Distorting Scripture

old veteran

Talking about the Apostle Paul who was a very educated man, the Apostle Peter said that some uninformed people during their days were distorting Paul’s letters in the same way that they were distorting Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). So it is today. People today continue to distort what the Bible is truly saying. Here is one example of how people are distorting Scripture today.

Example of Distorting Scripture: 3 John 2

Some people quote 3 John 2 which says in the King James Version: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

Many believers claim this as a sure guaranteea promise from God for Christians to be always prosperous and to be always in good health for the rest of their lives. “Just have faith and you will have it,” they would say. “Name it and claim it,” some would say. Or, “declare it” and it’s yours—it will happen. But what does 3 John 2 really mean?

Getting the Context

Well, let us get the context. As a piece of literature, what is 3 John 2? What is its literary context? What kind of literature is it? Did the Apostle John write a song like Psalms? Did he write a historical narrative like maybe the Chronicles, Matthew or Acts? Or did he write a poem or a letter? Well, some do not know it but 3rd John is actually a letter—an epistle—just like most of the Apostle Paul’s writings are letters!

As a piece of literature, it is obviously a letter—definitely not a song, a poem or a historical narrative—and that has a lot to do with how this part of Scripture should be interpreted! By just figuring out that its literary context is that of a letter, we are able to interpret more properly and more accurately.

Greetings Not Promise!

While there maybe some slight differences in the way letters are written today compared to centuries ago, but don’t we begin our letters with some kind of greetings? And what is 3 John 2 in a letter? Of course a greeting! The elderly apostle John was writing to a certain Gaius and he began with some greetings! With this literary context and background in mind—that 3 John 2 is the introductory part (a greeting) of the Apostle John’s letter to a certain Gaius—a more accurate interpretation should come out which should be most faithful to Scripture. We should not therefore interpret this part of a letter as a sure promise from God. It is simply a greeting!

Elisha the prophet died of sickness

Let’s not forget that some righteous men of God were allowed by God to die from sickness even though they themselves healed others (2 Kings 13:14, 20-21). Others were allowed by God to die a martyr’s death. Yes, it true—it is God’s desire (as John also wrote) that we will prosper and be in health but in God’s infinite wisdom, sometimes he allows us to get sick and die of it too.

To be faithful to this part of Scripture in 3 John 2—following its literary context—it should be interpreted as a mere greeting and not a promise from God. Let us not preach false hopes and misuse this part of Scripture in 3 John 2.

More Accurate Interpretation

To interpret 3 John 2 as saying that God guarantees good health and prosperity (“health and wealth gospel” or “prosperity gospel”) for believers throughout their lives, all of the time, is to distort Scripture.

That’s not what it says if we follow its context. People who misuse this part of Scripture need to find some other proof text but not this one. They need to find other parts of Scripture because they cannot in all honesty and with faithfulness to this part of 3 John, use it to support their belief.

A Text Without Context is Pretext

It is therefore important for us to learn something about the various contexts in the Bible like: historical, grammatical, literary, cultural and other contexts. With Jesus Christ as our lens, our criterion and our basis in interpreting Scripture, through the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), and learning something about the various contexts in the Bible, we will hopefully be led to a better understanding and appreciation of God’s Word, the Bible.

Splicing Scripture

Bible

A few days ago, I wrote about 3 John 2 and how some people unknowingly interpret Scripture by distorting its meaning without considering it context. They are unaware of the various contexts involved in properly understanding Scripture.

Distorting, Splicing Scripture

Here’s another way people distort the intended meaning of Scripture—by splicing Scripture. That is, people gather verses here and there in various parts of the Bible and presto!—a doctrine has been formulated.

Bible, a Jigsaw Puzzle?

bible300It is the belief of some that the Bible is like a jigsaw puzzle and by putting the pieces together in their right places using the “here a little, there a little” principle (Isaiah 28:10), the truth will come out. But Isaiah 28:10 actually has nothing to do with biblical interpretation. It is misunderstood and is interpreted outside of its own context. According to some commentaries, it is actually the gibberish talk or meaningless speech of a drunkard. It is not talking about the science of biblical interpretation. It is not an explanation of how to interpret the Bible.

With this method of gathering together and splicing together of unrelated verses (with different contexts) to form a supposed “truth” in the Bible, no wonder we have different kinds of beliefs all around us conflicting and/or agreeing with one another.

Misuse of Scripture: Cherry Picking

With this method of Bible interpretation, anybody can prove that their personal opinion is biblical—the “truth.” With this kind of method, we can prove that black is white or white is black. That is one of the most common method people use in Bible interpretation. Oftentimes, they already have formed their own personal opinions and ideas (assumptions) and then they open the Bible not to understand what the Bible is truly saying but instead, they look for verses in the Bible to give support to their already-formed and preconceived personal ideas. No wonder we have a lot of strange and out-of-this-world doctrines everywhere. This is also called cherry picking.

Of course, as long as the verses grouped together to form a doctrine are truly related and the various contexts have been considered, I have no problem with grouping verses together. My concern is: when people group together unrelated verses to form their own personal opinions and branding it as “biblical” and “coming from God,” that to me is the problem. It’s putting into the Bible their own ideas instead of allowing the Bible to speak to us its intended meaning as revealed to us by Jesus Christ.

When the written Word of God is interpreted correctly according to Living Word’s (Jesus Christ) intent, then and only then is it really the Word of God.

Do it quickly!

To illustrate this point, here’s an outrageous and funny example. By grouping together a set of three unrelated verses in the Bible, a non-biblical interpretation comes out. Here it is:

  • Matthew 27:5 – So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
  • Luke 10:37 – The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
  • John 13:27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him…

So there you are, three unrelated verses in the Bible grouped together and presto! We now have a new doctrine! What are you waiting for? It’s in the Bible right? It’s “biblical” right? Jesus himself said it! Go and do likewise! Hang yourself! And do it quickly!