Note: The questions alone are listed above the line in inverse order they were submitted and posted, which generally means the most recent questions are at the top of the page (each has a link to its answer). Below the line, questions and answers are given in the order they were submitted and posted. So, you might scroll down until you find the last question that is new to you, jump to the answer, and just read down the page from there.
Q: What should I do if I fall behind in my daily reading? Answer
Q: Why is it that when Jesus speaks in the Bible it is in red lettering, but when God speaks it is not? I can understand when God is speaking through prophets that the statements aren’t in red, but even in Genesis when it says that “God said...” it is not in red lettering. Answer
Q: With all the attention in the media to "gospels" and other writings that were not included in the Bible, could you talk a little bit about how what we have in the Bible came to be included? Answer
Q: I can tell that this is a plan to read the Bible over the course of one year, but what exactly is a “Daily Lectionary”? Answer
Q: How exactly do you suggest we use this “Daily Lectionary”? Answer
Q: How much time does it take to follow your plan to Be in the Word? Answer
Q: We say Holy Scripture is inspired and therefore inerrant, but if Scripture is so great how come there are so many different interpretations? Answer
Q: In his sermon on Sunday, January 8, 2006, Pastor Sullivan pointed out differences in how Holy Scripture, such as Micah 5:2 in Matthew 2:1-12, can be used: for good by the Magi to find Jesus to worship him or for evil by Herod to try to kill the newborn King of the Jews. Do those different uses relate to different interpretations? If so, how? Answer
Q: I read in the Introduction that Dr. Luther says we should pass by things we do not understand and glorify God, and we are already having to do that with even the early chapters of Revelation, but shouldn't God's Word be clear to us? Answer
Q: I notice that the website links to the readings as found in the King James Version, but sometimes I have trouble understanding that version. Does it matter which version I use for my reading? Answer
Q: I notice that the website links to the readings as found in the King James Version, but sometimes I have trouble understanding that version. Does it matter which version I use for my reading?
A: Grace uses the King James Version (KJV) in the public reading of Holy Scripture, and so we tend to use it more than any other version on the website, in our church newsletter (Grace to You), and elsewhere. I am very sympathetic to people who sometimes have difficulty with the KJV's complicated sentence structure or its archaic words, as I sometimes do myself. What matters most is that we are in God's Word, whether it be the King James Version, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) that I probably recommend most, or the English Standard Version (ESV) that the Synod is going to in connection with the forthcoming Lutheran Service Book. We should all remember that such are just "versions" or translations of the original Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek. Only the originals are inspired and inerrant; every translation has its pitfalls. Especially beware of paraphrases, which can try so hard to carry the meaning of the verse that they lose sight of the very words that give the verse its meaning. Back to top
Q: I read in the Introduction that Dr. Luther says we should pass by things we do not understand and glorify God, and we are already having to do that with even the early chapters of Revelation, but shouldn't God's Word be clear to us?
A: God’s Word is clear to us in that it presents in language we can all understand whatever we need to know to be saved. We do not think, as do some, that we need a top church body official to tell us what Scripture says, nor do we think as do others, that we can interpret Scripture for ourselves (with the result that people can say, “Well, I think this says” or “What this passage says to me is”). People do not need to shed light on Holy Scripture, but Holy Scripture sheds light on people: Scripture refers to itself as “a light that shineth in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19 KJV). Having said that, however, I will also say that even for well-educated believers there are things in the Bible that are not understood (especially in the apocalyptic books such as Revelation), especially when those believers substitute their own interpretations for Scripture’s own interpretations of itself. Maybe as we continue to “Be in the Word” together I will have more opportunities to talk about how we interpret Scripture and know we have the God-given and therefore correct understanding of His Word. Back to top
Q: In his sermon on Sunday, January 8, 2006, Pastor Sullivan pointed out differences in how Holy Scripture, such as Micah 5:2 in Matthew 2:1-12, can be used: for good by the Magi to find Jesus to worship him or for evil by Herod to try to kill the newborn King of the Jews. Do those different uses relate to different interpretations? If so, how?
A: I thought that point in Pastor Sullivan’s sermon was a very good one. In the particular case of Micah 5:2 in Matthew 2:1-12, the different uses do not relate to different interpretations: both the Magi and Herod understand Micah to tell where the Messiah would be born, but they had different reasons for wanting to find Him and thus different uses for the prophetic passage. In other cases, different uses can somewhat relate to different interpretations. For example, when Jesus is tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13), Jesus answers the devil’s first temptation, to turn stones into bread, with Deuteronomy 8:3. So, in the devil’s second temptation, for Jesus to throw Himself off the top of the temple complex down into the valley below, the devil quotes Psalm 91:11-12, but the devil somewhat misinterprets that passage to suit his purpose. Psalm 91 speaks of the protection the Lord provides for His faithful, but the psalm does not invite reckless behavior. Jesus’ answer to that temptation thus is Deuteronomy 6:16, which forbids putting the Lord to the test. Notice well how Jesus does what we should do: let Scripture interpret Scripture. Back to top
Q: We say Holy Scripture is inspired and therefore inerrant, but if Scripture is so great how come there are so many different interpretations?
A: To paraphrase William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act 1, scene 2), “The fault … is … in ourselves.” When I worked at TV stations, people sometimes called up to report problems watching our channel thinking the problem was on our end, even though in most cases we could tell the signal was going out fine and the problem was on their end. Getting the message of the Bible, of course, is different from tuning-in a TV station, but the location of the problem on the receiving end is the same: misinterpretations arise from our sinful reception of God’s perfect Word, not from His Word itself. I have previously talked about God’s Word as authoritative, efficacious, sufficient, and perspicuous. In the case of the last point, Scripture is unclear when we are unfamiliar with what it says, when we in our hearts have a hostile attitude towards it, or when we put human principles of interpretation over it. When the “bare words” of Scripture are taken at face value (in Latin nuda Scriptura, said to be “without any interpretation”), all of the doctrine of the Christian faith can be established. Back to top
Q: How much time does it take to follow your plan to Be in the Word?
A: As we work through the entire Bible over the course of the year, I think how much time you spend each day depends on how much time you want to spend and how much you would like to get out of the effort. You might casually read the assigned portions of the Bible in a matter of minutes. Or, you might make a slower, more careful reading of the Scripture itself, spending half of an hour or more by also reading the provided background for the particular book, the Biblog post for that reading, any additional study material you might have on hand, etc. I think it is safe to say that with the Holy Spirit’s blessing the more time you spend the more you will receive from the effort. Back to top
Q: How exactly do you suggest we use this “Daily Lectionary”?
A: I think this is a good question, though I do not think I have an “exact” suggestion, as if there is only one right way to use the Daily Lectionary. When we first published the background for the books and the daily reading plan in our congregation’s newsletter, Grace to You, from December 2003-November 2004, we did not bother to really give any direction for using the reading plan. We have intended our latest incarnation of the Lectionary to be as flexible as possible, with both low-tech and high-tech options. How you proceed with the study will depend in part on how much time you want to spend, but you might follow something like the following procedure:
- As Dr. Luther suggests with his morning and evening prayer, “make the sign of the holy cross and say: ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.’”
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to bless your meditation on God’s Word by opening your mind and heart to what it says. You might use one of the prayers offered here.
- Especially if you are beginning a new book, read any provided background on the book (either on the “Today’s Reading” page or in the “Daily Lectionary” booklet).
- Read any new questions and answers that might provide insights to the reading you are about to undertake.
- Read the section of Scripture allotted for the day. If you are going to read through it more than once, you might try to read through the first time not stopping and trying to figure everything out but just trying to get through it once and pick up the central ideas.
- Read the relevant Biblog post (if there is one for that day).
- If you have time, read the assigned section of Scripture again. This time, pay attention to the points highlighted in the Biblog post and to anything you do not understand.
- Thank God in prayer for revealing His plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ in His Holy Word, and ask Him to continue to bless you as you go about your day or rest and to help you grow in faith as you read His Word. His prayers for greater faith and blessings from His Word are especially welcome to His ears and will no doubt be granted!
The first times I followed this plan to read the Bible in one year, I intentionally did the readings at night before I went to bed and read from a Bible without any study notes. I wanted to do more of a devotional reading and be able to reflect on the reading as I did my evening prayers and as I fell asleep. Now, I am enjoying studying the readings in greater detail as I “blog” about them and answer your questions. I encourage you to find the mix of devotional reading and close Bible study that is right for you. Back to top
Q: I can tell that this is a plan to read the Bible over the course of one year, but what exactly is a “Daily Lectionary”?
A: The Oxford English Dictionary defines “lectionary” thus: “ A book containing ‘lessons’ or portions of Scripture appointed to be read at divine service; also, the list of passages appointed to be so read.” “Lectionary” comes from the word “lection”, which came to have the meaning “reading” or “liturgical lesson” in the 16th century. The English word comes from the Latin word lectio, lectionis, which means a picking out or a reading. That Latin noun comes from the Latin verb lego, legere, legi, lectum, which literally means to collect, gather together, or pick. The verb also has a transferred sense in which it means to pass through, to survey as in reading, or to choose, select, or pick out. So the sense comes together of a book with appointed readings or a list thereof. In this case, the booklet or its electronic version gives readings for you to use in your personal devotion or study each day of the year. In worship services we generally follow what is called the one-year historic lectionary, a series of readings appointed for various days on the church calendar that goes back at least to the end of the first millennium. (There are other series, such as the three-year lectionary that was published in Lutheran Worship, the LCMS’ 1982 hymnal, and the revised one-year and three-year lectionaries that were published in the Lutheran Service Book.) You can see Jesus practicing liturgical worship with a lectionary of sorts in Luke 4:16-20. Back to top
Q: With all the attention in the media to "gospels" and other writings that were not included in the Bible, could you talk a little bit about how what we have in the Bible came to be included?
A: We can refer to both the Old Testament and New Testament "canon", which has the sense of both being included in a list and having the character of a norm or standard. There have always been books agreed upon and recognized as canonical, others that were spoken against but included in the canon, and still others that were spoken against or never mentioned and thus not included at all. The Old Testament canon was already formed by New Testament times, that is to say, which books were included and which were not had already been more or less informally decided. The Hebrew Old Testament had been translated into Greek as the Septuagint (referred to with Roman Numerals "LXX"). Some other books from the period between the Old and New Testaments are nevertheless "included" in some Bibles, such as in Martin Luther's translation, though they are set apart in such a way as to make it clear they do not have the same authority as the others. Those books are often called the Old Testament Apocrypha, which name comes from a Greek word and refers primarily to their unknown authorship. (They were also written in languages other than Hebrew.) In the case of the New Testament writings, which is where most of the contemporary controversy centers, we find in the available evidence what has been described as a three-stage process. First, we find evidence of some books in use, of their being used to shape the Church, and of their having a position of authority unlike other books but similar to the authority given the Old Testament canon. The authority of these new books was also demonstrated by their being read along with the Old Testament books in the Divine Service and even by heretics appealing to them as a basis for teaching. In the second stage, the question of the canon is specifically addressed, and the primary issue is whether a few of the books are in or out. Even in the third stage no commission or council decided on a canon, but the list grew and was increasingly recognized. The lack of a formal decision or of a miraculous appearance of the book as a whole should not trouble us but comfort us for it shows how The Holy Spirit lead the Church to confess some and to question and ultimately reject others. The books not included generally were rejected because their content differed from the genuine apostolic teaching and because they did not originate when or how they claimed to have originated. Officially we say that the canon is open, but for practical purposes it is closed. And, the advice Cyril of Jerusalem gave in 350 A.D. regarding apocryphal books seems good even today: "Do not read for yourself what is not read in the churches." Back to top
Q: Why is it that when Jesus speaks in the Bible it is in red lettering, but when God speaks it is not? I can understand when God is speaking through prophets that the statements aren’t in red, but even in Genesis when it says that “God said...” it is not in red lettering.
A: Remember that the early manuscripts of the sacred texts did not have red lettering or even punctuation indicating where quotations began and ended, although with few exceptions there is little debate about where quotations begin and end. Editors of our Bible translations might choose to put the words of our Lord in red, and when they do they usually are just that: the words of our Lord. Of course, the whole Bible is God’s word, so in one sense we could say the whole Bible should be in red letters. We do not always agree with the editors’ decisions; I remember asking my pastor once why in the Bible the congregation gave me pronouns referring to God were not capitalized! Back to top
Q: What should I do if I fall behind in my daily reading?
Be sure to feel enough guilt to try to get caught up :) but not so much
guilt that you come to dread the reading. Depending on how far behind you are,
you might try to set aside some extra time to catch up, or you might resolve to
read one or two extra chapters every day until you are caught up. If you would simply prefer to be where the schedule is, then simply skip ahead, but be sure to read the parts you skipped when we come to them the next time around.
Also remember that the Daily Lectionary Biblical Index can help you easily find Biblog posts and Q&A pertaining to whatever reading you are on. Regardless of how far behind you are, how long it takes you to catch up, or whatever you skip, do not stop reading! The important thing is not for you to stick legalistically to a regimented program but for you to be in the Word so the Holy Spirit can work through it. I welcome your questions on whatever you are reading, as I am sure the other readers will too, since so often many people have the same questions but not everyone is willing to ask (even in this non-threatening format where the questions are completely anonymous). God bless you as you abide in His Word, wherever in that Word you might be abiding!