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The Christadelphian | June 2015

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Encouragement
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning A man who is a hiding place | Stephen Dawson-Bowman
  • Studies in Matthew’s Gospel 18 – “The throne of his glory” | John Benson
  • 100 years ago
  • Scattered in Israel 1 – Simeon | John Woodall
  • Faithful sayings and scripture | Peter Forbes
  • The way God works | John Morris
  • Forgetfulness | Ray Morse
  • Loving our enemies | Cynthia Harper
  • Hall Green Young People’s Creation Day 2015 | Stephen Whitehouse
  • Faith Alive! Prophet, Priest & King | David Simpson
  • Faith Alive! Why I do not vote | Peter Mason
  • Signs of the times Time and change | Roger Long
  • Israel and their Land Watch Iran | Stephen Whitehouse
  • Epilogue A peculiar treasure | Robert Tarrant
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Faithful sayings and scripture

“We should familiarise ourselves with the setting and context of the origin of the quotation, for in so doing the richness of scripture will become increasingly apparent.”

It seems that Jews in Old Testament times committed large amounts of scripture to memory. Our children learn “proofs” at Sunday School. Whilst that learning might have seemed irksome and a chore at the time, many will now appreciate the value of that learning. Through our regular reading of scripture we remember part of what we have read, or at least become more familiar with the text, being able to fill in the words as we hear scripture being read aloud.

Of course familiarity with the text of scripture is essential for all of us, not just Sunday School scholars. If the words of scripture are not in our heads and our hearts we shall not be able to think about the divine principles enshrined therein. We shall not be able to “meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2) on the words of scripture.

Aids to memory

The more that we read scripture the more we remember. However there are other ways that can help. Some have put the words of scripture to music. In so doing they have made scripture more memorable – so much so that we often remember the words of the hymn rather than the words of scripture that is paraphrased.

Biblical signposts

Reading helps remembering. As time progresses we shall arrive at a position where, when someone mentions a phrase from scripture, we shall be able to fill in the context and surrounding words. If we are mere babes in Christ this might seem a long way off. However the older ones amongst us will, to varying degrees, recognise this characteristic which actually is of real benefit and value.

Scriptural instruction

The prophet Amos associated Israel’s unwillingness to return to God with the problems they were experiencing. Should the people have seen a connection between their dire circumstances and their relationship with God?

Table 1 shows that Amos, on four occasions, actually quotes from the book of Deuteronomy. His inspired instruction is that the problems they were experiencing were a direct consequence of God bringing the curses of Deuteronomy on them. A reflection on the words of chapter 28 should have taught the people that, as Amos was reminding them, there was a direct relationship between their problems and their godlessness. Moses had said, “It shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of … God … all these curses shall come upon thee” (Deuteronomy 28:15).

Amos 4 Problem Quotation Lesson
:7 I have withholden the rain Deuteronomy 28:24 Yet have ye not returned unto me
:9 I have smitten you with blasting and mildew Deuteronomy 28:22
:10 I have sent the pestilence [like] Egypt Deuteronomy 28:60
:11 I have overthrown some of you [like] Sodom and Gomorrah Deuteronomy 29:23

An appreciation of the reason for the problems would only come from an understanding of the words of God through Moses. To benefit from Amos’ words his audience would have to be familiar with the record of the blessings and curses and the conditions under which those blessing and curses would come. Putting it simply, unless his audience was familiar with scripture the significance of his word would be lost on them. On the other hand, those who were familiar with the words of Moses and their context would be able to see the significance of Amos’ words and change their behaviour accordingly.

New and Old?

The New Testament Gospels, Acts and letters were given through the power of inspiration. We accord them the same status as we do the Old Testament. This was true also early in the first century. The Apostle Peter ascribes the status of scripture to Paul’s writings, saying:

“As our beloved brother Paul … in all his epistles … which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:15,16)

So when Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God …” (2 Timothy 3:16), he is clearly speaking of the parts of the New Testament that were available at that time as well as the Old.

Faithful sayings

On four occasions Paul, when writing to Timothy, mentions “faithful (true) sayings” (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:1; [1] 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11).

On the three occasions where the KJV has the word “faithful” we see that Paul’s ‘faithful saying’ is either a quotation from, or a combination of quotations from, earlier writings. Most of them are from letters he has written to ecclesias. So when writing these “faithful sayings” to Timothy he is, when quoting letters he had written, quoting scripture.

Table 2 shows the quotations that Paul is making when he wrote those “faithful sayings”.

  Faithful Saying Quotation
1 Timothy 1:15 Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners Romans 5:8
4:9,10 labour and suffer reproach 1 Corinthians 4:12
2 Timothy 2:11 if we be dead with him we shall also live with him Romans 6:8
2:12 If we suffer we shall also reign with him Romans 8:17
2:12 If we deny him he also will deny us Matthew 10:33
2:13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful Romans 3:3
2:13 He cannot deny himself Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2

It is not my intention to examine the “faithful sayings” to see the relevance of the quotations. That is left for you, the reader, to pursue for your own enjoyment.

Why quote scripture to Timothy?

The way in which Paul makes reference to earlier letters he had written and the Gospel of Matthew gives an indication of what was available to the first century brethren of what we call the New Testament.

Of course this is not why Paul quoted scripture in his letters to Timothy. The reason is similar to the reason why Amos was inspired to quote the curses of Deuteronomy 28. The quotations that Paul made are signposts to more detailed presentations of the point that is being made.

Paul, doubtless, expected that Timothy would see the quotations built into these “faithful sayings”. One would expect that Timothy would follow up the quotations, looking at their context and relevance in their original location and from that be able to expand the points being made in the letters that Paul wrote to him. It may be that, even though he could recognise the quotations, he would not immediately recall their context and setting. In such a situation we anticipate that Timothy would have gone back to the origin of the quotation to fill out the relevance for himself. In so doing the points made in the letters Paul wrote to him would take on greater significance and relevance.

A lesson for us

We regularly read, “It is written” or similar words. We may also recognise words we read as quotations from earlier scripture. The example we have outlined above teaches us that we would benefit from following up the quotations, not just noting where they are drawn from. We should familiarise ourselves with the setting and context of the origin of the quotation, for in so doing the richness of scripture will become increasingly apparent. The principles and lessons will become clearer and more powerful instruction for us.

Peter Forbes

[1] In 1 Timothy 3:1 the word “true” is the same Greek word translated “faithful” in the other passages.

 

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