Daily Devotion for October 16, 2020
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.
Kathleen Battle’s angelic voice fits this Ave Maria perfectly. (The melody is taken from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana, by Pietro Mascagni)
(Note: Composers frequently repeat, omit, or put phrases out of order.)
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
To Submit My Day to God
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.
“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!
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.
1 Corinthians 2:5 (KJV)
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Galatians 3:2-4 (Daily Prayer Bible)
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.