Monday, June 24, 2019

Something from ... Francis Pieper on the clarity of Scripture

It was not too long ago that our pastors' conferences (and it likely drifted down to the congregations they served) were consumed with Bible translations.  There have been a number of new translations and revisions over the past few decades.  The result is that there are many versions to choose from.  All have their strengths and weaknesses.  Some are better than others, and even "better" is often considered a matter of preference.

As pastors discussed and debated the best translation to use for our worship and Bible classes, lay people were often left with the impression that they are in the dark about which translation is reliable and trustworthy.  Some even concluded, "There is no way we can really know what God's word is unless we study Greek and Hebrew."  

While knowing the biblical languages is beneficial (and for pastors, necessary), God's word is not impossible to know when it is translated, read, or preached in a different language.  If it were, how did Pentecost have such success when the apostles preached in the languages of the pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the feast?

Franz August Otto Pieper
(June 27, 1852 – June 3, 1931)
In his Christian Dogmatics (a four volume set on Christian doctrine), Francis Pieper noted that the Bible is not a hidden book only to be grasped and revealed by the learned.  It is clear and its meaning is clear to all who read it.  Granted, some passages are obscure, but the teachings of God's word are simple enough for even a kindergartner to understand.  (Note: "exegesis" is an explanation or critical interpretation of a text in which the translator analyzes the various words and forms of speech to "lead out of" the text its proper meaning.)

From Pieper: "All exegesis, whether it be in general the unfolding of the sense of Scripture or in particular the explanation of (or rather the attempt to explain) the more difficult passages of Scripture, is based on the fact that the entire Christian doctrine is revealed and set forth in Scripture passages so clear that the learned and unlearned alike can understand them; they do not stand in need of 'exegesis' for explanation.  If Scripture did not have this quality, it would not be for all Christians 'a lamp unto their feet and a light unto their path,' nor would all Christians be able to establish the truth of their faith by Scripture and in the light of Scripture to mark and avoid false teachers." (pp 359-360, Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Volume 1.  Concordia Publishing House: St. Louis, MO.  (c) 1950.)

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