01 July 2003         
of Jesus  
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will


Why are the Gospels So Hard To Understand?

Why, if The Father wants children to be with Him, Does He make it so hard and also confusing?  Even inside the Gospels themselves are confusing statements or seemingly contradictions.  Are these the gospel writers adding their own spin? 

My Answer
The following applies only to the gospels.  If we get out of the gospels into the other NT documents, we are only plunging into a jungle of confusion.  That is what has spawned so many different Christian sects.  Jesus warned us against going outside his Word in the quest of Truth, and pointed to the many false prophets who were to come -- and they surely have!  Here are three pertinent utterances of the Lord:


[8] All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them.


[23] But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand.


[22] False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
 We are therefore without excuse if we look to anyone other than Jesus as our source of Truth.  He told us everything, those who came before him were thieves and robbers, and those who came after him are false Christs and/or false prophets.  This is neither complicated or confusing, is it?  Most of the confusion arises from the influence of the doctrines of Paul and other NT writers.  Things begin to clear us as soon as we filter that from our consideration.

The gospel writers have surely added "their own spin" in the narrative material, and there may be a very few instances of their putting their spin on the utterances of the Lord.  But the Holy Spirit has protected the Word such that the Truth remains there in full view to anyone who is of an honest and good heart, to use an expression of Jesus from the Parable of the Sower.

There are no contradictions in Truth.  Sometimes we see a contradiction because we are misunderstanding a word, and we need to study the words of seeming contradictions carefully.  Often we will find that what Jesus meant by a certain word is not what
modern common usage means by it. Most often, rather than go to the dictionary, (where we will get common usage) we need to check out other utterances of the Lord that utilize the particular word.  When we find just what Jesus meant, the Light shines brightly!  

Other times, we may need to examine the underlying principles.  Yet other times, and I have found this in many cases, we need to examine the meaning of the original Greek text.  The translators are only human, and all of them put their own spin on the translation.  Three volumes are great aids in the study of scripture. They are (1) a Greek-English interlinear NT; (2) A complete concordance, such as Young or Strong, and (3) a good Greek-English lexicon such as Thayers.  It is not essential to know the language of the Greek New Testament, but you do need to know the Greek alphabet, which anyone can learn.

I speak of "the original Greek texts" with some reservations, because there are no copies of the original Greek texts in existence, at least, none that have been found and recognized as such.  The earliest complete manuscripts of the gospels date from the Fourth Century. Prior to that time, we have only small fragments.  In addition there are quotations from the gospels found in some early writers.  While the available evidence gives us considerable confidence in the authenticity of the surviving manuscripts, it must be noted that they are not all perfectly uniform.  There are significant differences. Therefore, one cannot be certain that a particular utterance of the Lord is exactly as recorded in the surviving texts, and therefore in the texts used as a basis for modern translations.  What we read in our English translations is therefore what the scholars deem to be the most probable correct rendition after a careful study of all the options.  You can read a summary of the available ancient texts here.  

There yet remain a small number of words in the utterances of the Lord as recorded in the ancient texts, and basic to modern translations, that are questionable to me.  One of these is the phrase, . . . baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, from Matthew 28:19.  I think it probable that this trinitarian formula is a redaction, inserted by an early scribe, for it seems inconsistent with the whole message of Jesus.  

I am fully confident in the authenticity of the gospel according to Jesus, for there is one powerful factor that overwhelms all the uncertainties growing out of the lack of manuscript evidence.  This is the beauty, consistency and coherence of the total message of Jesus, combined with other factors such as the redundancy and otherness of his Word.  It is like looking at a beautiful portrait that lacks nothing.  

Jesus is the Light of the World; he will not leave us in the dark, and his promise is sure:


    [30] As he spoke thus, many believed in him.
    31] Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples,
    32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
Peace to you !

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