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Theological Misconceptions and Their Consequences

  • June 29, 2020
  • By Ben van Noort
Theological Misconceptions and Their Consequences

Theological Misconceptions and Their Consequences

“No people can reach maturity as long as it is burdened with the heritage of a sense of inferiority.”

Anton de Kom

The author of this statement, was born in Suriname, and with his dark color he was confronted with the heritage of slavery in Suriname before world war II. He wrote the book We Slaves of Suriname. He died in a camp in Germany in the last year of the war (1945).

In the statement above he expressed that colored people, already in the early twentieth century, often bear with them the burden of a constant feeling of inferiority, due to discrimination. It is not my goal here to come with a simple solution, but only to show an analogy for Bible believing Christians.

Many Christians also bear a burden of backwards theology, caused by wrong theological decisions from the past. Below, I give a list of theological misconceptions, which many theologians still hold as the highest truths of their discipline.

Misconceptions about  the New Testament
Reliability of the Greek text questioned
Mill (1707) He was the first to publish a Greek New Testament of the Textus Receptus, and below the text he printed  all existing variant readings he could find. In doing so he challenged orthodox theology about the reliability of Scriptures. He did not discriminate between inferior and reliable manuscripts or texts.

Theological interventions in the Greek text
Griesbach (1774/75) He performed changes in the Greek text according to strict defined principles (canones). He did not follow the rule anymore, that the exceptional variant reading needs to confirm the predominant majority text.

Not everything in the Bible is acceptable
Semler (1775) Free investigation of the canon of the Holy Scriptures. This meant to him that it was not necessary to accept everything in the Holy Scriptures. He was a Lutheran scholar who said so in the center of the Lutheran Church.

We would not possess the original words of Jesus 1
Lessing (1776-78) The gospels would be different translations of one Aramaic Gospel.

We would not possess the original words of Jesus 2
Herder (1796) He claimed an oral tradition prior to the gospels.

Byzantine tradition of Greek texts sidelined 1
Tischendorf (1844-59) He discovered the codex Sinaiticus in a monastery in the Egyptian desert. He brought the turn to the oldest documents from Egypt—and not the best!—to “restore” the Greek New Testament, against the hundreds of Byzantine manuscripts (Germany).

Byzantine tradition of Greek texts sidelined 2
Westcott and Hort (1881) First Greek New Testament based on older Egyptian Manuscripts. However, “older text” does not imply “better text”. In the first ages many changes occurred in the Egyptian tradition, which is proven with a lot of examples (English speaking world).

Form History
Bultmann (1921) He published a book about Formgeschichte, a “history of changing forms in the gospels”. He confirmed only 3 parables in the synoptic gospels as original.

Lack of proof that Jesus spoke Aramaic
Dalman (1922) In his book Jesus-Jeschua, he failed to present grammatical proof for the Semitic sayings of Jesus to be Aramaic. And yet, many believe that Jesus spoke Aramaic.

It seems that one has lost the opinion that the word of God is holy and true. And Christians are threatened with this collective “blindness of mind”.

Anton de Kom was right: “No people can reach maturity as long as it is burdened with the heritage of a sense of inferiority.”
This also affects Christian belief.

Truth of Biblical Theology

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which beginning to be spoken by the Lord (Jesus) was established by those who were listening, while God gave his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will.” Hebrews 2:3-4 (own translation)

The teachings of Jesus were established by his disciples while they heard him. An oral tradition prior to the gospels is absolutely excluded. It is possible to be set free from theological oppression, the feeling of inferiority of the Word of God. This mechanism was also a sneaky problem Jesus had to deal with. Only his word could and can set people free from it (John 8:31–32). Make way for the Holy Spirit to receive his free gifts, which accompany the still remaining words of Jesus, also today.

Take Note

For any theologian the question is: “If theology is not able to translate correctly this elementary verse above, is it still entitled to speak at all?”

By Ben van Noort, June 29, 2020