Translational Ignorance

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NLT)
But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.

One of my greatest character flaws is that I have a very low tolerance for ignorance, but I think that I am probably in good company. As the saying goes, “there’s no cure for stupid!” Which brings to mind something that happened to me earlier in my ministry. At the time I was Pastor of a church where a number of people espoused what is known as “King-James-Only-ism.” This is belief of some that the King James Version of the Bible is the only “real” translation and that our modern translations are wrong. One man in particular said to me, “You know what the problem is with all these translations? Any drunk can pick one up, read it, and understand it?” My response was “Really, and that’s a problem? I thought that was the whole idea!” You see, in his way of thinking, only people like him could understand the King James language because it is for those who are spiritually discerning, and he uses this verse as his proof text. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for us) that wasn’t what Paul was talking about at all. For one thing, the King James Version was still about 1500 years in the future, and remember, the Bible can never mean what it never would have meant. In other words, if it didn’t mean that to Paul’s original audience, and that was not Paul’s intent in writing, then it cannot mean that today. As acclaimed New Testament scholar Gordon Fee notes the contrast in this passage is between believer and unbeliever, not between elite Christians and “lesser” Christians who are living below their privileges. There are no grounds for elitism in the Bible (Fee, NICNT: The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 120). Paul here is not talking about some secret spiritual discernment that some Christians have and no one else has access to. He is saying that those who do not have the Holy Spirit cannot understand the simple truths of the Gospel, even if it is spelled in a clear and concise language. It is not that they do not understand the language, rather that they cannot grasp the concepts no matter how plainly they are presented. In fact, the New Testament was written in the common language of the day. The vernacular that is used is called Konine Greek, and the word Konine means “common.” Put more plainly, it was the language of the common people. Jesus told us, “For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me” (John 6:44-45). It is the Holy Spirit who touches people’s hearts and minds and makes it possible for them to understand that message of the Gospel as He draws them to Jesus.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

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