The Pride of the Pharisees
“You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness to Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life [John 5:39-40].”
Again, Jesus speaks to the Pharisees here. Despite their scriptural focus, they failed to see that the Old Testament Scriptures were loaded with verses that prophesied the coming of Jesus. For example, Isaiah prophesied of Him in chapters 7, 9, 11 and 53. Other prophets and the Psalms spoke of Him, as well. The Pharisees really had no excuse for failing to believe in Jesus, since their God-breathed Scriptures contained the verses that foretold His coming.
The Pharisees, however, chose not to see Jesus in these verses. They were unwilling to believe that this man who refused to honor many of their beliefs and practices was the Messiah. They felt that anyone claiming to be the Messiah would have to share their beliefs, because they were certain that their theology was perfectly in line with the Scriptures.
Being convinced that Jesus was not the Messiah, the Pharisees sought to use Scripture against Him, even though they had nothing to work with. When Nicodemus, one of the few Pharisees who believed in Jesus, spoke in His favor, they said to him, “Search and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee [John 7:52].” They meant that, upon searching the Scriptures, nobody could find a verse stating that a prophet was to arise out of Galilee. What the Pharisees failed to mention was that no Old Testament verses predicted from which cities any of the prophets were to arise; so, of course, there could be no verse stating that a prophet was to arise out of Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-7 foretold that a ruler, a “Prince of peace,” would come from Bethlehem, but the Pharisees expected this to be a political ruler, not a heavenly one).
The Pharisees chose to ignore all of the Bible verses that pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, and instead twisted the Scriptures to support what they wanted to continue to believe. They employed the same Bible-based approach to Scripture that many Bible-believing Christians do today.
The Pharisees’ failure to see Jesus in the Scriptures was the result of one great sin in their hearts: pride. They believed that their mastery of the Scriptures gave them perfect knowledge of good and evil; that they had all of the answers, because they had the Scriptures; and that anybody who argued with them was arguing with the Scriptures which supported them.
Likewise, many of us Bible-believing Christians today take the same arrogant approach toward our knowledge of the Scriptures. We believe that having the Bible and knowing it gives us perfect answers to all spiritual questions. We believe that those who disagree with us are opposing God, because the Scriptures show that we are the ones in agreement with Him.
We fail to realize that a perfect understanding of the Scriptures is unattainable, even when we know the Scriptures well. As I stated in Why Use the Every-Verse Method, our minds are imperfect to begin with. Add to that the fact that we have to deal with improper translation issues, inexact quotes, unoriginal verses, and an incomplete understanding of context, and it’s easy to see how we can be led astray, even though we base our beliefs on the Bible. While the Every-Verse Method reveals biblical truth to us far more than Bible-based theology does, we must remain humble in our understanding, because we will never be perfect in it. If we are arrogant, then we are guilty of the same pride as the Pharisees.
Pride – the Original Sin
While this reasoning sounds logical to most people, some Fundamentalist Christians believe that we can attain perfect spiritual knowledge through the King James Version of the Bible. They argue that it’s written directly to us and is the Bible’s only inerrant translation, because it was the first English translation, or because it was commissioned by a God-ordained king.
The flaws in their arguments are that no Bible verses say that the Scriptures address modern-day Christians; the original texts of the Bible were not written in Old English (they were written in Greek and Hebrew), so we have no reason to assume that the first English translation is the best one; and the fact that it was commissioned by a God-ordained king is meaningless, since we Protestants base our beliefs upon the Bible rather than upon the decisions of leaders appointed by men. If we were looking for guidance from a God-ordained king, we would be Roman Catholic, not Protestant, because the pope is the modern world’s version of a God-ordained king.
The real reason that some Fundamentalists see the King James Version as the only perfect translation is that they want to have and claim perfect knowledge of the Scriptures. Even Christians who read other translations choose to see their Bibles as a perfect place to go where God’s messages are plain, simple, and easy to understand without further study.
This longing for perfect knowledge can be traced back to the earliest chapters of the Bible. In Genesis, chapter 3, the serpent enticed Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit by telling them that they would “be like God, knowing good and evil.” He did not say that they would “be like God, able to create their own universe,” or that they would “be like God, having a perfect understanding of how trees grow.” Adam and Eve were not tempted to be like God in every way, but only in that they would possess God’s perfect knowledge of good and evil. Why did they want this equality with God? Pride! Their prideful desire for perfect knowledge of good and evil was the original sin—the sin that caused the fall of mankind.
Do Christians today long for perfect knowledge of good and evil for the same reason? Of course we do. When we pass judgment upon those who have theological disagreements with us or who live the Christian life differently, we do so out of the arrogant belief that we have God’s perfect spiritual knowledge. We fail to understand that only God has perfect knowledge of good and evil, only God has the right to pass judgment on others, and that the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden is still forbidden. When we act as though we can have His perfect knowledge, we commit the original sin of pride all over again.