Rabbit Trail #1

Looks like it would have been better to make the first text session just verses 1 & 2. But I’m learning how this works. Some of us who joined recently may want to ‘catch up’ with the rest. So…

Let’s take a meandering walk down a rabbit trail. We should easily find our way back to the main trail and be ready for next time.

In seeking out new resource material I found the Geneva Bible with comments written by people like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and other Protestant Reformers. Or, at least that’s what I thought when I first scanned the website. Here’s what they actually say:

Originally printed in 1560, believers can read the Scripture along with study assistance unashamedly rooted in the theology of Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and other Reformation leaders.

Now I enjoy a Bible with comments written by people with an agenda. It can help understand differing viewpoints. For example, I use The Jerusalem Bible which has notes rooted in Roman Catholic theology. As I am “rooted” in Evangelical Theology, these notes help me understand their viewpoint. I read their notes as opinion, not scripture.

As the Geneva Bible was translated by exiles from the reign of “Bloody Mary” we can expect the notes to have a decidedly ‘anti-papist’ attitude. There is no “I see it like this, how do you see it?” Instead, the translators went with “I am right because they are wrong.” That’s when confusion sets in and the schism gets widened. We should, I think, be following St. Paul’s advice in 1st Corinthians and work toward unity. Now ‘unity’ is not ‘compromise’. Instead it is understanding given by the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the reference, followed by the quote:

1:11 Being filled with the g fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. 

(g) If righteousness is the tree, and good works the fruits, then the papists are truly deceived indeed, when they say that works are the cause of righteousness. 

When I read something like this, knowing that it is based on an agenda, I compare it with what I understand. And I have great difficulty accepting this comment. It begins with the word if and then proceeds to denounce the supposed belief of an alternative agenda. For me, that is a signal that the whole thing is suspect. Let’s look at it and see what we can dig out. It should prove interesting.

Now, to keep things ‘honest’ I checked several translations including Wycliffe, Young’s Literal, Darby, The Revised Standard Version and The King James Version to find that all of them use the phrase “fruits of righteousness” or something very similar.

Next, I checked to see if the phrase “If righteousness is the tree” is used frequently in the Bible. Wycliffe gives us Proverbs 11:30 however it’s close, not exactly “tree of righteousness”. The KJV gives us Isaiah 61:3 as a reference for “trees of righteousness”. But it does not, as far as I can tell, speak of “Righteousness” as a tree. The 1599 Geneva Bible (where the above comment originates) has the one reference, Isaiah 61:3, to ‘trees of righteousness’. This is the verse from the 1599 Geneva Bible:

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, and to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of gladness for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

Well, let’s look at the argument: if Righteousness is a tree and Good Works the fruit then Good Works are not the cause of Righteousness, as the Roman Church argues. Well, I’m not about to dig into Roman Church theology to find out what they actually say. Perhaps you can do that? This is an argument about the cause of ‘Good Works’. Let’s look at that.

Each of us should have a point of reference in our lives that defines our relationship with God. For me that point of reference is a ‘vision’ I had while studying a theology textbook. The subject matter concerned the unity of Calvin and Luther with St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In the vision I saw Jesus on the Cross and a man kneeling beneath it. Golden Light was all around. Then I became the man and Jesus was telling me to obey Him. I understood that everything was based on ‘Obedience’. That is to say, because I loved Jesus, I would obey Him. Everything I did, if it was in obedience, would be a ‘Good Work’ and anything I did that was not in obedience to Him would not be a ‘Good Work’.

Therefore, my Righteousness and my Good Works are caused by my Obedience to Jesus which is caused by my Love for Him, which is caused by His LOVE for me.

The problem of the Schism between the various Christian Denominations is, as I see it, a problem of Pride. Greeks, Romans, Lutherans, Anglicans and all the Protestants cannot accept that they might be just a tiny bit wrong.

Several days later I reread this and I don’t want to give the idea that I think I have it right. I merely wanted to illustrate that there may be another viewpoint. In this case, Good Works does not necessarily cause Righteousness, nor does Righteousness necessarily cause Good Works. When we read the commentaries and the notes in our Bibles, we need to remember that they are not Holy Scripture. They may help us to understand, but they can also bring confusion. The solution, I think, is discernment. Ask the Lord for His guidance as you study. And…the more you read the Bible, the more you study, the better your understanding.

( Check this link for a nice history of the Geneva Bible https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/the-original-geneva-bible/ and also this one https://www.bibledesignblog.com/blog/2007/09/the-1599-geneva.html )

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