Friday, March 7, 2008

How the pastors studied the Bible

The following eye-witness account of how the pastors of Zurich studied the Bible (in this case, an Old Testament passage) during the Reformation comes from G. H. Box, "Hebrew Studies in the Reformation Period and After," in The Legacy of Israel, edited by E. R. Bevan and C. Singer, pages 345-347:

"This gathering began with intercessions. Uniting in common forms of prayers, they supplicated the almighty and merciful God, whose word is a lantern unto our feet and a light unto our paths, to open and lighten our mind that we might understand his oracles purely and holily and be transformed into that which we had rightly understood and that in this we might in no way displease his majesty, through Christ our Lord.

After prayers, a very young man, a scholar of the church, read over side by side with the Vulgate, which they call Jerome's version, that passage at which they had, in the due progress of exegesis, arrived for discussion. . . .

When the young man had read in Latin the passage which came up for discussion, a Hebrew reader rose and repeated the passage in Hebrew, occasionally pointing out the idioms and peculiarities of the language, sometimes giving a rendering of the sense, sometimes translating word for word, and moreover reading the comments of the Grammarians and Rabbis. . . .

The Greek reader followed the Hebrew. He ran through the Septuagint, or whatever Greek translation it might be, compared it with the Hebrew and showed how far it differed from it. Sometimes too he emended it, and always fixed his attention on it with unflagging carefulness. . . .

The words which had now been read in Latin, in Greek and in Hebrew were enunciated with the utmost conscientiousness and complete good faith. He showed how the present passage had been treated by the old writers, what the Jewish commentators had thought about it and what the Catholic. He taught what it had in common with sacred literature, the putting together, coherence and force of the words, the sublimity and high morality of their meanings, the strength of substance and delicacy of style to which everything must be referred -- in short, he expounded the real meaning, and also the profit and use of this passage and how a lesson in faith, devotion, piety, justice and loyalty might be learned from it."

Richard Lovelace, in Dynamics of Spiritual Life, page 183, writes, "In our quest for the fullness of the Spirit, we have sometimes forgotten that a Spirit-filled intelligence is one of the powerful weapons for pulling down satanic strongholds." And a Spirit-filled intelligence devoted to careful study of the Bible is the [definite article] most powerful weapon in this liberating mission.

My brother pastors, with all the other things we will do today, let's give ourselves to study!