Didn’t You Already Say That?
Text: Psalms 119:9-16
I. Readers’ Digest back in 1982 release a condensation of the Revised Standard Version. The goal was to produce a more readable, shorter Bible that might attract people to the full Bible.
A. It was soundly and universally rejected because the result ended up distorting the biblical message.
B. It sounded useful to remove what appeared to be repetition or insignificant, but it turns out that these were a vital part of the message.
C. So what purpose does repetition serve in God’s Word?
II. Repeated accounts
A. Multiple witnesses
1. A single person’s word is not a witness to the truth - John 5:31
2. It takes two or more witnesses to establish facts - Deuteronomy 19:15
3. The Bible is a collection of about forty writers who came from a wide variety of backgrounds and lived across a span of over 1,500 years.
a. Yet they give a single, consistent message
b. Remove the multiple witnesses and you remove the support each gives to the record
B. Why four gospels?
1. The coming of the Son of God is incredibly important to mankind.
a. Even with four eyewitness accounts we still have people who wish to deny that Jesus actually walked the earth or did the things recorded.
b. Usually the accusation is that they copied from each other or developed a story together that was written years later.
c. But having four accounts from different viewpoints and with different goals causes difficulty with the claims of collusion or copying
d. They are what they claim to be - I John 1:1-4
2. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience from a Jewish point of view
a. Fulfillment of prophecy is heavily emphasized
b. The organization is more by categories than by chronology
c. What is ironic is that Matthew was a tax collector, despised by Jewish society.
3. Mark wrote for a Roman audience
a. He was a young man when these events occurred and it is generally agreed that he was recording Peter’s account of these events
b. Papias, writing around 140 A.D. stated, “This also the Elder [John] used to say. Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter, wrote accurately all that he remembered, though he did not [record] in order that which was either said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed Him; but subsequently, as I said, [attached himself to] Peter, who used to frame his teaching to meet the [immediate] wants [of his hearers], and not as making a connected narrative of the Lord’s discourses. So Mark committed no error as he wrote down some particulars just as he recalled them to mind. For he took heed to one thing – to omit none of the facts that he heard and to set nothing falsely in [his narrative of] them.” - I Peter 5:13
c. The Romans weren’t impressed by the Jews, but the witness aimed at their viewpoint was the apostle to the Jews - Galatians 2:8
4. Luke wrote for a Greek audience
a. He was meticulous in getting details and interviewing eyewitnesses - Luke 1:1-4
b. His account is not a single viewpoint, but a composite of many witnesses pulled together into a single account.
5. John wrote for Christians - John 20:30-31
a. His work mentions events, but it focuses on the teachings of Jesus
6. Each account gives us a good view of Jesus, but together we get a more complete view
a. Each varies in details, not in a way that contradicts, but showing they were looking at the same events from different perspectives.
b. Between them we have a more complete, more accurate idea of what actually happened.
C. Old Testament
1. I Samuel through II Kings and I and II Chronicles cover the same events
a. The first set is a historical view.
(1) It is a composite writing of the prophets of the times covered.
b. The second set is a religious or moral view of a priest
(1) Most believe this to be the work of a single writer, Ezra
2. Again, the repeating gives us greater details regarding what happened and why those things happened.
III. Repeated Stories
A. There are accounts of events, rather than whole books, which are contained in several places
1. Hezekiah’s reign is found in II Kings 18-20, II Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 36-39
a. The accounts in II Kings 18-20 and Isaiah 36-39 are so similar that it is clear that Isaiah wrote both of them
2. Jeremiah 52 and II Kings 25 are nearly word for word the same, telling us that Jeremiah was the author of both.
B. The repeated stories tie the separate books together giving them a place in history
C. If you accept the inspiration of one, the other becomes more firm
D. They give us a way to measure copyist mistakes
1. Hand written document tend to have copy errors, but the same error is rarely done in different places.
E. Each book is a complete story in itself
1. But those books overlap in the history they cover, so the common points are repeated
2. Also note that cross-referencing scrolls which did not have chapter and verse divisions would make it hard to say “see ...”
3. Thus, Exodus 20 has the Ten Commandments when they were given while Deuteronomy 5 has them again as Moses reviews before his death Israel’s history
F. Overlapping accounts by multiple authors touching on the same period of history
1. Genesis is a collection of eleven records
2. Genesis 1:1-2:4 is God’s account of the creation
3. Genesis 2:4-5:1 is Adam’s account, starting from creation and through his life
4. Genesis 5:1-6:9 is Noah’s account which is mostly family genealogy ending with the flood
5. Genesis 6:9-10:1 is Noah’s sons’ account from the flood to the dividing of the nations
1. Psalms 104 contains a poetic account of the flood
2. Psalms 105 is an account of the Exodus
3. Summaries in song form make memorization easier
4. They also serve as checks against those wanting to alter the message.
a. You might get away with altering a word or two in an account, but when some accounts are in a different form you can’t do a consistent change
b. Also many people don’t think of all the accounts and end up missing some.
IV. Repeated Statements
A. Ancient languages did not have multiple fonts when everything was hand written.
1. Nor did they have punctuation marks or underlining
2. Writing was more condensed because material was expensive
3. To emphasize a point, it was repeated - Galatians 1:8-9
B. Statements repeated in different contexts get you thinking about the meaning
1. To say something in light of different topics or ideas gives you new ways to see what is being presented
2. Compare Proverbs 20:16 and Proverbs 27:13
3. Similar statements, just altered slightly, make you pause to consider how the difference in wording makes a difference in understanding
4. It is to get you to think - Proverbs 1:2-6
1. Fulfillment of prophecy - Matthew 3:3
2. To show a different, broader application - I Corinthians 9:9-10
V. Repeated Ideas
A. Sometimes the same idea is expressed in very different wording
B. Hebrew poetry “rhymed” or repeated ideas through compare, contrasts, and series instead of rhyming or repeating sounds and rhythms
1. The result are poems which can be translated into any language and still be of the same form
2. Psalms 119:1-2
a. One statement defines the other
b. In language words come with varying meanings and implications
c. Two wordings of the same idea refines the idea more precisely
(1) Prevents assigning too narrow of a meaning
(2) Prevents assigning too broad of a meaning
C. Can also repeat an idea in the negative - Proverbs 10:4
D. Repeat when writing to different audiences
1. Ephesians and Colossians are to two different groups with different themes
2. But some topics are common - Ephesians 4:31-32 and Colossians 3:8, 12-13
3. Each letter is complete by itself
a. But the repeats become checks against altering the message
b. And gives different light on the topic to get a more accurate understanding
VI. Repeated Words
A. Without varying fonts and punctuation repeated words become a way to give emphasis
1. John 3:3 in NASB
2. Unfortunately many translations change repeats into superlatives. Compare John 3:3 in NKJV
B. Three times becomes bold, underlined, with exclamation points - Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 8:13
C. Repeated words can be markers
1. “Now” to switch topics - I Corinthians 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1
2. “For” to mark points in arguments, like bullet points (See Romans)
VII. It is because of repetition that the Bible contains far more than it might first appear
A. For a relatively short book, it has depth and precision you would not expect
B. It is far more concise than man’s writings
1. Just look at our laws, tax codes, or history books