How to Misunderstand the Bible

I.         Yet another book appears on the bookshelves claiming to help the casual reader to better understand the teachings found in the Bible.

            A.        “The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart” by Peter J. Gomes.

            B.        The author claims that contents of the best selling book in the world is mostly unknown and misunderstood.

            C.        In addition, those ignorant of the Scriptures use the Scriptures to promote false teachings.

            D.        So far, so good, but the example of these false teachings is fascinating!

                        1.         Racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, and abortion.

                        2.         The basic theme is that too many people read the Bible and come away with the idea that God doesn’t approve of many of our modern beliefs and practices.

                        3.         Surely this can’t be! Obviously, people must be misunderstanding what God is really saying.

            E.        Let us take two of Mr. Gomes’ examples, abortion and homosexuality.

II.        Abortion

            A.        “Regarding abortion, perhaps the most divisive issue in America today, Gomes skillfully points out the dangers of taking the Bible literally. Ardent abortion foes commonly cite Exodus 20:13 to buttress their position. In many English translations the commandment says, “Thou shalt not kill.” But, as Gomes points out, this is a poor translation. Older versions of the Bible came closer to the real meaning: “Thou shalt do no murder.”


“Gomes writes: “Murder, in the Hebrew language and culture, refers to the premeditated taking of life outside the womb. ... Not only is the Bible therefore silent on the question of abortion, but the one text used to justify opposition to it is wrongly construed in English.”

            B.        Did you catch the errors in the author’s logic?

                        1.         First, he only picks one verse to argue for abortion. It is a fairly general verse dealing with murder. And his statement about the translation of “murder” instead of “kill” is a better translation.

                        2.         Second, he redefines murder to mean only premeditated killing of child outside of the womb. In other words, he is claiming that if a child is not yet born, then it is not murder!

                        3.         Exodus 20:13 is not the only verse that is available to the anti-abortion groups. The key to the argument is not whether Exodus 20:13 forbids abortion or not, but whether the unborn child is alive. If a child is alive before birth, the ending that life would be murder.

            C.        Conception is not just a physical act, God’s hand is in it

                        1.         Job 33:4 - God made each of us and God is the one that gives us life.

                        2.         Ps. 139:13-16 - God knew us while we were still in the womb.

                        3.         Eccl. 11:5 - The spirit of a child comes while it is still in the womb.

                        4.         Isa. 49:1,5 - Isaiah said he was called to serve God from the womb.

                        5.         Jer. 1:5 - Similarity, Jeremiah was set apart before he was born

                        6.         Gal. 1:15-16 - And even Paul was set apart by God before birth.

                        7.         John was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born - Lk 1:15

                                    a.         That child recognized the sound of Mary’s voice - Lk 1:41-44

            D.        Hence, the law treated damage to an unborn child the same as to a full adult - Ex. 21:22-24.

            E.        Abortion is wrong because it ends a human life. It is premeditated murder of a living soul created by the Lord God. Hebrew language and culture did not differentiate a person before or after his birth. They are one and the same.

III.       Homosexuality

            A.        “Gomes argues that the use of Bible passages to cast homosexuality as a sin is the product of simplistic interpretation and a failure to comprehend the context in which Scripture was written. . . . Gomes believes that the “homosexuality Paul would have known and to which he makes reference in his letters . . . has to do with pederasty and male prostitution. What is patently unknown to Paul is the concept of a homosexual nature . . . something that is beyond choice, that is not necessarily characterized by lust, avarice, idolatry or exploitation . . . All Paul knew of homosexuality was the debauched pagan expression of it.”

            B.        So this author argues that modern homosexuality is different from that practiced in the New Testament times. Back then, it was chosen; today, people claim it is genetic. Back then, it was often joined to religious practice; today it is a natural expression.

            C.        Was homosexuality unknown in Paul’s day? Will Durante, historian says:

                        1.         In regard to Roman practice: “Male prostitutes were also available. Condemned by law, tolerated by custom, homosexualism flourished with Oriental abandon.” (Epicurean Rome, page 369)

                        2.         In regard to Greek practice: “Stranger than this strange entente between prostitution and philosophy is the placid acceptance of sexual inversion. The chief rivals of the hetairai are the boys of Athens; and the courtesans, scandalized to the very depths of their pockets, never tire of denouncing the immorality of homosexual love. Merchants import handsome lads to be sold to the highest bidder, who will use them first as concubines and later as slaves.” (The Moral and Manners of the Athenians, page 301)

                        3.         In regard to Christian belief: “Homosexual practices were condemned with an earnestness rare in antiquity. ‘So far as sex is concerned,’ said Tertullian, ‘the Christian is content with the woman.’” (Caesar and Christ, page 598).

                        4.         These are the milder statements. I found a number of homosexual poems and prose in the history books. Freely chosen homosexuality is not a modern invention.

            D.        It doesn’t matter what excuses are given to justify the practice, all homosexual acts are clearly condemned by God.

                        1.         Lev. 20:13 - A man who has sex with another man was put to death. The description is plainly stated. No exceptions were given.

                        2.         Rom. 1:26-27 - The degeneration of Gentile society is plainly linked to homosexual acts.

                        3.         I Cor. 6:9-10 - Homosexuality is plainly condemned.

IV.      Well did Peter say - II Peter 3:16

            A.        God did not give us a difficult book to understand.

            B.        We don’t need scholars to tell us that what we clearly read is not what was intended.

            C.        People only hear what they want to hear. They will warp plain teaching to justify themselves and their evil practices.

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