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Wednesday, October 21, 2020
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Daily Devotion for October 16, 2020


<i>The Virgin Appearing to St. Bernard</i> by  Pietro Perugino, ca. 1490.
The Virgin Appearing to St. Bernard, by Pietro Perugino, ca. 1490.
A masterpiece of the mature Renaissance. Notice the early use of perspective, in the Umbrian countryside seen through the center arch. The identify of the secondary figures is speculative. The two female figures to the left are said to represent angels, but it is interesting to speculate: I like to think of them as the two other Marys who went to the tomb.

Prayers

Scripture

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Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

Kathleen Battle’s angelic voice fits this Ave Maria perfectly. (The melody is taken from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana, by Pietro Mascagni)




To Submit My Day to God

Hunterian psalter tall thin
Almighty God, who has given me life and breath, and another day: I do not know what this day might bring. For men make plans, and their plans come to naught, as you will it. Thus I take this day out of my hands and submit it to your will. Make me this day your servant, that I might find my hand at the tasks you have meant for me to do, and might do them as well as I can. For there is nothing better than a person should rejoice in his work, to your glory and for the love of his neighbors, as you have commanded us through your Son. In His name, I pray, let my day be yours, and let it be filled with goodness and faith.

Amen.

Prayer of St. Augustine

Look upon me, O Lord, and let all the darkness of my soul vanish before the beams of thy brightness. Fill me with holy love, and open to me the treasures of thy wisdom. All my desire is known unto thee; therefore perfect what thou hast begun, and what thy Spirit has awakened me to ask in prayer.

I seek thy face. Turn thy face unto me and show me thy glory. Then shall my longing be satisfied, and my peace shall be perfect.

Amen.

Meditation

“The person who bears and suffers evils with meekness and silence, is the sum of a Christian man.”

~ John Wesley


Benediction (from the Epistle of Jude)

Now all glory to you, great God, who is able to keep us from falling away and will bring us with great joy into your glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to you who alone are God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are yours before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time!

Amen.


Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.



Lapparizione of Henri Martin
L’Apparizione (The Apparition) by Henri Martin, ca. 1895.

1 Corinthians 2:5 (KJV)

That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.


Blue Latin Cross

Galatians 3:2-4 (Daily Prayer Bible)

I

only want you to tell me one thing: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the Law, or by faith, from hearing and believing the Gospel? Do you really intend to rely on your flesh, which could not begin your salvation, to perfect it? It would be insanity. Would you simply throw away the benefits of the tribulation you have suffered?

Verbatim Bible

2 this only I desire to learn from you, by (or from) works of law the spirit you received or by hearing of faith?

3 So ignorant are you having started in spirit now in flesh you complete?

4 So much you suffered in vain? If indeed in vain.

DP Parallel Bible (3-Column) - Galatians 3


Notes on the Scripture

Implied or Inferred? (Galatians #25)
The Curse of Inference

One of the most difficult and most important challenges in reading the Bible is conforming our minds to the Word of God, rather than rewriting the Bible so that it reflects our own thoughts. The temptation to ignore or distort a passage we do not like, read an idea we do like into a passage that does not really support our idea, and extend (“explain” or “interpret”) a passage beyond what God has said by using our own imagination, is a chronic detriment to Christian faith, love, and unity.

The Word of God is immortal, inerrant, timeless truth. The thoughts of human beings are not only inherently faulty, but also distorted by a wide range of factors: self-interest, bias, conformity to culture, emotion, etc. How, then, can we know God’s Word? When we read the Bible, we have thoughts about it; and in fact, human interpretation of some sort is required, or we could not read or understand it at all. How can we read God’s Word as He intended us to read it, distorting it as little as possible?

Rabbit in illuminated Macclesfield Psaltery

Today we are going to look at one tool that helps enormously: thoroughly understanding the difference.between “imply” — to suggest something without saying or showing it plainly — and “infer” — to draw conclusions that are not explicit in what is said. It takes some effort to grasp, and even more effort to apply, but the rewards are commensurate to the effort. I promise!

I want to use “imply” in the narrow sense of a “necessary implication.” That is, when interpreting the Bible, an implication must be intentional and, therefore, must be provable by reference to something in the Bible itself. Here is a valid implication: Jesus says sin leads to death. Jesus says that adultery is a sin. The Bible therefore implies that adultery will lead to death.

If an unstated meaning is supplied by the reader, not the book, the reader infers the unstated meaning; the book does not imply it.

Drawing inferences is one of the primary means by which people distort the Bible. When we hear somebody say “this passage implies such and such,” it raises a red flag. Almost invariably what follows is not something the Bible implies, but an inference the commentator supplies from his own mind: what he wants the Bible to say, or even what he thinks the Bible says, when it does not say that at all.

Old family Bible

An inference made by a human being, reading the Bible, is not the Word of God; it is the product of the reader's mind. He usually does not even realize it; most people have great difficulty distinguishing what the Bible says and what their mind adds or subtracts to it.

This is a serious matter. In Galatians 1:6-8, for example, Paul calls a gospel that has been distorted by human additions “anathema” — accursed. (And he probably means that the teacher of such a gospel is accursed, as well.)

We can only say, properly speaking, that the Bible implies something if we can prove the implication by reference to another part of the Bible. The Bible, remember, is the Word of God. It is thus, itself, the only source that can be used to interpret it (unless one is convinced that there has been God-inspired prophecy since the last words of Revelation were written).

The technical term for correctly interpreting the Bible, by reference only to itself, is “exegesis”, which literally means “to bring out.” We correctly take meaning out of the Bible. The opposite term, “eisegesis,” means “to read into.” It is a good term, if you can remember the word, because most people understand what “reading something into” a statement means.

So we must learn these two Greek terms: Exegesis means “taking out”, understanding what is actually intended by the author. Eisegesis means “putting in”, reading something “into” a passage by making an inference. (It helps to remember that exegesis is actually the root of our word “exit”.)

The Importance of Genre

Once we have firmly fixed the difference between “implied” and “inferred” meaning, and grasp the dangers of the latter, we can back up just a bit and pick out passages where inference is proper. Parables, by their nature, require interpretation. Christ told us that there would be people able to understand His parables correctly (e.g. Matthew 13:1-23.) and others who would not; and I suppose, we will not know the difference until after we die. But He explicitly gave us permission to draw inferences from His parables.

rider with harp on dragon

More generally, poetry and wisdom literature often invite eisegetic interpretation (inference). Prophecy (other than Revelation) is generally not such a genre; because to the degree prophecy contains symbolism we are expected to understand, the New Testament interprets it for us.

But there is a critical distinction between such books and, say, a historical or doctrinal passage in a Gospel or Epistle. Eisegetical passages are personal; we are expected to make inferences to our own experience. They cannot be prophetic, and they cannot be doctrinal or historical: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Peter 2:1:21) “All Scripture is inspired by God.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

(If this is giving you a headache, try reading “Today in Daily Prayer,” below, for a couple of examples. I know it isn't easy.)

So how do we tell when we are reading something into an epistle that is not there, as opposed to working out an implication God intends us to see? In our next lesson in Galatians, we will take the rules we have learned and apply them to Paul’s great rhetorical introduction to Galatians 3.



endless knot

Daily Inspiration

“Reading Dad’s Sermons”

Current Memory Verse     Remember the Bible

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Today in Daily Prayer


More on Inference and Eisegesis

I realize what a heady lesson today’s Notes contains. These examples might, hopefully, make things a bit clearer.

One example of something many people would tell you is “implied”, that is not: Read the story of Jesus and the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22) or rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23). Now ask yourself, what became of the young man? Did he ever find salvation? Did he give away all his money to the poor and follow Christ?

If you answered anything but “I don't know,” you have inferred something that the text does not tell you. Matthew says he went away looking sorrowful, and Luke that he became sorrowful. If another passage in the Bible said something like, “a person who walks away from the Lord in sorrow will be barred from salvation forever,” then and only then could one say that this passage implies that the young man was never saved.

(In fact, it is implied that the young man could possibly still find the Kingdom of Heaven even if he did not give away all his money, etc. One can point to a specific passage in this regard. In Matthew 19:26, after stating that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to find Heaven, etc., Christ specifically says “but with God all things are possible.”)

Here is another one, that I heard from a Sunday school teacher. The Gospel of John, telling the story of Gethsemane, recounts that Jesus wakes up his apostles, tells them to stay awake, and then goes off to pray. The apostles immediately go back to sleep. The third time, He tells them to wake up because the hour has come.

The teacher then taught that this meant Christ had become fully divine and knew all things at that point. He knew His hour had come because He had become fully God. I sat and listened to one of the students in the class - himself teaching a Bible study - repeat this as if it were part of the Bible.

This, he claimed, was “implied” by the events. But, of course, it is not implied. It is an explanation of the events made up by a human being. And here, we see the danger of not understanding what is an inference made by a flawed human mind and an actual implication, proven by reference to other parts of the Bible.

First, see clearly that it is not implied. There is nowhere in the Bible that says, for example, Christ would become fully divine when He realized His hour had arrived, or that He would know His hour had arrived at the time He gave up his mortal mind and was filled with the full knowledge of God.

Secondly, in this particular case, we are lucky enough to be able to see another inference just as rational. Although it is actually irrelevant to our point - one does not need a competing hypothesis to show that an inference is manmade and not Scriptural - Jesus was the only one awake in the Garden of Gethsemane. One might thus infer just as easily that He knew the hour was at hand, because hundreds of men with torches and swords were coming into the Garden in the middle of a dark and quiet night!

Third, this example shows the danger of inferring such things to the Bible, because in this case, it undermines a fairly important doctrine, the faith of Christ. Part of the mechanism of our salvation is that Christ had perfect faith. He died, not with the absolute knowledge of God that He would be resurrected, but with the faith of a human being in God - only of course, His faith was perfect. Faith is trust in something one does not know as an absolute. Paul tells us in Philippians that “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Memory Verse

2 Corinthians 12:9: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.



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Comments (5)

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Victoriasays...

I agree with Despina! Great explanations and examples today. Thank you for not only the Notes on Scripture, but the added notes on Inferences and Eisegesis. Your “liturgical thoroughness” is much appreciated and truly a gift for us all.

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Wm(Fort Russell, Illinois, US)says...

Obviously, the first few verses of Galatians 3 is very important to you Mason! I noticed these scriptures have been the daily focus three times in the past week. Important to know that our salvation is based on faith and not by obeying the Old Testament laws.

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Christysays...

Dear Jenny,

My dad also was a minister who prepared for two Sunday services, and a mid-week service. I did not read his sermons to him then, but now read devotional materials, such as “Daily Prayer,” and scriptures to him. As his mental capacity fails, it’s always a pleasure to share and quote Biblical passages with him - these he remembers, as I’m sure they’re implanted deeply in his heart, as well as in his mind.

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Michaelsays...

Sorry, but do not agree with John Wesleys opinion in to days meditation. If evil comes near and my family is threaten and enters my home uninvited, I will not be meek and silent!

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Despinasays...

Thank you Mason & Co. for another incredibly well explained distinction about reading from the Bible and reading into it. I have never really thought about God's 'implied meaning' and our 'infered meaning' as much until now, and I appreciate the difference. You take liturgical thoroughness to another level but with simple enough context that I can follow. Thank you again...I love your website

Daily Quiz

Top score(s) on the Daily Quiz for Oct 16, 2020 were:
Tom Kraft (12)
Pam Carpenter (11)
Norman Daniels (11)
Sylvia Banda (11)
Gary Swart (11)

Top score(s) on Match-a-Verse:
Pam Carpenter (9 out of 9)
Norman Daniels (9 out of 9)
Sylvia Banda (9 out of 9)
Elaine Gibson (9 out of 9)
randall martin (9 out of 9)
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