Selected Sunday Scripture- #1

In what I’m hoping to make a Sunday tradition here on my blog, I’m going to post a couple of Bible quotes from various passages I’ve read over the past week. These quotes will be ones which I found especially appropriate at the moment, really touched me, or left me with some questions I would like answered.

The first passage is from the First Letter of John:

15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. 16 If you see your brother or sister[a] committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God[b] will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that.

I found this passage fascinating because it indicates that we aren’t required to pray for those who commit mortal sins. Not that we can’t, only that we aren’t required to. I’m curious as to how my readers have heard this passage explained before, as it is not one that I’m familiar with, nor one I can say I’ve ever heard a homily/sermon on.

The second passage is from the First Letter to the Thessalonians:

Finally, brothers and sisters,[a] we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body[b] in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;

I found this passage particularly intriguing because of what is mentioned in footnote [b] here. A more literal translation would be how to take a wife for himself, which leaves us with a passage that states: “that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor…” Which, if I’m reading this correctly, would seem to indicate that Christian men are expected to know how to find a good wife as a means to avoid sin. And furthermore, they are to do so in a manner consistent with Christian teaching and practice.

The last passage is from the Book of Sirach:

19 Do not dismiss[d] a wise and good wife,
for her charm is worth more than gold.
20 Do not abuse slaves who work faithfully,
or hired laborers who devote themselves to their task.
21 Let your soul love intelligent slaves;[e]
do not withhold from them their freedom.

22 Do you have cattle? Look after them;
if they are profitable to you, keep them.
23 Do you have children? Discipline them,
and make them obedient[f] from their youth.
24 Do you have daughters? Be concerned for their chastity,[g]
and do not show yourself too indulgent with them.
25 Give a daughter in marriage, and you complete a great task;
but give her to a sensible man.
26 Do you have a wife who pleases you?[h] Do not divorce her;
but do not trust yourself to one whom you detest.

27 With all your heart honor your father,
and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother.
28 Remember that it was of your parents[i] you were born;
how can you repay what they have given to you?

There is a lot packed in this small passage, but I found the part about daughters especially poignant. A father is advised to:

1) Keep them chaste

2) Do not indulge them

3) Marry them to a sensible man

Sadly, Christian fathers don’t seem to be accomplishing any of these tasks these days. And we are all the worse for it.

[This will probably be my last post until after Thanksgiving, although I will keep an eye on the comments and the e-mail address folks can contact me with.]

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7 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Selected Sunday Scriptures

7 responses to “Selected Sunday Scripture- #1

  1. delaune

    DG,
    I’ve been lurking for a while and I’ve found much food for thought in your posts. Thank you.
    The meaning of I John 5:16 isn’t complicated but it requires a lot of Biblical context to understand. You might want to try a technique that I’ve found very useful: when I’m not sure what a verse means I move on and keep reading. As I read the easy-to-understand verses (over and over) I find that the difficult ones eventually become clear.
    Regarding 1 Thessalonians 4:4
    I’d never seen the “possess a wife” interpretation of that verse before today (probably because I don’t use a roman catholic Bible).
    I checked my concordance for all uses of the Greek words ktaomai (“possess”) and skeuos (“vessel”). “Vessel,” when used figuratively to refer to individuals, could be translated “person.” It is only once used this way to refer to a wife.
    I think it’s pretty clear that the verse is talking about self control. The verses that seem most closely to parallel this one are (from KJV):
    Luke 21:19
    In your patience possess [ktaomai] ye your souls.

    2Tim 2:21
    If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel [skeuos] unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

    I hope the HTML formatting takes. I’ve never tried this in a comment!

  2. mdavid444444

    Donal,“…a Sunday tradition here on my blog, I’m going to post a couple of Bible quotes from various passages…

    Great! I look forward to it.

    …it indicates that we aren’t required to pray for those who commit mortal sins. Not that we can’t, only that we aren’t required to.

    A thought: you might be reading more into this passage than is necessarily there. The Greek word αἰτέω (g154), meaning you shall ask, doesn’t commit one to believing God is ordering us to pray. Rather, it could suggest we merely have the privilege. G154 is used both ways in the NT.

    Similarly, the Greek word λέγω (g3004) meaning I do not say can be taken either way as well, such as implying don’t do it, which would be a logical interpretation if one takes John as earlier as saying we merely have the privilege (why bring it up at all unless to juxtapose?). Please note I have no opinion on this myself; if I had to guess, I’d think he’s saying not to bother to pray for mortal sin because it will be ineffectual…God would never interfere with a man’s free will, and a man clinging to mortal sin is opposed to God and not seeking repentance.

    Regarding you interpretation of Sirach:

    A father is advised to: 1) Keep them chaste 2) Do not indulge them 3) Marry them to a sensible man…Sadly, Christian fathers don’t seem to be accomplishing any of these tasks these days. And we are all the worse for it.

    Wow, I’ve never pulled that out before. It’s funny how I often walk right past important parts of passages. Thanks for the post. Personally,I think the spoiling of girls by fathers is one of the greatest spiritual crimes of this century. I certainly struggle finding the right balance myself; am I being too harsh, or too soft? I an inclined to lean harsh, since the world is pretty sick in the other direction. I hope I’m right, but still worry…

  3. @ David

    A thought: you might be reading more into this passage than is necessarily there. The Greek word αἰτέω (g154), meaning you shall ask, doesn’t commit one to believing God is ordering us to pray. Rather, it could suggest we merely have the privilege. G154 is used both ways in the NT.

    Similarly, the Greek word λέγω (g3004) meaning I do not say can be taken either way as well, such as implying don’t do it, which would be a logical interpretation if one takes John as earlier as saying we merely have the privilege (why bring it up at all unless to juxtapose?). Please note I have no opinion on this myself; if I had to guess, I’d think he’s saying not to bother to pray for mortal sin because it will be ineffectual…God would never interfere with a man’s free will, and a man clinging to mortal sin is opposed to God and not seeking repentance.

    Thanks. What you say makes sense. I should have looked at different translations to see how they did it to get a better idea (or looked up a Catholic Bible website). But it was late so I just posted what I found interesting.

    Wow, I’ve never pulled that out before. It’s funny how I often walk right past important parts of passages. Thanks for the post.

    As I brush up on my understanding of Scripture, I am finding myself more and more favorable to that particular book. Expect to see more passages from there in the future.

    Personally,I think the spoiling of girls by fathers is one of the greatest spiritual crimes of this century. I certainly struggle finding the right balance myself; am I being too harsh, or too soft? I an inclined to lean harsh, since the world is pretty sick in the other direction. I hope I’m right, but still worry…

    I prefer “stern” over “harsh”, but if it must be the latter then that is the wiser choice, I think. Your daughters might not like it at first, but they will thank you in the long run.

  4. mdavid444444

    Delaune, I’d never seen the “possess a wife” interpretation of that verse before today (probably because I don’t use a roman catholic Bible).

    Donal’s interpretation here is not Catholic, it’s merely Greek. The precise interpretation of σκεῦος is “vessel”, which was a common Greek metaphor for “body” at the time (Greeks believed the soul lived temporarily in the body). This metaphor was found in many other places of the time. See the comments and/or text in nearly any scholarly bible translation…the NASB or the RSV, for example.

  5. delaune

    @mdavid444444
    Thanks for the info. After nearly fifty years of reading the Bible I’m still learning. Of course, forty years ago I thought I knew it all!
    I looked up that verse in several different versions.
    The Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (which is the Bible I started with) is identical to the KJV (except punctuation).
    The RSV (Catholic Edition) says “control your body” with no footnote. I used that version from 1967 until I switched to the KJV in 1973.
    The RSV, as you pointed out, reads “wife” with “body” in the footnote. The New RSV reads “body” with “wife” in the footnote! I’ve never read either of these versions.
    According to my Greek interlinear, all of the critical texts agree on the word σκεῦος, so there’s no controversy there.
    Dr. Lamsa’s translation from the Aramaic reads “keep his possessions.” Not terribly helpful.
    I’m going to stick with what I said above for two reasons:
    1. The parallel verses that have the obvious sense of “self-control”
    2. Using “wife” would yield a translation of vss. 4b-5a of:
    “…possess his own wife in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust…”
    This would seem to indicate that it’s bad to feel lust for your own wife, which certainly contradicts Proverbs 5:19!
    I wonder if this is where the Puritans got the idea that one may only use the missionary position and that sex must only be for procreation?
    Do you have any information on the origins of that doctrine?

  6. A Happy Thanksgiving to you Donal – and this is the start of a very nice practice – am looking forward to it.

  7. @ delaune

    I’m going to stick with what I said above for two reasons:
    1. The parallel verses that have the obvious sense of “self-control”
    2. Using “wife” would yield a translation of vss. 4b-5a of:
    “…possess his own wife in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust…”
    This would seem to indicate that it’s bad to feel lust for your own wife, which certainly contradicts Proverbs 5:19!
    I wonder if this is where the Puritans got the idea that one may only use the missionary position and that sex must only be for procreation?

    Another way to interpret is not that you aren’t to feel passion for your wife (because that doesn’t comport with other parts of Scripture), but instead that you should go about the “possession” of your wife in a holy and honorable way. That would instead be an admonition against the “you break it, you buy it” method of marriage that is recognized under Deuteronomy.

    No idea bout the Puritan notion of sexuality, although it isn’t unique to that group of Christians. Other faith traditions have dallied with it as well from time to time.

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