In discussions on Newsvine, and elsewhere, I regularly encounter people making statements about the Bible that indicate a clear misunderstanding of the text. While many such statements indicate an agenda of declaring the Bible wrong, and only are parroting what they've heard or read somewhere else, these are valid challenges to Scripture, and people of faith in the Bible cannot deny any challenge, no matter how small, ignorant, or repetitive. It helps people of faith to sharpen their discussion skills to be challenged, and the last thing this world needs is a "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so..." kind of faith that grows no higher.
The intent of this article is to give some tools to atheists and agnostics, to the detractors of the Bible, wherein they may formulate their challenges with a higher degree of understanding, and likewise understand when their challenges are met with higher understandings. I admit that I know Greek, can read it, understand textual criticism, etc etc ad nauseum. And one thing the people who know the Greek are fond of doing is "the GREEK says!..." And what's anyone supposed to say to that? English has one word for love, while the Greek of the New Testament has three words for love. When we speak of the love between a man and a woman, we use the word "love". When we speak of God's love, we use the word, "love", yet how many know that there are actually two different words in the Greek for love between a man and a woman and love from God to man? In this way, how can those who question the message of the Bible truly understand the meaning of differing words in different translations?
For example, I will give you another. In most English translations, of John 1:5, the text states:
"The light has shown in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
Well, for us, we can interchange the word "understand" with "comprehend". So, the darkness is confused by the Light. Is that it? Is that the only power the Light has over the darkness, that the darkness cannot understand the Light? What happens if the darkness comes to understand the Light? Will it then labor to overcome the Light? Understand please, I am not talking about light and darkness in the physical sense, but rather the Light of truth and the darkness of the false. So, in the world of darkness, a glorious Light has dawned, (Matthew 4:16).
Now, in "the Greek, the word translated as "comprehend" or "understand", is κατελαβεν, or the transliteration (English letters equivalent to foreign word sounds) of 'kateh-lahben'. This is a compound word, common in Greek. Compound words are like "don't" for "do not", or "can't" for "cannot". The two words of κατελαβεν are κατά, which is a preposition, meaning:
genitive case: against, down from, throughout, by; accusative case: over against, among, daily, day-by-day, each day, according to, by way of.
and λαμβανω, which has the meaning of: to grasp or seize,
this from here: http://greekwordstudies.blogspot.com/2007/04/apprehend.html
"Katalambano is a compound verb, consisting of the root word lambano, meaning “to grasp or seize,” combined with kata, which strengthens the verb, giving it extra intensity. The basic meaning is “to lay hold of,” so as to possess as one’s own, to “appropriate.” The translations vary considerably, from “apprehend, attain, come, find, obtain, overtake, perceive, or take.”
Therefore, what we understand is that, reference John 1:5, is that the darkness of evil cannot take ahold of the Light of righteousness, to possess it, control it or manipulate it, and it can't even understand it.
And THAT is a marked difference from a simple "cannot comprehend it".
Now I promised to offer some tools to those who would like to have a better understanding of the Bible.
There is a program called "Bible Gateway", and it can be found at www.BibleGateway.com. At this site you can find pretty much any translation of the Bible, as well as many different languages, including Koine Greek. This is the language the New Testament was originally written in. You can look up a scripture in the New Testament, and note a word in the scripture. If you would like to do a word study, you may google that word, and search, for example, "meaning of the word 'comprehend' in Greek". It is my hope that atheists and agnostics of a more noble mind will undertake the effort to learn the meaning of the Bible, especially the New Testament, and engage Christians in higher and better dialogue.
The writers of the New Testament, as well as those early readers, all understood the force and thrust of the Koine Greek that doesn't translate into English, and something indeed gets lost in the translation.
So, is it fair to require such knowledge of atheists and agnostics, those who doubt the message of the Bible, and regularly misunderstand the meaning? It is true that there are those who do not wish to learn, or engage in fruitful discussion. I have met many who were denied answers to their questions, and subsequently jettisoned Christianity for the harshness of the denial. Such things ought not to be.
I think this calls for patience on the part of believers, who know the truth. Those who know the Scriptures must grow in their understanding, and continue to study and learn, that we may speak the complete truth to those who are told wrong understandings. Lacking any other information, they receive no challenge other than "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so..." and it does nothing to prove the veracity of Scripture, nor the quality of our relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
I encourage all people of faith to apprehend the tools, grow in understanding of scripture, and learn why you believe. Also, learn how to explain it to those who do not know Him. There is so much confusion and misinformation going around about the Bible. It is the Christian's source of truth, encouragement, and hope. We should know it better than the unbelievers, and patiently correct the false through knowledge.