Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Power of the Lord - Temjen Longkumer, Assistant Professor Education

In Nagaland, 90% of the population is Christian. We have churches, prayer and healing centres, fellowships, prayer cells, Christian support groups and more. We consider ourselves a blessed people, strong in faith and rooted in the gospel. Yet, we know very well that our State is far from perfect. We witness crime, rape, murder, corruption and feuds almost every other day, reminders of the challenges before every Christian Naga. As we struggle to live the true Christian life, teachings of Christ and the Word can never be said enough. Here is a piece dedicated to our Lord and a reminder to all of us of God’s power in the scriptures.


Power of the Lord

Christians believe that the Bible is inspired by God. The apostle Paul wrote to his co-worker Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Paul asserts God’s active role in the writing of Scripture - a role so significant that what is written is the authoritative word of God. God “breathed”, as it were, on the authors of Scripture, and they were compelled to record the message. God desired people to hear.


Of course, Paul would have been referring to the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament), since some of the New Testament books were yet to be written at the time. But there are findings that, if Paul wrote 2 Timothy near the end of his life, some writings eventually to be included in the New Testament were already being copied and circulated among the early churches throughout the Roman Empire. Since they reflected the teachings of Jesus’ earliest disciples, they were cherished and considered equal in authority to the Old Testament Scriptures. For instance, in one letter Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke10:7- referring to both as “Scripture” (1 Timothy 5:18). And 2 Peter reveals that, at the time these letters were already considered Scriptures: “[Paul’s] letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).

2 Peter contains another important passage about the inspiration of Scripture. “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scriptures came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20, 21). This shows that both God and the human authors were actively involved in the production of Scripture. The writings of Scripture have their origin in God, not in the will of a human being. Therefore, what Scripture says is what God wished to communicate. But this wasn’t a process of simple dictation; the human authors also actively spoke. The personalities and communication styles of the writers are evident- “as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”. Luke said he “carefully investigated” his Gospel (Luke 1”3), showing that inspiration by the Holy Spirit did not exclude human effort. In addition, 1 Peter reveals that, although the Old Testament prophets produced Holy Scripture, inspiration did not bring them complete understanding (1 Peter 1:10-12). They did not necessarily comprehend the complete significance of all the words they spoke and wrote. Because of the character of the God who inspired them, the writings of Scripture are totally trustworthy. Jesus succinctly testified to the authority of the Old Testament when he said, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Regarding the gospel message of the New Testament, Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica: “We also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Since the word of God is “living and active” and “enduring” (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23), we can be sure that the Scriptures are at work in those who believe today as well.

Now here are some interesting facts about the Bible that might interest you.

What was first used to write the Bible?
• Stone: The first permanent writing surface was stone. In the Bible, the first reference to writing is to the Ten Commandments, which were written on stone. The first pen was a chisel.

• Waxed boards: Writing boards were made from pieces of wood or ivory covered with wax. They were used by the Assyrians, Greeks and Romans. Two boards were sometimes hinged together. Any pointed stick made a pen.

• Clay tablets: In ancient Babylonia, clay for writing was shaped into thin, flat, rectangular bricks. Words were pressed into the soft clay with a wedge-shaped stylus, and the clay then baked in the sun. Archaeologists have found whole ‘libraries’ of these clay tablets. Ordinary people often used broken bits of pottery, called ‘sherds’, to write memos, bills and even shopping lists. Ink was made from soot mixed with oil or gum.

• Papyrus: Before the Pyramids were built, the ancient Egyptians had learned to make papyrus paper from the pith (or inner stalk) of Nile papyrus reeds, which grew in marshy areas around Egypt. Still wet, the thick stems were laid out in rows on top of each other and beaten until they melded together into flat paper surface. (The word ‘paper’ comes from ‘papyrus’). When this sheet had dried in the sun, it could be re-used by washing or scraping. Egyptian pens were brushes made from reeds and ink was derived from plants and insects.

• Leather: The skins of sheep, goats, calves and antelopes were dried, scraped and cleaned to make a smooth material called parchment. The Hebrew word for book means ‘scrape’. Then the skins were stretched and beaten flat, ready for writing on. Pens were made from reeds, with one end cut to a sloping edge and then split.

What were the languages spoken in the Bible?
• Hebrew: The Old Testament tells the story of the Israelite people. Their language was Hebrew, and most of the Old Testament is written in Hebrew. The Hebrew alphabet has 22 consonants, but no vowels (vowel sounds had to be added by the reader). Hebrew is read from right to left, so the first page of the Hebrew Bible is our last page.

• Aramaic:
 Aramaic was spoken by the Persians, who were the major power in the Middle East for 200 years from about 550 B.C. Aramaic became the language used by traders in that region. Parts of the Old Testament books of Daniel, Ezra and Jeremiah were written in Aramaic. By New Testament times, Aramaic was the everyday language of the Jews, and Jesus would have spoken it. However, Hebrew remained the language for prayer and worship. Educated people still understood Hebrew, but when the Hebrew Bible was read aloud in synagogue services, a translator often gave the meaning in Aramaic. Some manuscripts of parts of the Old Testament in Aramaic, called ‘Targums’, have survived. They help us to discover the words of the original Hebrew.

• In Revelation, God says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega”- the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet- “who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8).
 
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.org”

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