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In John chapter 7 we see some interesting examples of how not to study scriptures. The example is from the religious leaders of the day. They were devoted to studying and understanding the scriptures but their method was obviously failing them because it led them away from Jesus Christ. After hearing Jesus teach some said: "Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is." (John 7:27) What made them think that they would not know from where the Christ would come? Because they read the scriptures and used their own wisdom to interpret the scriptures. Thus they came to the conclusion that nobody will know from where the Christ will come, and since they knew from where Jesus came then He could not be the Christ. Just how wrong could their interpretations of scripture be? But the misunderstanding of the scriptures didn't end there: "Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?" (John 7:41-42) They were not ignorant of the scriptures - they studied them well and knew what the prophecies said. But, again, they relied on their own wisdom for interpretations rather than God. There was one verse in the Old Testament that they formulated that belief from. It says: "But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2) Hindsight is 20/20 but they didn't have that advantage. They ended up interpreting the scripture to mean that the Messiah would be born and raised in Bethlehem. Once again, the interpretation was based on their own wisdom which came from their studies. We now know that the Christ would only be born in Bethlehem, not reared there, but they would not believe it because they believed they interpreted the scriptures correctly. Because of that misinterpretation of prophecy, which was a result of relying on their own wisdom in interpreting scriptures, they ended up failing to recognize the Messiah as He actually stood before them and preached. The Jewish leaders were the ones that set the example in using their own wisdom to interpret the scriptures. They believed that knowledge was gained by study and that if one failed to study then they didn't have "knowledge". And, of course, the ones that spent a good deal of time studying were the scribes and Pharisees. That was why it boggled their mind that Jesus, who was neither a scribe nor Pharisee, would have knowledge: "And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" (John 7:15) Remember that when Jesus was only 12 they were surprised that He would have such a great understanding of the scriptures when He obviously didn't have decades of study under His belt: "And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, and they were hearing him, and asking him questions." (JST Luke 2:46) This pridefulness among the leaders, which was a result of their believing that they knew more than others, is plainly observed when they sent officers to arrest Jesus. But as they came to arrest Him they heard Him speaking and was drawn in to what He was saying. When the officers didn't return the rulers went to find the officers. They found them and asked why they didn't arrest Jesus. They admitted that they were taken in by His teachings. That didn't set well with the rulers! "Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed." (John 7:47-49) This is so revealing! The Pharisees believed that they couldn't be deceived because they relied upon their own wisdom as they studied the scriptures therefore they are wiser and smarter. Notice how their wisdom was foolishness (2 Nephi 9:28 ). But their own "wisdom" which came from relying on their own interpretations of scriptures actually caused them to be the most deceived among them. They were blind yet thought they could see better than the rest. Ever hear of safety in numbers? Notice that the leaders relied on that as part of their proof that Jesus was not the Christ. "Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed in Him?" In essence they were stating that if one uses their own wisdom to misinterpret scriptures it is ok as long as they do a lot of studying and can somehow back up their misinterpretations. And if most the leaders are misinterpreting scriptures the same way then that is no longer a misinterpretation but rather "proof" that they are right. Security in numbers - nope, even large numbers can be wrong. Also notice that the rulers and Pharisees, in their pride, proclaimed that the people that failed to study as they did, and failed to devote their lives as they did, just simply did not understand the scriptures and, therefore, they are cursed. But how wrong was that?!? The Savior was the one teaching them truth and bringing salvation to the lost yet the Parisees and rulers declared His followers to be cursed. That misjudgment was a direct result from their misinterpretation of the scriptures. How twisted is that? There was one ruler that did believe in Jesus. He was Nicodemus. He pointed out that perhaps the rulers are misjudging because they never brought Jesus before them and heard Him out. It was the custom that they had to directly hear what one was saying, not by rumor, before judgment could be passed yet here they were passing judgment without first hearing Jesus. In defense of themselves they then took Nicodemus to challenge by pointing out that the evidence is so obvious that they don't need to hold a hearing before passing judgment: "They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet." (John 7:52) Once again their "wisdom" was based on their interpretation of scriptures. They had the scripture which they believed said the Christ would be raised in Bethlehem and they had no other scriptures to say otherwise (which actually wasn't totally correct, either). So they challenged Nicodemus to prove otherwise by the scriptures. He couldn't thus their challenge stood. In reality, even though nobody was able to disprove their challenge it didn't mean their interpretation of the scriptures were correct. If there's one thing that the chapter brings out is how one can be totally wrong in their interpretation of scriptures yet be firmly convinced that they are right. It happens when we rely on our own wisdom and understanding to interpret scriptures. But in that same chapter Jesus told us how we can, and should, learn truth: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17) Jesus left it totally open on the conclusion. Either His doctrine is of God or it is of His opinion. They viewed Him as a mere man thus the intention was to let them know that they can distinguish whether it was of man or of God by being obedient to God. Undoubtedly the rulers and Pharisees believed they were already doing God's will and certainly no Jesus would convince them otherwise! But the people weren't so steeped in pride and they could discover it! Notice that Jesus said that one "shall know" the doctrine. He didn't exaggerate and didn't say "might know". When one is doing "His will" they are obeying all of His will, not just some or most. What is "His will"? Jesus actually reveals that answer while He was finishing His 40 day fast and was being tempted by the devil. Notice the challenge and response: "And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:3-4) We are to obey every word from God, not just the convenient ones and not just the commandments. Once we do that we will have the Spirit with us and it is by the Spirit that we will know the doctrine. Until it comes from the Spirit it is only a belief. Once it comes from the Spirit then we know it. The rulers of that day and the Pharisees thought they knew because of their studies. In reality they not only failed to know - their "knowledge" was only a belief - but they were also seriously incorrect in some key elements and it worked to their condemnation. This principle still applies today. If we think we know something because we studied it from the scriptures, prophets, or apostles, then we are mistaken. It is only a belief, not knowledge, until the Spirit testifies. And in order for that to happen we must be devoted to obeying every word from God and then we will finally be able to move from belief to knowing.
Wingnut posted a topic in Scripture Study ForumIn August of 2005, President Hinckley gave us a challenge. He said, "I offer a challenge to members of the Church throughout the world and to our friends everywhere to read or reread the Book of Mormon." His challenge was to finish the book by the end of that year. For anyone interested in reading the Book of Mormon by the end of THIS year, join with me in my goal to have it read in 100 days (starting on Tuesday, September 23rd). I am one who always does best with a support group behind me, and I love to offer encouragement to those working on similar goals. I understand that many of you are already immersed in your own study or are focusing on different books of scripture. For any who are willing to start from the beginning, I invite you to join a Book of Mormon Study Group. This will not be a topical study. It will be chronological. To join the group, you will need to be prepared to account for your success or failures in keeping with the reading goals. A sister in my ward invited us to join her in this challenge (the above are all her words, not mine). As it has been some time since I have read the Book of Mormon in its entirety, and for various reasons I did not participate in President Hinckley's challenge, I eagerly joined her study group. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this study group, and to give an accounting of my reading. I also am better when I have to check in. So I invite each of you to join also. We can discuss in this thread our study for the week, and individual insights we may have gained. I will update this post each week with that week's reading assignment. Week 1: September 23 1 Nephi 1-18 I know it's a lot, but for me, if I can make it through this assignment, I'll be able to do the rest...this is the hurdle that is hardest to get over. Week 2: October 1 1 Nephi 19 - 2 Nephi 13 Sorry I am late in getting this week's reading assignment sent out! I figure you're all just plugging along in your reading. I think it is best that we stick with the average of 2.5 chapters a day. Week 3: October 6 2 Nephi 14-30 Week 4: October 15 2 Nephi 31 - Words of Mormon Sorry I'm late again...was out of town and away from a computer.