Monday, June 3, 2013

A Christian is a Disciple; A Disciple is a Learner

English-only Bible study is an oxymoron: If it’s English-only, it’s not the Bible.

μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων
Matthew 15:09

It is a fact that, because of the nature of language, a word-for-word translation can never perfectly capture the full meaning of any text; it will always be incomplete. This degree of incompletion is directly proportional to the degree of difference between the languages being translated. In other words, the more unalike the languages are, the more unalike a word-for-word translation from one to the other is bound to be.

The original biblical languages are very different to each other and, in there own ways, very, very different to English; which is why, when it comes to understanding the Bible and the Doctrines of Christ, there is a huge disadvantage in relying solely on an incomplete word-for-word translation.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I am not saying you have to learn Hebrew and Greek to be a believer. What I am saying is that you have to recognize that an English word-for-word translation of Scripture—even the King James Bible—is not the Word of God; it is at best a reasonable approximation, and it must never be used as the final basis for our doctrine. The doctrines of Christ were recorded in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, the last of which was written at least 1,200 years before the English language even existed.

Now, the word doctrine, either didaskalia [διδασκαλία] or didachē [διδαχή] in Greek, simply means “teaching” or “that which is taught”. So the Doctrines of Christ are the Teachings of Christ. He is our Teacher, our didaskalos [διδάσκαλος]. As a matter of fact, nearly every time Joshua the Messiah is called “Master” in the KJV, it is a translation of the word didaskalos—being used then, not in the sense of “slave master”, but in the sense of “school master”; the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “rabbi”.1

These teachings are the very things we Christians are to learn. They are the sum total of what the Bible is: God’s commandments; His instructions; His Word. And, make no mistake, we are to learn them; if we call ourselves Christians, that is.

You might not have known this, but the Bible tells us that a Christian is a learner of Christ’s doctrine. How so? Well, in Acts 11:26, we read:
And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
This tells us that a Christian is the same thing as a disciple. Now, what is a disciple?

Well, the word translated disciple is mathētēs [μαθητής] the Greek word for learner or pupil. It is the equivalent of the OT Hebrew word limmuwd [לִמּוּד], the word translated disciples in Isaiah 8:16; shown here highlighted in yellow:

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.

Mathētēs comes from the Greek verb manthanō [μανθάνω], meaning to learn. It is what we who labour and are heavy laden are told to do in Matthew 11:29:
ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ᾽ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me
Therefore a Christian is a disciple, which is a learner, and is to learn doctrine, teachings, from2 Christ, the teacher.

And, again, none of His teachings were taught, or written down, in English.


1. Matthew also tells us that “rabbi” carries the sense of “leader or guide” in verses 23:8 & 23:10 of his Gospel, when he uses the Greek word kathēgētēs [καθηγητής], meaning “the one who goes ahead of others”.

2. In Greek, the word of in Matt 11:29 is followed by the pronoun me in the genitive case, meaning a more accurate rendering in modern English would be "from me", rather than "of me".

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