Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Take a Fresh, Unbiased Look at Scripture

“It is very important that leaders and lay people alike take a fresh look at scripture and stop projecting their preconceived notions or traditions onto it.”

The above quote was part of a response I wrote to Rebecca who commented on my blog. see entire post and comments here

How does one go about keeping their biases out of their research and interpretation of scripture? How can one be assured that he or she is not listening to an evil spirit instead of the Holy Spirit?

I cannot give a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but I can share what has worked for me.

I prayerfully take the issue in question before God, confessing, “Lord God, there is some disagreement about this issue/passage, and I want to know what YOU meant by it, what YOU want me to do or believe. I confess, Lord, that I really hope your answer is ______, but I choose to let go of that. I lay down my will and my preference. Lord, I am willing to believe and practice what YOU tell me, either way. Help me as I study this. Lead me to related scripture and help me to fully understand the context. I am yours, Lord God. Protect me from the wiles of the Evil One, and do not allow him to speak to me or influence my thinking or conclusion(s).”

After praying, I begin to study. Sometimes it is helpful to read several different views of others—especially if I was taught to refuse to even look at or consider other viewpoints. The idea with this step is to get an overview, to see if verses relate to the subject and reasoning—verses other than the ones I have been taught are applicable.

Other times I get the sense that looking at the views of other humans will get in the way of hearing what God wants to tell me.

One such instance is the verse “Be ye angry and sin not; let not the sun go down on your wrath.” As far as I know, no one else has the interpretation of this verse that I do. I believe my interpretation came from God. My interpretation is “When you are angry do not sin. Shine a bright light on your anger until you know the cause, and then work to solve the problem.”

I see this as being similar to shining a bright light on a sliver. You could just forgive yourself for getting the sliver and forgive the sliver for being there, and go to bed and try to forget it. But in the morning the sliver will still be there and may even be infected. On the other hand, if you shine a bright light on the hurting area, and dig around until you find the cause, dig it out and put appropriate salve on the wound, you can then go on your way with little to no pain at the sliver site.

Sometimes I am afraid that what I find will tell me I am totally wrong. Since I do not want to accept the one viewpoint, I acknowledge there is rebellion in my heart, so I confess that to God, and ask Him to cleanse my heart and take it away. I do not want to rebel against God.

One such time was when I was researching for this blog using only Strong’s Concordance. I was studying verses in I Timothy concerning husband and wife, and 5:14 came up. As I started on this verse, I became aware that I did not like the interpretation I had been brought up with—that a wife was to stay home and stick to domestic duties. I stopped and gave that to God and told Him if that was what He meant, I was willing to accept that. I was surprised—and delighted—to find that “guide the house” (#3616) actually means “be the head of the house,” and it is specified that this “head of the house” means ruler of the family. It appears the KJV translators had a bias.

When I looked up the parallel verses for the husband, “one that ruleth well his own house,” I found when you look at the words the word came from, the meaning Strong’s gives the word ruleth (#4291) is the FIGURATIVE meaning, not the normal meaning. The meaning of the originating word is “fore: in front of, prior to,” (which reminds me of the view that the word “head” likely is referring to the fact that Adam came into existence before Eve) and stand—“to stand before.” And the meaning of house is “dwelling.”

So the phrase is actually “to stand before his dwelling.” But the translators used the figurative and by implication forms to arrive at “ruleth well his own house,” which our patriarchal leaders interpret as having authority over his family. Yet, they fail to note that another implied meaning of rule is “maintain.” In other words, the phrase could be saying “maintains well his own dwelling.” In this case, since the KJV translation uses the implied and figurative meanings, I distrust the translation. In fact, when he adds “having his children in all subjection,” one questions whether children were included in the previous phrase at all. If they are, Paul was being redundant. Verse 5 “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he TAKE CARE OF the church of God?” agrees with my suspicion that the meaning God intended is to “maintain and care for,” NOT to RULE.

I notice that “guide the house” for wives, which means “be head (ie: ruler) of the house” is neither implied nor figurative. While the phrase for husbands which is translated “rule the house,” is actually figurative or implied. I end up seeing much more authority for the wife, than for the husband in I Timothy, which is contrary to what I was taught all my life.

My study and conclusion of this passage, ended up strengthening what I had already seen in other husband-wife passages. Because of the interpretation of church leaders, I thought the I Timothy passages disagreed with Ephesians 5, and I wasn’t sure how to handle that. But prayerful study showed me the two passages agree; there is no command to husbands to rule their wives.

Again, I stress, it is very important to lay aside your own preferences and will about a passage, and to diligently seek what our Almighty God wishes to communicate in His love letter to us. When I lay down my wishes, and surrender my heart to God, it doesn’t matter whether I was right or wrong. It only matters that I go forth in obedience to Him—even if it means my family will condemn me, as happened another time.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel,"a story about a woman who grapples with her husband's demands that she submit--no matter what. Please visit www.wanetadawn.com for information.


  1. WOW Waneta! What you wrote makes alot of sense to me. It certainly shows the spirit of what I feel the scripture is saying to everyone.

  2. Thanks, Hannah! Years ago I heard the saying, (something like) "If your beliefs/viewpoints won't stand up to scrutiny and debate, they aren't worth keeping." I was taught to refuse to consider other viewpoints, that they may lead me astray. But what I found was that having a heart after God is the key, not a heart after viewpoints. When I have a heart after God, I can examine viewpoints and doctrines, hold them up to scripture, and throw out those that don't measure up to God's word.

    "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Tim 1:7 God actually wants us to use our intellect along with the leading of the Holy Spirit to rightly divide the word of truth.

  3. Hi Waneta! I came over from Charity Singleton's blog. I really appreciate your perspective. What makes me kind of sad is that if husbands were the kind of servant-leaders that exhibited all of the fruit of the Spirit to their wives and children, wives would not feel compelled to question the meaning of "head." A lot of men forget about Ephesians 5:21 requiring that we submit ourselves "one to another." I don't think there's any question about the Greek word "kefalh" or "kephale" meaning "head" in Ephesians 5:23 (an interesting side note is that "kefalh" is a feminine noun) BUT the context is the forced comparison of Christ as the saviour of the body. If a husband truly saw his role as "saviour," "deliverer," and "preserver" of his wife in a way that he sacrifices himself on his wife's behalf I don't think most wives would have a problem respecting thier husband. When I say "sacrifices himself," I mean that a husband would voluntarily set aside his own wishes, desires, opinions, values, goals, etc. in favor of is wife's. There's so much there! Anyway, God bless you and your ministry/blog.

  4. Kim,
    Thanks for your comments!
    The word 'head' is not in question, as far as I know. However, what it means is in question. In some languages head does NOT mean authority or leader, while in others it does. In the Strongs Concordance, using head as authority is figurative. With Paul's statement about preferring to speak in words that everyone can understand, rather than in tongues, it does NOT make sense that he would choose a word where the meaning is figurative only. Another meaning for head is the head (or source/beginning) of a river, or anything else. If you follow that meaning through, it makes much more sense. God is the source of Christ, Christ is the source of man, Adam was the source of Eve. Contextually, this makes much more sense than "God is the authority of Christ." The Bible indicates that God the father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are ONE LORD. They are in agreement, and not because 1 dictates to the other two.

    If you re-look at scripture, you'll find that the idea of a husband being the leader is missing. Men imposed that addition onto scripture. Husbands are to be sacrificial servants. As you point out, they, too are to submit, as it says in Eph 5:21.

    Policemen have a position of authority. We'd say "huh?" if anyone told a policeman he is to submit to a person. Instead, anyone who doesn't submit to the policeman is likely to wind up in jail, etc.

    Husbands are behaving as if they have the same authority policemen do. They think if they give an order their wives must obey. That is NOT submission, it is obedience. And it isn't leadership or servanthood, either.

    "If a husband truly saw his role as "saviour," "deliverer," and "preserver" of his wife in a way that he sacrifices himself on his wife's behalf I don't think most wives would have a problem respecting thier husband. When I say "sacrifices himself," I mean that a husband would voluntarily set aside his own wishes, desires, opinions, values, goals, etc. in favor of is wife's."

    I agree with you. Even the men who do see their role as preserver or protector, usually use it to limit their wife's activities and relationships, to control her. Rare, indeed, is the man who willingly lays down his will and preferences for his wife. But that IS what Paul called them to do.

    As I see it, if you look at the context, whatever the meaning of head is, the application is clear. Sacrificial servant/lover. Which looks very odd. In today's society a lover is freqently a man whose focus is sex. But a sacrificial lover may include sacrificing what he wants for what she needs, which may be sex sometimes, and other times it may be abstaining from sex and loving in other ways--like washing the dishes and putting them away correctly (so she won't feel that his "help" is frustrating or adds to her work load.)