A couple of months ago I mentioned that I was reading in the early part of Luke’s gospel using Search the Scriptures to guide my reading and questions. I’ve since completed that, done some reading/studying in 1 Peter using a different method and have recommenced Search the Scriptures reading in Genesis.
In just the second week of readings from Luke I came across three instances where the Bible text didn’t accord with what I been told it meant over the years. It’s my fault because I had blindly accepted and believed what people had told me without checking and without question. These three teachings or statements are:
- The genealogy of Jesus listed in Luke’s gospel (Luke 3:23-38) is different to the genealogy in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 1:1-17) because one is paternal line and the other is the maternal line.
- Quoting Scripture is sufficient to overcome/withstand temptation (as seen in Luke 4:1-13).
- Jesus' reading from Isaiah’s prophecy in Luke 4 16-21 was the initiation of Jesus' public ministry.
I had heard and believed these statements for decades. But during my reading from Luke it struck me that these things I had been told were not actually true. My recent reading and new-found understanding of Scripture in these three instances is instead:
- The genealogies are different but both present the paternal line. Some differences may be accounted for by such things as fathers/husbands dying and widows remarrying thus changing the legal guardianship of children. There may be other factors, too.
- We see in Luke 4:9-11 that satan quotes Scripture to Jesus to support a particular viewpoint. Such use of Scripture is called ‘proof-texting’ and takes and uses a Bible verse out of context to support a position. We need to have a broad and deep understanding of the word of God and the character of God rather than the odd Bible verse tucked away for a rainy temptation day. In this instance Jesus had a better grasp on both Scripture and His Father’s will than satan did and Jesus would not be swayed or tempted to depart from that path.
- Regarding the initiation of Jesus' public ministry, the text is quite clear in Luke 4:14-15 that Jesus commenced teaching in the synagogues around Galilee before He came to Nazareth and taught there. I think the text of Luke 4:16-21 demonstrates Jesus' understanding of His ministry and its fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, but it had clearly been initiated some time earlier - whether weeks or months, we cannot tell.
To be honest I cannot recall a specific instance where someone said one genealogy was maternal and one was paternal, etc, but I recall being told these (un)truths over the years. I don’t think I was told these things with the intent to deceive, and I don’t think the truth or otherwise of these issues is a salvation issue. But I was simply being told what these other people had been told and it can be easier to believe what one is told than to read the Bible and check it out for yourself. These things I had been told are plausible and reasonable, but they are also wrong.
The solution to this situation, in part, is described in the book of Acts, chapter 17, verses 10 and 11. From the English Standard Version :
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
There are a few ideas here worth commenting on:
Regarding the use of the phrase ‘more noble’, some translations put this as ‘more noble-minded’, ‘fair-minded’ and ‘open-minded’. It suggests a genuine desire for truth - not relying on tradition or what other people think. This is borne out by the Berean’s receiving the word with all eagerness - expressing a desire and embracing of ideas; and their examination of the Scriptures ‘daily’ to see if these things were so. I presume the Berean’s examined the Scriptures daily because Paul and Silas were speaking and preaching daily. The Berean’s seemed to test and examine the claims and statements that Paul and Silas were declaring to see if they were consistent with Scripture. An interesting aside here is that the (Jewish) Berean’s believed the Scripture that they had. What they were doing was to see if what Paul and Silas taught them about Jesus (in essence the New Testament message) was consistent with and a fulfilment of their (Old Testament) Scriptures.
It seems that the people in Thessalonica at this stage were either not paying attention to what Paul and Silas taught, or were eagerly accepting and believing anything anyone taught. The Berean’s, on the other hand, listened to what was being said and checked it to test and prove it.
May we all be more noble-minded as we seek truth.