aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Construe this

The Easter cantata we sang yesterday had some parts we excised for brevity's sake. One part we didn't do had to do with the institution of the Lord's Supper. Therein was a mistaken idea: that when Jesus said to his disciples, "drink ye all of this" (referring to the cup), he meant "you drink all of this," rather than "all of you drink from this." The same idea briefly showed up in the dramatic reading we had for Easter sunrise service. And I've seen it before, especially in evangelical devotional works.

Now, you don't have to be able to translate Piete ex autou pantes from the Greek to get this. You only have to be able to construe the Elizabethan English of the KJV. This is not lack of exegetical skills, but lack of a decent background in English language and literature. But it is as C.S. Lewis said, that when reading old works, the easy words and expressions are the most difficult. Hard words we would look up to make sure we understand, but the "easy" words we just assume to carry the same meaning they would in modern English.

Which brings to mind a sermonette I heard in a camp vespers service one time. An obviously good man of very limited education -- the pastor of some independent country church -- was waxing eloquent on the text, "hold fast what is good." An important sentiment to be sure; however, his interpretation would astound you. For him, "hold fast what is good" did not mean "grip it securely," but "grab it before it gets away." The meaning of fast that still shows up in hold fast, fasten, and fastness didn't exist in his wordhoard; for him, fast just meant speedy.

All of which goes to show how important basic education is to handling the Bible. A minister of the Gospel should be well-read in many different fields, but especially in literature and history. And if he's going to use the KJV, he'd better be familiar with other English literature of the same vintage!

Many of our local pastors are very sensitive on this subject. They don't want to get into a status competition about credentials, because they don't have many. They want to talk about holiness and prayer and the demonstration of the truth. And they're right, so far as that goes, but they misunderstand what it means to be an educated person. It's not about credentials, but about understanding.

Plenty of the higher clergy misunderstand this, too. For, truth be told, there are lots of clergy out there with M.Div. after their names -- some with Dr. in front of them, who are proud of their sophistication and articulate in the use of all the latest theological/ideological/social science jargon, who are nevertheless as dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to what the Bible actually says, because they think their degrees are evidence of actual learning.

God save us from both the hick and the slick, I say.

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