Just in case, don’t do what I too often do, with the Bible verses below: skip or skim them to get to the new stuff. (Christians especially should hate it when they catch themselves doing that.)
There’s gold in these words. And there’s a recurring theme.
Matthew 5: 21-22
Matthew 5: 27-28
Matthew 5: 33-35
That “You have heard …” (“Ye have heard …” in the good ol’ KJV) is the theme.
Many people believe Jesus came to Earth to make things easier for people who were oppressed by the Old-Testament Law. But here we find Him not changing God’s Word, but pointing back to the real God’s Word.
The culture of His day had known about the Scriptures for a long while. But they added to it, or twisted the meaning just a little — or missed the main point even if they got the words technically right. On purpose? Maybe not; centuries of familiarity, plus “helpful” guidelines and extra interpretations by religious leaders (both bad guys and otherwise) can lead to too much reading, or silent writing, between the Bible’s lines.
Jesus set it straight: People, ye have heard that it said this, but it actually means this.
Context, context, context
Similar issues are true today: Christians and non-Christians alike think they know what the Bible says on many different topics. But often it actually says and means something opposite.
This isn’t some Secret Knowledge. To know the truth, you don’t have to read a special revelation, be a tenured Greek scholar, or hear a physical whisper from the Holy Spirit (though Christians know the indwelling Holy Spirit does help them understand the Word He inspired).
Sometimes knowing a Bible passage’s real meaning requires some deeper study. But most often, you just need to read it …
… In context.
… Trying to see past old views, in case they’re actually not what it says.
… In context.
… With before-and-after verses, sometimes chapters, and sometimes the whole Biblical book — or the whole Bible itself — in mind.
… Every once in a while, knowing a little something about what the words meant to the original readers, so we can know better what they mean for us today.
… Thinking about what it meant for them, so we can next figure out the meaning for us today.
… In context.
… In context.
Real-estate has a rule: location, location, location. With God’s Word: context, context, context.
Example: the above texts from Matthew 5. Many people have the wrong idea about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, thinking He merely gave guidelines for how to live. While in a way that’s true, it is clear from what Jesus says that He’s not recommending a lifestyle that by itself will impress God. The standards He enacts are actually impossible without His help. It’s far easier not to kill someone than never to hate anyone, ever, not even for a few seconds.
So how is this a problem? Is this heresy? Will it compromise true Christianity? It might.
- Christians either take this standard too lightly — we can be good if we try hard enough! — or too heavily — oh no, I can’t be this perfect all the time.
- Non-Christians think they’re quite well-off: Jesus wants people to be nice to other people; that was His main goal in earthly life. So if I be good like Jesus, then I’ll have a good life too and probably go to heaven. The end.
And a myth about what people thought the Sermon on the Mount said spreads quietly, subtly. It may not directly send people to Hell. But it points away from God’s truth.
Ye Have Heard: busting Christian myth-conceptions
Plenty of other sites debunk a host of non-Christian doctrines out there: evolution, atheism, Islam, New-Age stuff, smiling people in dark suits at your front door, fights over church carpet colors, etc. Some of that will likely come up here, too.
Yet here we seek to deal with myths Christians believe. With God’s grace and truth, we’ll run them down carefully yet firmly, like this:
- The myth itself. Ye have heard that it was said …
- Biblical verse(s) of origin, if any.
- Examples and/or quotes by myth-spreaders, from real life, the Internet, or both.
- What’s the truth here? The best lies are based in a little truth, and it’s important while debunking the wrong idea not to overcorrect. For example, it’s wrong for Christians to be tolerant of everything. But it would be equally wrong to make avoiding that the goal and turn into a hypocritical judgment-only pulpit-pounder.
- What’s the lie here? Tough results of false beliefs can spread like cancer in our lives. We may not be able to say it all inside a readable limit. But we’ll try.
- What’s the Word? Context, context, context. We’ll read the misquoted passage itself, or other passages that provide clarity. Then we’ll exegete (what did this mean to them?) and apply Biblical hermeneutics (what does this mean to us?).
- Further In. Go here to go deeper. Others have already written about issues like this; we’ll link to their words, tribute them for the work they’ve done blazing the trail and helping us. Maybe we’ll point out other issues or facts that relate. Very likely we’ll point to resources that have helped us bust the myth ourselves.
Our idea is not just to nitpick or mock bad beliefs for fun and profit. Rather, the goal is to grow in God’s grace as we learn more of His truth. Just as the depth of sin can make God by contrast all the more glorious in the world, learning about the lies can magnify His truth.
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‘Tis time for a word about who is behind all this.
I’m a writer, not a church pastor, professor or officially licensed seminary-wonk. (That doesn’t mean I’m opposed to these gifts of God.) Yet after years of talking with people, checking Scripture, and sorting through my own Christian myth-conceptions, this layman hopes to share what he’s found, with others.
… And with help. This clearinghouse for Christian myth-busting needs more than one contributor.
Have a myth to share? Post it here. Or write and submit a top-ten list of myths you’ve sorted through yourself. Share a testimony. What did you formerly believe, or subconsciously assume? How did you find what Scripture really says? How did it change your life and make God’s truth and grace and best of all Himself bigger to you?
Let us know. Let’s do this together, for His glory, Gospel and Kingdom.
And by the way, Happy Reformation Day. In 1517 a certain controversial monk nailed his 95 Theses to the wall of the Wittenberg church door. Ye have heard it said, from church leaders, all kinds of things, Martin Luther said, but the Bible really says this.
It’s in that humbly orthodox spirit, we hope and pray, that we launch this site.
Watch next week for perhaps the greatest of all Christian-spinoff myths. It’s believed, practiced and pushed by Christians, quasi-Christians and Christian-antagonists alike. It’s based on two words from the Bible, ripped screaming from clear context. Hint: It’s in the gospel of Matthew.
Soli deo gloria!