Clinton Chisholm | How not to read the Bible, Dr Hagins!
In my recent column ‘Read the Bible Literarily, not LITERALLY’, printed in both the Jamaica Observer and the Jamaica Gleaner on Tuesday, February 4, I stressed the need to recognise various literary features of the kinds of literature in the Bible, one being figures of speech.
As God would have it, I think, a dear friend of mine sent me on February 5, a YouTube video presentation billed as The False Teachings of the Apostle Paul by one Dr Ray Hagins, whose stated goal was to prove that no character mentioned in the Bible was real (historical) and more so, that Paul, by his own writings, was a fraud!
It took an unusual amount of kindness from me to continue watching after he had made such pompous and easily refutable pronouncements, but I did, out of respect for my friend who was seeking my comment on the presentation.
This gentleman, who claims to have earned degrees from seminary and pastored a church for about 25 years, used II Corinthians 12:16 as Paul’s self-confession of being a trickster.
I said to myself, “you have got to be blouse and skirt kidding me” (unorthodox language, I confess and claim the cleansing blood of Jesus).
This is a classic example of ignorantly reading one verse without awareness of the literary device being used by the writer in the context of the verses in the context.
The verse in the New King James Version (NKJV) reads: “But be that as it may, I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning!”
Even a sensible high-school student of literature would check the verses before and after to capture the writer’s flow of ideas. But not our degreed lecturer friend!
DANGER IN A LITTLE LEARNING
II Corinthians, as even first-year undergraduate seminary students should know, is Paul’s defence of his apostleship against criticisms from some in Corinth. Paul picks up and responds to the insinuations against him throughout the epistle, and from verse 11 of chapter 12 he reflects some of what was being said about him.
That verse reads: “I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.”
Paul then goes on to remind the Corinthians that the only charge they could lay against him is that he was not burdensome to them (verse 13), but his concern was to safeguard their highest interests (verses14-15) though their love-response was not commensurate with his love for them.
Then in the first part of verse 16, he affirms what they knew, that ‘he was not a burden to them’, then he reflects the barb from his accusers in the last part, namely, that though he might not have done in the Corinthian church himself he might have used others to that end, hence the last part of the text: “…Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning!”
John Gill, the revered 17th-to-18th century Baptist preacher/biblical scholar – from the same church as Charles Spurgeon, but a century earlier – says correctly: “[the words of 16b] are spoken in the person of the false apostles, charging him with a wicked and criminal craftiness, by making use of other persons in a sly underhanded way, to get this church’s money, when he pretended to preach the Gospel freely; to which he answers in the next verse.”
The next two verses say: “ Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus, and sent our brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?” (NKJV).
The pompous/pretentious Dr Hagins missed the literary voices of Paul and his accusers in the passage, and so ended up misreading the text. I won’t even appeal to the nature of the Greek text of verses 17-18 to support my accusation of Dr Hagins.
Suffice it to say, a little learning can be a dangerous thing.
Rev Dr Clinton Chisholm is a former lecturer in Greek at the Jamaica Theological Seminary, in Greek Exegesis at the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology and teaching assistant in Hebrew at Sheffield University in the UK. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.