“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.
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