Study # 3
Thesis: A faith based upon tradition is, at least, dangerous and, at most, completely destructive.
Introduction: In our prior studies, we have focused particularly upon Luke's audience of one: Theophilus. After showing you, in some detail, how names are deliberately significant in the Bible, we concluded that Luke identified his reader as a highly prejudicial factor in our understanding of what he wrote. This factor is that the significance of his material is of only real help to those who, like Theophilus, have come to the point in their lives that being a friend of God is a most crucial issue.
Now, it seems obvious from Luke's opening words that he had a particularly important concept of friendship: his friend, God, must be trusted. It should be beyond obvious to everyone that friendship that is based upon mistrust is not friendship at all. Any time anyone distrusts what he is being told, friendship is not going to occur. Therefore, it is no surprise to us to read that Luke, who wants Theophilus to continue in the development of his friendship with God, knows for that to happen Theophilus must grow in his confidence in the things he has been told. Thus, he writes, ...it seemed good to me...to write unto thee...that thou mightest know the certainty...
Therefore, it is highly interesting to me that in Luke's opening words we run immediately into a difficulty concerning the translation of those words. It is also a side bar issue that this difficulty is precisely applicable to our setting in King James Only country. The issue is this: did Luke write to Theophilus to tell him the details of "...the things most surely believed among us..." as the KJV translates it; or, did Luke write to Theophilus to tell him the details of "...those matters which have been fulfilled among us..." as the NASB translates it?
This morning we are going to address this issue of Luke's meaning in these particular words and what a primary application of this meaning is to us.
August 23, 2003
- I. What Are the Facts?
- A. First, the underlying Greek texts are precisely the same at this point.
- 1. The text behind the translations is precisely the same for every translation.
- 2. There are no significant variations in Luke 1:1 in any of the Greek texts available to us today.
- B. This means that the issue before us is a translation issue; not an underlying text issue.
- 1. This is important, first, because, in the KJV only argument, a great deal is made of the satanic conspiracy behind all of the Greek texts except the supposedly divinely preserved Greek text behind the King James translation.
- 2. This is important, second, because, in this controversy, a great deal is made of the inaccuracy of the later translations.
- C. This means that we must wrestle with the differences in the translations to see which one is most faithful to Luke's meaning.
- 1. This wrestling is not a fruitless exercise to be dealt with by one swift body blow under the rubric "you can trust the King James version".
- 2. This wrestling is the actual content of the nobility of the Bereans in Acts 17:11.
- a. When Paul came to Berea, he was putting before the people a different understanding of the texts than they had ever heard before.
- 1) In effect, he was giving them a different translation as a consequence of a different interpretation.
- 2) The inspired comment (recorded in both the King James and in the NASB) regarding the Bereans is not that they rigidly rejected Paul's translations because they already had an inspired translation, but that they searched the translation(s) that they had to see if the meaning of the text was being accurately given by the apostle Paul.
- b. God's attitude toward these Bereans was that they were noble because they had a healthy openness to the Truth which was made manifest by two things: they received God's messenger with all readiness of mind and they searched God's words to see if what they were hearing could possibly be the truth.
- 3. This wrestling proves that one cannot solve the problems of understanding God simply by closing one's mind to alternative explanations of God's words.
- a. There is a point when one closes his mind, but it is not before he has considered the facts.
- b. The only time a closed mind is a good thing is when the facts are being contradicted by mindless pontification.
- D. This means that we must consider what Luke's argument was.
- II. Luke's Burden for Theophilus.
- A. A question of intent.
- 1. Did Luke desire that Theophilus base his faith upon what others believed, or did he desire that Theophilus base his faith upon what was historically established as event-based truth?
- 2. The translations part company on the answer to this question.
- a. Both the KJV and its loyal supporters want us to believe what others believe.
- b. Both the NASB and its loyalists want us to believe what has been established as truth in history.
- B. A question of words.
- 1. Does the word translated "things...most surely believed" or "matters which have been fulfilled" carry the necessity of faith within it?
- a. No, if you mean the word itself.
- 1) The word itself floats in the semantic region of notions of fulness.
- 2) The use of the word shows that its meaning addresses the question of how full an entity is, and answers it by giving the answer "as full as possible". 2 Timothy 4:5 and 17 use it to describe how full one is supposed to fill his job description. Romans 4:21 and 14:5 use it to describe how full one is supposed to fill his heart/mind complex with confidence in God.
- b. Yes, if you mean the word in the way it is used theologically.
- 1) It is fundamentally impossible to fulfill one's divinely given task if one's faith-repository is not full.
- 2) It is fundamentally impossible to stand in the face of controversy if one's faith-repository is not full.
- 2. How did Luke mean us to understand his use of this word?
- a. Did he mean for us to understand that his record contained a content that people fully believed?
- 1) Since no one fully believes all of the content, this is highly unlikely.
- 2) That it is our goal to become fully convinced of all of the content is without dispute: the question is this; does anyone ever get there in this life?
- b. Did he mean for us to understand that his record contained a content of actions taken and fully realized?
- 1) Since Jesus' actions were a complete realization of all of the purposes for which He came the first time, this is highly likely.
- 2) It is a fact of life that no one gets to be a trusting friend of God who does not believe that what Jesus did firmly settled the historical demands of a faith that is fixed in facts.
- III. The Facts That Stand.
- A. The translation debate is being promoted by people who do not study the facts themselves and who do not encourage anyone else to study them.
- B. The translation debate exists because there are those who want to return Protestantism back to the Roman Catholic conviction that tradition is of more value than the study of the words of God.