Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pattern Analysis in the Bible

I believe I am onto something significant regarding the Bible. I'm calling it Pattern Analysis—a way of reading the Bible for greater understanding and meaning. Pattern Analysis includes literary devices such as the chiasm and lists and summarizations; forty devices in all. I'm really excited to start showing this tool later this year but my work is not yet ready.

A year ago I announced that Discovering Emphasis in the Bible is ready for review. I received some comments that basically said I need to dig deeper. At the same time, the Holy Spirit nudged me to develop a catalog of structured themes. I never imagined the extent and beauty that would be revealed to me from this process. They were right, I was not ready.

Today I have completed cataloging 25% of the Bible: 18% of the Old Covenant and 45% of the New. While that is more than 800 structured themes, I'm not done yet. But what I can say is that so far there is not a verse that does not fit into this methodology!

Why is that important to you? Because Pattern Analysis,
  1. organizes Bible passages into complete units,
  2. clarifies the text and often adds new meaning, and
  3. reveals one or typically several emphatic messages in each structure
Pattern Analysis also gives considerable credibility to the thinking that the Holy Spirit inspired the entire Bible. Just as you can look at the signature on a credit card receipt to see if it is from your spouse, so it seems we can use Pattern Analysis to ask, Is this passage from that same source?. Pattern Analysis supports the thinking that there is a Verbal Plenary Inspiration of the Bible.

Through this medium called the Bible Discernments blog, I hope to keep you informed about my progress. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Tom

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thematic Structures in the Bible Expose Fresh Meanings

I've been studying chiastic structures in the Bible for over 15 years. When I mention that to most Bible-believing people, a glaze typically comes over their face. If they're interested, I offer to show them Matthew 6:24, a very simple chiasm with boat loads of profound truth.

A    No one can serve two masters.
B    Either you will hate the one
C    and love the other,
C′ or you will be devoted to the one
B′ and despise the other.
A′ You cannot serve God and wealth.
(Matt 6:24 NASB)

I explain that to many people, this verse conveys the thought that we must choose which master we will serve: God or wealth. While I believe that is correct, I boldly state that there is a far more profound understanding when looking at it from the standpoint of a chiasm.

I suggest that a chiasm is like a sandwich, bread at the top and bottom, mustard or mayonnaise on the bread, some lettuce next to the mayo, and then some meat. The meat is the important part.

In A and A′, the bread is revealed as two masters, God and wealth. The mustard or mayonnaise is the hate and despise in B and B′, and the meat is love and 'be devoted to' in C and C′.

Here is the clincher: I suggest that in a chiasm, the center is generally considered the emphatic portion of a passage, just as the meat is the major reason to purchase the sandwich. So I ask, “What is in the middle?” The answer is love and 'be devoted to.' “To who?” I then ask. The obvious answer is God. To that I then conclude this verse is emphasizing love, not service, to that master. When we love Him, then service is a natural outflow.

Types of Thematic Structures
There are five basic types of thematic structures in the Bible: chiasm, parallel symmetry, alternating repetition, immediate repetition and lists. The most common is the chiasm. In a brief look at 200 structures in both the Old and New Testament over the last 3 weeks, I found that 32% were chiastic, 24% contained parallel symmetry, 23% alternating repetition, 15% immediate repetition, and 6% lists. A substantial number of these contain variations that make their study most intriguing.

My hope is to help people learn how to read their Bible from the standpoint of thematic structures. The many gems that clarify the meaning of a passage are hidden within these structures. These gems then point to a Holy Spirit-type of interaction that emphatically reveals the meaning and application of the passage. My next book Discovering Emphasis in the Bible, which Lord-willing will be published later this year, attempts to take people through that identification and discovery process.

If you are interested in being notified when the book is available, my email address is Tom@ThomasBClarke.com.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Word Duplication in the Hebrew Portions of the Bible

The Hebrew portion of the Bible contains an intriguing technique to strongly emphasize an action: word duplication. If you said, “I will obey obey God” in English, it would make little sense. In Hebrew, that duplication gives very strong emphasis to the commitment to obey. You might say instead, "I will totally obey." My hope in this article is to teach how you can recognize this duplication technique – that is, how the Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures with this technique.

This literary device is also known as iteratio and subjunctio.

This rhetoric occurs when a word is repeated. Using the book of Zechariah (NASB), here are some instances of word duplication:

“Those who are far off will come and build the temple of the Lord.” Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey the Lord your God. (v6:15)

The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will also go.” (v8:21)

“Woe to the worthless shepherd
Who leaves the flock!
A sword will be on his arm
And on his right eye!
His arm will be totally withered
And his right eye will be blind 1.” (v11:21)
Footnote: 1 Lit completely dimmed

It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. (v12:3)

Many times, an adverb [recognized by the -ly at the end of the word] indicates a duplicated Hebrew word.

In a sense, our English diminishes the word repetition. If you said, “I will jump jump over the candlestick”, that does not infer a jump that is twice as high. Rather, it points to the wholehearted commitment to jump over the candlestick. No burnt pants from that jump!

In our effort to hear the voice of God through the Holy Spirit, even the little things in language can provide a strong look into the heart of God. See if you can find examples of word duplication in these verses from Deuteronomy (NASB):

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. (v4:26)

You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. (v6:17)

And when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. (v7:2)

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Bible: Why a Verbal Plenary Inspiration is Important to You

Never heard about a verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible? I had not either but it makes total sense to me. It is the understanding that the Bible was verbally inspired by God and it is the absolute authority (plenary) of His Word. From this view we can make the faith statement that, “The Bible is totally reliable.”

Imagine yourself a ten or twelve year old girl, having been told that your father loved you but never fully believing it or hearing it or even reading it. Daddy has been away for a very long time and never communicates directly. Mommy only tells you that your father loved you and still loves you. She tells you stories and may even write you notes, but they are not his words. You desperately want to hear it from the man who fathered you, a man you do not know.

This is what has happened to the Church. For well over one hundred years, theologians have audaciously presented to Bible students the thought that the Holy Scriptures have been modified by men. For example, they suggest that some man named Matthew took his portion of the ‘canon’ from either another man named Mark or some other manuscript called a Q or Quell.

These theologians are now our pastors, having been trained and are now teaching the people in our churches that the book of Matthew was passed on from someone else. To them, it is not authoritative. They present theories such as historical criticism and source criticism that report about God’s love. These words are not trustworthy because they do not directly come from the original source.

These theories are not just about Matthew, they involve every book of the Bible. These theories promote statements such as “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16 NASB) but they take away the Bible’s profound impact. They also promote the thought that some man (or men) called a redactor modified the text, placing it into the form we now have before us.

Dear ten-year-old girl, please know that when the Bible refers to God’s immense love for you, it is spoken through the Holy Spirit. He is the embodiment of God. He loves you, not some other man or some other deity saying this about God, but God himself.

For example, Daniel 9:4 records a portion of a prayer by Daniel:

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments … ”
There are two ways we can look at that single verse:
  • a man acting as a narrator who recorded that prayer, or
  • the Holy Spirit that took the words of prayer for all mankind.
I suggest to you that the Bible is much more than the words of some narrators which have been modified by men over the years. Instead, it is the Word given to you personally through the Holy Spirit so that you can know His character. This Daddy has not been away for a very long time. This Daddy communicates continuously, for the one who has an ear. He truly loves you.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Abbreviated Lists in Biblical Literary Structure

An abbreviated list is the frequent appearance of listed items in the Bible but not all items are repeated. To put it another way, an abbreviated list is a literary device where the shortened form is representative of the whole.

I replaced the landscaping in front of our house in 2015. I selected a weeping blue spruce for the centerpiece which is surrounded by a variety of other plants: a white pine, a Japanese maple, three blue cloak firs, some cotoneasters, barberries, junipers, yews, weigela, and assorted flowers. When I call this the "blue spruce and Japanese maple plantings", that is an abbreviated list.

In Deuteronomy 13:3,4 (NASB) there is a list of seven statutes:

For the LORD your God is testing you to find out if
  • you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
  • You shall follow the LORD your God
  • and fear Him;
  • and you shall keep His commandments,
  • [and] listen to His voice,
  • [and] serve Him,
  • and cling to Him. 1

This list is abbreviated many times in Deuteronomy. Think of all seven when you see reduced lists such as verses 11:22 and 13:18.

“For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him,” (v11:22)

“… if you will listen to the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all His commandments which I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.” (v13:18)

When you discover an abbreviated list, it is emphatic simply because it is frequently repeated. Even the single reference in verse 29:9 is an abbreviated way of stating the entire list.

“So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.” (v29:9)

The clue to finding these abbreviated lists is in their extensive repetition.

1. The words [and] appear in the Hebrew text but do not appear in the NASB. If the first letter of a Hebrew word is the character Vav, that is usually the word AND.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Throw Away Your Bible In A Year Plan; Pursue Meaningful Study Instead

I remember the nutritionist stating to my wife, "You have a choice: continue staying on your prescription medications or stop taking them. You may have good reason to continue taking them; discuss that with your doctor. I am not telling you to stop taking them, I just believe there is a better plan."

My wife went from seven prescription medications each day to one, a thyroid medication that she will take for the remainder of her life. She made that choice over three years ago–her blood pressure has dropped to normal ranges, her cholesterol blood work has been consistently good, and her other complications have been under control. She is living a normal healthy life and enjoying those benefits with the help of her nutritionist.

If you are under your pastor's direction to read the Bible in a year, that is between you and him or her. If you have not read the Bible through twice, cover to cover, I recommend reading it in a year so that you catch the big picture. But to many people, a daily Bible reading plan may have stolen your precious time.

There is wonderful, glorious, and exciting joy in digging into the Scriptures, and that is what I propose as an alternative. Make your time meaningful. Renew your time with the Lord.

I have been teaching a Bible study based on my soon-to-be-published books: Daniel Chapter 2: A Workbook and Discovering Emphasis in the Bible. This small Bible study group is helping me improve the quality of those two manuscripts while they learn a new tool. The Daniel workbook uses sixteen lessons as reveals intricacies in chapter two; each workbook lesson draws from the reference book, Discovering Emphasis in the Bible. Both books teach how to make your Bible reading more fulfilling.

Last night I used Chapter One of Discovering Emphasis in the Bible as the basis for our study. I again presented the DIG approach which is at the core of this teaching: Discern the literary structure; Identify the emphasis; and Glean the Holy Spirit’s individual message for you.

We first read Psalm 43, a very brief psalm yet one that may seem confusing. Here is that psalm from the NASB:
1 Vindicate me, O God,
And plead my cause against an ungodly nation;
Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
2 For You are the God of my strength;
Why do You cast me off?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

3 Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your tabernacle.
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And on the harp I will praise You,
O God, my God.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
Everyone in the group last night expressed some confusion: "Why does this psalm seem to contradict itself?" We then read Chapter One of Discovering Emphasis in the Bible. Not only did they see the advantage of literary structure from that chapter, they understood why a year-long march through the Bible limits their study. That half-hour, or whatever time is allotted, could be much more productive and thereby more satisfying.

If you would like a free copy of Chapter One of Discovering Emphasis in the Bible, please send me an email to Tom at ThomasBClarke.com. In return, I will send you the five page PDF that we studied last night and will add you to my mailing list which announces the publication of new manuscripts. I will not sell or otherwise misuse your information, for it is an honor to send this occasional marketing material to you.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Chiasm with an Ellipsis: John 16:16-19

You ask, "What is an ellipsis? I have learned about chiasms, what is an ellipsis?" According to E. W. Bullinger, ellipsis appears in the Bible when "a word or words are omitted … in order that we may not stop to think of, or lay stress on, the word omitted, but may dwell on the other words which are thus emphasized by the omission."

When the ellipsis appears within a literary structure such as a chiasm, it behaves as if it were there. This literary device is best seen by illustration. Below is John 16:16-19. The phrase
A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.
appears three times. The fourth time, the one with the ellipsis, is shown in violet. The ellipsis makes it appear that the entire phrase was stated even though it was omitted.


A    “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.”  (v16)
B    Some of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’  (v17A)
X    and, ‘because I go to the Father’?“  (v17B)
B′ So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.”  (v18)
A′ Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’?”  (v19)

Once I learned from Bullinger how to recognize the ellipsis, my understanding of chiastic and other structures became even more clear. I hope it helps your analysis, too.



Monday, April 18, 2016

The Enemy's Attack on the Bible

In my soon to be published book Discovering Emphasis in the Bible: Hearing God's Voice through Literary Structure, I present three steps to better hear God's voice. The process is deemed DIG:
  1. Discern the literary structure of a passage
  2. Identify the emphasis within that literary structure
  3. Glean God's personal message for you based on that emphasis
This study will teach you how to recognize the 14 most common types of literary structure in the Bible. Each type has its own method for detecting the emphasis. Where a structure exists, this process works for Genesis through Revelation.

The book targets two groups of born-again believers: those that are having a difficult time hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit and those that want to dig deeper into the Bible.

Hallucinogenic Drugs
While I would hope that everyone would benefit from my manuscript, there is one group that I specifically cannot target: those involved in illicit drugs. These drugs, such as marijuana, ketamine, cocaine, and heroine, distort a person's ability to think and react in both the short-term and the long-term.

Confusion is a significant tool of the enemy to distract us from understanding the biblical text. Not only does the drug's high prevent good comprehension, so there is a long-term effect that impedes wisdom in pattern recognition. The good news is that over time, continued abstinence restores this processing power that God gave us.

In our United States and throughout the world, drug abuse has become a very significant problem. So has Bible illiteracy. Is there a correlation? I suspect so.

I am not an expert on the effects of these drugs on our minds, but it makes sense to me. In my own experimentation with marijuana about 45 years ago, my ability to think through problems diminished quickly. I thought there was no difference in my cognitive skills while I was not high; once I stepped away from all substance abuse, I saw differently.

Here is some research that supports my understanding: National Institute on Drug Abuse: What are marijuana's long-term effects on the brain?. For example it states, "As people age, they lose neurons in the hippocampus, which decreases their ability to learn new information."

Conclusion
The enemy is continually attempting to separate us from pursuing our God. His tactic of confusion through drugs seems to have worked for many people. If your state is looking to legalize marijuana, consider getting involved in defeating that effort. And if your child suddenly comes home with poor grades in a subject, be aware–there may be more to it than the pretty girl nearby.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Is Your Chiasm Meaningful?

The book of Proverbs has many great aphorisms (brief sayings) that are full of wisdom. Some of these have a chiastic A-B-B′-A′ shape but the center point is often not particularly meaningful. That is, there does not seem to be an emphatic center in these chiasms. Consider this example from Proverbs 22:22,23 (NET Bible):
A  Do not exploit a poor person because he is poor
    B  and do not crush the needy in court,
    B′ for the Lord will plead their case
A′ and will rob those who are robbing them.
In both B and B′ the setting is a court scene; the A and A′ versets are pictures of one triumphing over another. The shape is chiastic but the emphasis is not the court scene.

Instead the emphasis should be the contrast between verses 22 and 23. Simplified, these two verses could be stated as:
A  Do not abuse a poor person,
    A′ Else the Lord will abuse you.
The problem is not limited to Proverbs, where chiasms do not seem to have a strong center point. Consider Genesis 1:27 (NASB) for example. The structure is clearly chiastic and has been referenced by many as an example of a chiasm. However, to me it does not demonstrate the emphatic value of chiastic structures:
A  God created man
    B  in His own image,
    B′ in the image of God
A′  He created him.
I believe this value statement is individual and should be inspired to each person. To a certain extent, whether a center point is meaningful or not is subjective. To me, God's creation is more important than the image He created. It may be emphatic to you but not so much to me. I grant that some will see things differently than others.

SO, when you believe you have located a chiasm, go beyond the beauty of your finding. Ask yourself, "Is this chiasm meaningful to me?" Then ask, "Why?"


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Daniel Chapter 2: Discovering Emphasis through Literary Structure, Part I

After I finished the first full draft of Discovering Emphasis in the Bible: Hearing God's Voice through Literary Structure, I opened my Bible to see if there was more to be written. I was led to chapter 2 of Daniel, a book that I had not closely studied in the recent past. I was surprised to see so many of the Discovering Emphasis in the Bible techniques in that chapter. One of them is transposition.

Transposition
The process I present is called RIDL:
Read the passage in context
Identify the theme of the structure
Discover the emphasis
Listen to the voice of God regarding this emphasis

Read the passage in context
If you would, please read Daniel 2:1-49. The subject of this lesson is hearing God's voice through transposition.

Identify the theme of the structure
Compare the dream in Daniel 2:35A with the interpretation in v45B:
35 Then
1   the iron,
2   the clay,
3   the bronze,
4   the silver,
5   and the gold,
all together were broken in pieces, (v35A)

45 And that it broke in pieces
1   the iron,
2   the bronze,
3   the clay,
4   the silver,
5   and the gold.
A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. (v45B)
The above structure is two different lists of the same thing. Lists are common in the Bible. Less common is the transposition of items in two subsequent lists.

Discover the emphasis
In a transposition, the presented order is somehow changed. One of the relocated items becomes the point of emphasis. In the second list, the bronze and clay have switched places. The third item, clay, is the emphatic one because it is now in the middle.

Based on your knowledge of clay and pottery, why would it be considered emphatic?

The image that Daniel saw, with Nebuchadnezzar as the head of gold, completely collapsed. It was rendered useless because the stone pushed the statue over. This emphasis draws our attention to the clay and why the stone was so successful: the weak clay was in the feet.

Listen to the voice of God regarding this emphasis

How does the Holy Spirit speak to you once you have understood this transposition?


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Discovering Emphasis in the Bible is Ready for Review

For those that have spent any time with me, you know how much I enjoy reading the Bible, digging for ‘the gold’ so to speak. I've been studying a lesser known Biblical topic called literary structure for the last 15 years. Through that approach, I have learned to hear the voice of God as He speaks through the Bible.

This week I sent out for review a new book entitled Discovering Emphasis in the Bible: Hearing God's Voice Through Literary Structure. It is an 104-page book that I hope will be published this spring. The process I present is called RIDL:

Read the passage in context
Identify the theme of the structure
Discover the emphasis
Listen to the voice of God regarding this emphasis



The first two paragraphs of the Introduction read:
I want to hear God’s voice. Do you? When I read the Bible, I want to go beyond learning the stories and memorizing verses. I know there are many powerful lessons in the Holy Scriptures and I enjoy them all. I still want more.

God speaks through the Holy Spirit. Aside from the Bible, there are times when I hear that voice nudging me to do one thing or another. For some reason, I hear it most clearly when I’m lying in bed early in the morning. I sometimes hear it during the day as I go about my business. Then there are the days when I don’t hear it at all. Possibly you go through periods like that.

In addition to hearing that voice, I understand it while reading the Bible. I read the scriptures with passion, grasping that voice as He adamantly speaks through literary structure. I want to teach you these techniques.
Want to be notified when it is available? Contact Tom@ThomasBClarke.com


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Knotty NOT NOT Problem in Scriptures - Part III

The reason I am writing this series on NOT NOT is because Bible passages can get misinterpreted easily. At the heart of the issue is what linguists refer to as logic. By following certain logic principles when we read the Bible, we are more likely to come to a right understanding of a passage.

Consider this NOT NOT verse from Hebrews 4:15 (NASB),
15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

In the NASB's convention, the words we are, yet are placed in italics to indicate they are added for our understanding and are not in the original Greek text.

The High Priests
The statement ‘for we do not have a high priest’ would normally suggest we should look back to see what was previously stated about the topic. The problem is nothing is stated regarding the high priest before that verse. It is only when we reach the next chapter, Hebrews 5:1-3, where we read about the system of gifts and sacrifices for sins. In those three verses we see that these sacrifices are for both the sins of the people and his own sins.

5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;
2 he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;
3 and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.


Based on verse 5:3, an inferred statement seems to accompany v4:15.
  ‘we have an order of high priests that can sympathize with our weaknesses.’
The high priest was prone to sin; his sacrifice was first for his own sins and then for the people.

In linguistics, that inferred or missing statement is called an ellipse, omitted word or words that are understood by the reader. The Hebrew reader of this text would certainly have known that the selected high priest is not perfect and not one without sin. For the non-Hebrew reader, it was included in verses 5:1-3 as shown above. Therefore, this inferred statement was not necessary and was omitted.

Jesus the Great High Priest
So lets go back to our NOT NOT verse from Hebrews 4:15,
15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

In this verse, there is also the comparison between Jesus, the great high priest, and the order of Levitical high priests. The question is, is it logically correct to substitute the name Jesus into that phrase and then change both NOT NOT statements to a positive? If we did, we would have,
  ‘For we have Jesus who can sympathize with our weaknesses [i.e. our sins].’
I suggest that, just as the Part I and II lessons attempted to show when there are two or more nouns or verbs: two negatives do not necessarily make a positive. Therefore, that statement is an incorrect inference from verse 4:15.

I believe that Jesus did not sympathize with us because He was inclined to sin, but He loved us because we are inclined to sin. That would yield this statement:
  ‘For we have Jesus who loves us despite our weaknesses [i.e. our sins].’
To me, there is a huge difference between one who sympathizes and another who loves. Sympathy may motivate an action such as a once-a-year sacrifice; true love motivated His perfect sacrifice.

Conclusion
Our school training may have taught us that two NOT statements become a positive. That is true in only a limited sense. In a more complicated manuscript such as the Bible, it becomes important to look at the number of nouns and verbs that are involved in the NOT NOT. The NOT NOT rule only applies to those that have a simple sentence structure.


This is the last of the Knotty NOT NOT articles. In the next series, I will discuss my favorite topic, literary structure in the Bible. I am anticipating that my forthcoming book Discovering Emphasis in the Bible: Hearing the Voice of God Through Literary Structure will soon be available for preview purposes.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Knotty NOT NOT Problem in Scriptures - Part II

In this blog posting, I continue teaching how the Bible treats double negatives. Last time we looked at John 14:24, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words.” I used that example to show how two negatives, ‘not love’ and ‘not keep’, does not always indicate the positive: “He who loves Me keep My words.”

Consider this verse from John 12:47,48 (NASB),
47If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”

This example also has two negatives, ‘not keep’ and ‘not judge’. Here again there are two objects, ‘them (referring to My sayings)’ and ‘him’. Therefore we can apply the same rule that two negatives do not necessarily make a positive. To put it another way, the corollary is not necessarily true: “If anyone hears My sayings and does them, I do judge him.”

These two verses are only about the decision to disobey His sayings. It does not address the obedient person, it addresses the disobedient.

Later in the book of John, that is in John 14:21 (NASB), we see a strong statement about obedience:
21He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

In this verse, the obedience is because of love. It is not obedience to some list of ‘do this’ or ‘do that’–it is the call to obey because our love for Christ.

Therefore, John 12:47,48 is a look at the Father's judgment, ‘Are the actions based on love?’ The double negative has more meaning than you might think.

In Part III of this series, we will look at another example of the Knotty NOT NOT problem.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Knotty NOT NOT Problem in Scriptures - Part I

I remember from English class that two negatives make a positive. That is, if I say, “Jesus was never unfaithful“, that would be taken as “Jesus was always faithful.” The two negatives, ‘never’ along with the ‘un’ should always be taken as the equivalent of ‘always’. That is that I was taught and possibly you too. I believe that is correct.

However, that teaching does not always hold true in a more general sense: not in our normal speech, and not in the Scriptures. By incorrectly generalizing that rule, some false understandings can develop.

Consider this verse from John 14:24 (NASB),
“He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”
The ‘does not love’ when paired with ‘does not keep’ creates a double negative. Does that mean that someone who ‘does keep’ can be assumed to ‘does love’? That is, is it correct to assume this passage means ‘He who keeps My words is one who loves Me’? I suggest the answer is, “Not necessarily.”

The proof of our love does not come from our actions. What we do may be indicative of our love, but only God knows the heart.

Therefore, John 14:23 (NASB) includes the positive statement,
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.’”
This now clarifies the intent of verse 14:24. True love creates true obedience, while lack of true love creates disobedience.

The difference between the first example, “Jesus was always faithful”, and John 14:23,24 comes down to how the two negatives are formed. In the first example, the two negatives refer to one object, the word ‘faithful’. In the second example, there are two objects, ‘love’ and ‘keep My words.’ If there is more than one object, the rule about two negatives may indicate the positive but it does not always apply.

In Part II of this series, we will look at another example of the Knotty NOT NOT problem.