Sep 24

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The question has appeared in a number of forms, “Can we understand the Bible alike?”. Then, someone says, “If we understand it, it will be alike!” It is true, if two people read the same thing but reach two different conclusions as to what it is saying, it is true that at least one of them has failed to understand it. It may be the case that both have failed to understand it!
Let me here relate a sad story, but true in my life. I was too young to remember all the dentails, but enough will be recalled to make the point. When I was about seven or eight years old my mother wrote a letter in which she let it be known that she wanted me to live with my father’s mother, my grandmother. This was just before she died. My aunt and I, who was/is but two years older than me, both read the letter and concluded that my mother wanted me to stay with my mother’s step-father and my aunt. My aunt, was/is more like a sister, as we were raised together much of our younger years. My uncle, my father’s brother, came to get me, and take me to my grandmother but we let it be known that my mother had written that she desired that I stay with her step-father and my aunt/sister. We made no impression on my uncle, as he knew what the letter had really said. You see, he understood the letter and my aunt/sister and me had read the letter incorrectly. I think we read the letter from our desires, more than with a view to what it really said.
It is sad, but many people read the Bible as my aunt/sister and I did the letter my mother had written! Therefore, the question: “When you read the Bible, what are you reading?” As we think about this subject, ponder this, have you ever heard someone say, “That is just your interpretation!” It is said as though no part of the Bible must be interpreted! So, just what does this word mean? The word “interpreting” means: “to explain the meaning of (something) and to understand (something) in a specified way.” (Merriam-Webster). Therefore, interpreting and understanding go together! We can take some of the simplest statements in the Bible, such as: “And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen. 1:5). What is Moses saying in these words? Let us interpret them. Why? Because I desire to understand them! Interpretation and understanding go hand in hand; as one and the same thing.
First, Moses wrote on the “post” side of the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea; after the Law of Moses had been given to Israel. Thus, he is writing in the language, using words they would know; words they would understand! Second, notice that Moses wrote, “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” If I were writing today, I would write, “And the morning and the evening were the first day.” However, Israel started their day in the “evening,” thus, “the first day,” is counted from “the evening and the morning.” I can just see the “bright” student over in the corner raising his hand and asking, “How can you have an evening before you have a morning?” Please notice there was “darkness” before there was “light!” Thus, “evening” (darkness) and “morning” (light). God never said, “Let there be darkness,” as it was already dark!
Second, the words “evening and morning” include the whole day. The “evening” including darkening and darkened hours; while the “morning” includes the lightening and light hours. So this brings us to the age old question: “How long was a day in creation?” Having already noticed that Moses is using words which the Hebrew nation would understand, as they got their understanding of what a day was from creation; is there any reason to think that the Hebrews were to interpret the word “day” in any other way than a twenty-four-hour day? No, not one! Just think about it, why would this new nation, which had just received the “Law,” have any reason to think of the “day,” which is described by the words “the evening and the morning were the first day,” in any other why than a twenty-four-hour day? There is not one reason!
Yet, volume upon volume has been written trying to prove that the word “day” is anything but a twenty-four-hour day in the opening chapter of Genesis! Remember, the first people to read/hear these words were those who died in the “wilderness.” Was Moses, through the Holy Spirit, writing a great mystery to them, or was he writing in simple words easy to be understood? Through the years the effort is to misinterpret more than to interpret the opening chapter of the Bible. Therefore, when you read the Bible, what are you reading?

Frank R. Williams

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