July 27, 2019
Is Your Biblical Worldview Hebrew or Greek? It Makes A Difference!
I absolutely love the study of history! I love to investigate why and how the modern world arrived at a certain philosophy or state of being; studying the origins and transformations that have occurred down through the years. And nothing excites me more than studying our faith in relation to the Bible and history.
You see, it is critical for us who follow Christ to develop a Biblical worldview. That is, we must rightly view the world through the lens of God's Word. But if you study history, it is easy to see that the manner in which the Body of Christ/the Church has viewed God's Word has changed through the centuries. And I remember waking up to the reality that just because we believe certain things "according to the Bible" today, it may not necessarily be consistent with the original writings and intent of God's inspired Word. Will that sound blasphemous to some Christians? Probably so. But, I assure you that I am not casual nor arbitrary when it comes to determining my belief system. The Bible is always the foundation, and I rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me, counsel me, and reveal God's Truth. But I will also admit that I have had my theology rocked through such divine instruction and I have learned that He is always willing to grow me in my understanding, which sometimes involves changing what I've believed.
I say all this to come to the point of this blog ... from the beginning of the Bible's existence there has been a tension between the Hebrew mindset and the Greek mindset when it comes to interpreting it and understanding it. After listening to a fascinating podcast on Dan Duval's show with Todd Weatherly, it confirmed what I had already discerned about most of the Western Church: first, they do not read their Bible; and second, they do not understand that the Bible is a Hebrew book, written from a Hebrew perspective. Too many Christians have wrongly subscribed [whether intentionally or not] to the belief system of Replacement Theology [ a Christian doctrine which asserts that the New Covenant through Jesus Christ supersedes the Old Covenant, which was made exclusively with the Jewish people]. In other words, adherents of Replacement Theology believe that the Church has now replaced the Jews as God's Chosen People to lead the world to a knowledge of Him.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Just read Romans, Chapter 11. But getting back to my original premise, we must view the Bible from the perspective of who it was written to (the Hebrews) and how they would have understood its teachings and wisdom. That translates into how we view the world through the eyes of Scripture and the One who inspired it. In doing so, we hope to develop the mind and character and heart of our God. So, it's important to know which mindset God has, don't you think?
Todd Weatherly summed up the differences between a Hebrew mindset and a Greek mindset in this simple way: The Hebrew mindset says, "I will do it [through obedience], and then I'll understand it." He says the Greek mindset thinks like this: "I need to understand it first, and then I'll do it".
Here's another way to look at the differences .... the Hebrew mindset allows for layers upon layers of meaning. In fact, the Hebraic rabbinic schools taught four different ways of interpreting the writings of the prophets and the Law: 1) the literal, straightforward meaning of the text on which all else depends. No further levels of interpretation can contradict the literal sense, but they can build upon it; 2) the implied meaning of Scripture, where you build on the implications that Scripture leaves believers to figure out for themselves, but provides the clues for it; 3) using analogies or moral lessons to explain the meaning of the Bible, and 4) the hidden level of interpretation. The hidden nature of Scripture is how something that seems simple and straightforward and pointless (for example, obscure laws and stories and genealogies) applies to us personally.
In addition, the Hebrew mindset can be taken too far. There is a mystical side of Hebrew religious philosophy that becomes so entangled in hidden and secret meanings, that it threatens to idolize human ability to gain spiritual knowledge, instead of recognizing that all giftings and knowledge comes from God. That's why the Bible warns us to Trust the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. To sum it all up, the Hebrew mindset allows for varied interpretations, and a passage can have multiple meanings [both in the physical and the spiritual realms] -- all to be revealed to the reader from God's perspective.
On the other hand, Greek thinking is very black and white; laden with precise exegesis rather than being rich in possibilities. Greek thought nails the meaning down; it can mean one thing, and one thing only. When we consider that Socrates lived 400 years before the crucifixion of Christ, and is considered the father of Western philosophy, we can understand why the Greek mindset would have been in direct conflict with the Hebrew mindset at the time the Bible was written and translated. The Socratic method of learning can be summed up, thusly: learning through the use of critical thinking, reasoning, and logic. From there, one questions, analyzes, and simplifies to get the one correct answer. The physical world contains the answer; the spiritual influence isn't considered.
We can see the tension between these two mindsets exposed in the Bible. Remember, Greek philosophy was not discontinued just because the Roman empire defeated the Greek empire. The Romans did not destroy the vast collections of Greek literature or the Greek philosophical schools and traditions of thought. The Romans were smart enough to preserve the Greek language, culture, and philosophies; even adopting much of the Greek religion, renaming the Greek gods and making them their own. Therefore, we see, in the New Testament, how the "Hellenizers" [Greek-influenced Jews] come into conflict with Hebrew Jews. The Hebrews were Jewish Christians who spoke almost exclusively Aramaic, and the Hellenists were also Jewish Christians whose mother tongue was Greek. They were Greek-speaking Jews of the Diaspora [taken into captivity during previous attacks upon Israel's homeland], who had returned to settle in Jerusalem. Acts 6:1 portrays this reality: Now about this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, a complaint was made by the Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jews) against the [native] Hebrews (speaking Aramaic), because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.
Why should all this matter? It matters because the way you think about God determines your ability to perceive His nature. If you read the Bible from a Hebrew mindset, then a Virgin Birth is possible; the parting of the Red Sea is seen as a miracle of God; Joshua's Long Day is unquestioned; turning water into wine really happened; the feeding of 5000 men and their families was a reality; the resurrection of Christ really happened; and we have been given authority and power to heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead.
A Greek mindset would read the Bible and say the Virgin Birth was based on pagan myths, or that the word "virgin" was a Greek mistranslation of a Hebrew word which actually meant "young woman". The Greek mindset explains the parting of the Red Sea as the phenomenon of "wind setdown" - where strong winds can push water away from one place to pile up elsewhere. Joshua's Long Day is explained away as a repetition of a Greek myth of Apollo’s son, Phaethon, who disrupted the sun’s course for a day. A Greek mindset will say Jesus didn’t really feed [the 5000] or anybody with actual food, did he? He fed them with information – food for the soul. The fish and the loaves are metaphors with symbolic meanings. Those with a Greek mindset will explain the Resurrection this way: Dionysus was the Greek god of wine, who became the Roman god Bacchus. There is a Greek myth which says that Dionysus was raised from the dead. Therefore, some early Greek Christians might well have been former worshipers of Dionysus, and since there was 40 years since the death of Jesus and the first written gospels, there is plenty of time to mold "the Jesus story" to replicate the Greek myth. And finally, the Greek mindset will have no trouble in believing in the doctrine of Cessationism, which states that the supernatural does not exist in this age, and the spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing ceased with the apostolic age.
Can you see how the events of history have influenced the way people interpret the Bible today -- even Christians!? There have been many intellectual and philosophical movements throughout history that have affected man's interpretation of Scripture, even to the point that we now have versions of the Bible that contradict each other! The translation from Hebrew [or Aramaic] to Greek to English hasn't helped, either. But perhaps the one that has had the most lasting effect upon our culture is the Enlightenment, also called The Age of Reason. The Greek mindset was at the heart of this philosphy, which scholars describe as "an epistemology (a method of thinking and knowledge) based on the presumption that the natural [physical] world is best understood through the use of close observation by the human mind, coupled with a reliance on reason." Doesn't leave much room for God's supernatural and divine will, does it? Perhaps this conflict explains Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 10:5, We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ...
As God is awakening His people to the re-discovery of the Gospel of the Kingdom, it is important that we know which mindset our Biblical worldview is based on. The Greek mindset has been reinforced since the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. But the Kingdom of God is not reasonable! It demands our life, even to the point of martyrdom. There is no amount of critical thinking or analyzing that can make laying down your life for Christ seem logical. It is the power of faith alone that leads us to that conclusion. One only need to read 1 Corinthians 4:20 to understand this correlation: For the kingdom of God is not based on talk but on power.
There it is! The Hebrew mindset will allow you to see the power of the Bible. The Greek mindset will attempt to logically debate its promises. That results in the ability of the Enemy to build structures in your mind that are barriers to the supernatural knowledge of God and the counsel of the Holy Spirit. When an attack comes, it is then far too easy for us to revert from what we know in our heart [the spiritual knowledge of Jesus] to a Greek mindset of trying to overcome in our own power, using logical thinking. So, take the time to answer these questions ... Do you read the Bible to know the Most High God? And if you are reading the Bible, what is the mindset of God? Is He revealing Himself from a Hebrew mindset, or a Greek? And finally, What is your Biblical worldview? Your ability to walk in the fullness of God's purpose for your life depends on those answers. They are important. Take them seriously!
1 Corinthians 1:22-25 For Jews demand signs (attesting miracles), and Greeks pursue [worldly] wisdom and philosophy, but we preach Christ crucified, [a message which is] to Jews a stumbling block [that provokes their opposition], and to Gentiles foolishness [just utter nonsense], but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles), Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. [This is] because the foolishness of God [is not foolishness at all and] is wiser than men [far beyond human comprehension], and the weakness of God is stronger than men [far beyond the limits of human effort].