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Knowing God (Page 2)

How can we know God? I believe he has given us several pointers: we see him in nature, we hear him in our conscience, and we find him in the Bible. God is bigger than we can imagine, he is truly good, completely dependable and he loves us enough to let us approach him, to ask for forgiveness and to show us the way to walk. We can trust God when all else lets us down.

When I was a child, I was taught that the Bible is God’s word. Fifty-odd years later, I would concur that this is true. But there is more to it than that.

The books of the Bible were first written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). When books are translated, someone has to make decisions about which words to choose. So how can we know that whether what we read is what was intended to be said? We don’t have any original copies of the original New Testament, we only have fragments of documents (many found in ancient rubbish dumps in Egypt!). These fragmented copies of manuscripts are not identical, so how to choose which ones are closest to the originals? Do you take the ones we have most of, or the oldest ones?

Originally, Greek was written all in capital letters, with no spaces between words. Scholars have taken the lines of writing and added spaces – but how do they know where to put them? (A BUN DANCE ON THE TABLE or ABUNDANCE ON THE TABLE?). Sometimes the context is obvious, but not always. Then the words are translated into English. Many have more than one meaning, so which one is the correct one to use? For example, “In the beginning was the…”. The word used in the gap can mean ‘word’ or ‘reason’ or ‘message’ or ‘matter.’ Different Bible translations have made different choices.

Our understanding has developed over time, as more of those fragmented manuscripts are found. People used to think that the different Greek words for love meant different kinds of love, and when Jesus asks Peter three times whether he loves him, he uses different words to mean slightly different types of love. But scholars now know that this is incorrect, and the two words were simply different ways of saying the same thing. Then there is the personality of the authors. Mark used the Greek equivalent of slang when he wrote his book. For example, when he writes about putting new wine into old wine skins, he uses the word ‘throws’ so it could read: “No-one chucks new wine into old wineskins!” but our Bibles have made this more formal: no-one puts new wine…

Does all this mean we should not trust the Bible? No! When we read the Bible, we discover the living God, we see the magnificence of his power, we learn that he is truly good, and ever loving. But the Bible is not equal to God – nothing is. The Bible can help to guide us as we try to walk the paths God has set for us, but we should be cautious never to use the Bible as a weapon. We cannot read the Bible and think we understand everything there is to know about God, that somehow God can be contained in the pages of a book.

A humble walk with God does not allow us to take phrases and words and apply them as rules for other people. We do not know exactly what every word, or every sentence originally meant. We can only humbly bow before God and accept that he is God.

– Anne.

Remembering the Saints
grace and guilt