On Quoting Scripture

I know of a few people who love to quote scripture. They usually preface each statement with “Like it says in the Bible” or “As Jesus said one time” or some other set up to let you know that this is not their own idea. It usually sounds like a great addition to a conversation about spiritual things.

Through the years I have noticed a few problems I want you to consider.

1. Quoting the Bible in English is difficult. There are so many English translations that it is easy to mess things up. I used to tell people that my Sunday school teachers used King James Version, then my first Bible was New American Standard, and when I got to college they told me to use the NIV. As a result I can’t adequately quote a verse in English from one translation.

And while I am on this topic, I have to admit that after years of study most English translation have verses that are terribly done. This happens for several reasons ranging from theological presuppositions to just wanting things said for ease of understanding. This alone makes quoting scripture very difficult to do accurately.

2. Make sure you get the quote right. Jesus did not say “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” Paul did not say “Charity begins at home.” I have heard people say all kinds of things they thought were in the Bible and simply were not. If you are not 100% sure who said what and where simply do not claim it is in the Bible. Saying something is in the Bible or from Jesus and then getting it completely wrong is embarrassing.

3. Context is King. This is what my theological professor at college used to say. His point was that we can pull a passage of scripture out of its original context and completely miss the intended meaning.

For example, I once had a couple of teenage brothers who took the audio track from my sermons and cut them up on their computer and then pieced a bunch of random things back together. They took sermons about divorce, abortion, homosexuality and prayer and put them into a scary collage of me saying I was praying about cut up babies from my divorce to a homosexual. The sad part was that I said every word, but when taken out of their original context and put back together corruptly ended up saying something different than what I meant.

This may be a poor example but it is one of thousands that exist. Quoting a single verse of scripture can be a trap since we do not know the context. This can allow me to quote something completely wrong.

4. Search for deep meaning and not quick quotes. To get the most out of the Bible I encourage people to read large section and look for big meanings. If you want to quote the Bible then open an actual Bible and read a large section with another people. This is definitely more difficult but it is also far more productive.

I love the Bible. I love the fact that God communicated with us through an unchanging book of truth. I just don’t want to be guilty of misusing it to further my own thoughts and agenda. I don’t want you to uses it that way either.

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