Help answer this Bible puzzle and I may take you out for lunch

Posted: September 25, 2012 in The Bible

Someone once said that when you don’t understand something in the Bible, you need to dig in, as often times, great treasures are hidden in great questions. I wonder if this is one of them:

Paul quotes the book of Isaiah several times. Today upon looking one of those quotes in context, i got a little bit confused.

Is there something that maybe the translation is missing? Could there be a meaningful life application lost somewhere? Am I wasting my time on this one?

What do you think?

Here it goes:

In Romans 2:17-29, Paul is building the case to demonstrates that the Jews, as well as everybody else, are not deserving of salvation by their own merits. Paul accuses them of, although having the ‘name’ and ‘religious acts’ and so on, with preaching one way, but not acing according to their teaching. He closes with a quote from Isaiah in which He seems to imply that, because of their wrongdoing, God’s name is blasphemed. Here’s the full text:

“17 Indeed[b] you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” Romans 2:17-24

Now, this is the full context of the passage Paul quotes from Isaiah:

“Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean Shall no longer come to youShake yourself from the dust, arise; Sit down, O Jerusalem! Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion! For thus says the Lord: “You have sold yourselves for nothing, And you shall be redeemed without money.”

“4 For thus says the Lord God: “My people went down at first Into Egypt to dwell there; Then the Assyrian oppressed them without causeNow therefore, what have I here,” says the Lord, “That My people are taken away for nothing? Those who rule over them Make them wail,”[a] says the Lord, “And My name is blasphemed continually every dayTherefore My people shall know My name; Therefore they shall know in that day That I am He who speaks: ‘Behold, it is I.’” Isaiah 52:1-6

– Doesn’t it sound as though, in the Romans passage, the Jews are to be blamed for God’s name being blasphemed by the gentiles because of the Jews bad testimony?

– Doesn’t it sound as though, in the Isaiah passage, the Jews are more of victims of mistreatment as the oppressors blaspheme God’s name? … or maybe, the Jews are the ones blaspheming every day -because of their suffering? Wouldn’t this be different in meaning to what Paul is using it for?

Am I missing something?

  1. Marcia says:

    I have noticed this kind of thing before, where there is a quote from the OT that does not seem to be used in the same way in the NT as the scripture being referred to — but the point is always valid. I think this may be from us reading the Bible with our own “filter” from the year 2012. We just do not always mentally connect things in the same way as the ancient spiritual leaders from another culture did. It usually takes prayer and much searching and the prompting and revelation of the Holy Spirit to begin to realize what the real connection and lesson is. (As you are already doing),

    Too bad I cannot remember another specific example — but if at a later time I notice one, I’ll share. (My mind vaguely remembers one in the book of First Peter that kind of stumped me before.)

    The thing is, the idea that God’s name is blasphemed because of the actions of his children is the same in both passages and that appears to be the thought that Paul is emphasizing. Whether we as believers act as hypocrites (Romans) or “bad slaves” (Isaiah) it is always God that we represent to non-believers. His name is the one that is damaged by our sin. We can damage God’s reputation by our own inconsistent behavior — which is iniquity.

    There is also the thing about a physical example of a spiritual concept working as a teaching aid… but… only so far. There is a point in which every physical example, when taken too far, will break down and become ridiculous. Spiritual matters transcend the physical world and our finite minds.

    Don’t worry, I’m not expecting lunch. LOL — my comment was not that good — but your post is very thought provoking. As always.

  2. From Charles: “…I think they allude to the same thing and do not contradict. The Jews were idol worshipers and blasphemed God. God used people worse than them to take them into captivity and get the idol worshiping out of their system before returning them to their land. Habakkuk had the same dilemma when God told him the country he was going to use to judge them. Habakkuk was like, Hey! They are worse than us. I think the second passage is somewhat the after the captivity judgment view but the captivity was due to blasphemy and idol worship.”

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