a passage that is admittedly hard to pull practical application from. What is it that stands out most to you about this passage, and how will it affect your life?