Updated: Feb 15, 2020
Have ye not read? Such a rebuke from the Lord to the Sadducees! (Mt. 22:31). They had asked him a question and He, after rebuffing their study methods, answered them by using grammar: “I am the God of....” That’s the present simple tense of the verb To Be. (Indicates a current or repetitive action and/ or an obvious fact.) The truth is, using the verb am, that God is not the God of the dead (was or has been). His living relationship with Abraham, et al., is both present and factual. The Sadducees had made a mistake, they had assumed incorrect doctrine, because they had not read the Scriptures with understanding. To be certain, they had violated the grammar, which in turn, led to their error.
Understanding grammar, correct grammar, is therefore an essential requirement to read the Scriptures correctly. (They had read—it’s not that they had never actually viewed the Scriptures— but they hadn’t accurately known nor understood the communication.)
And, it’s also absolutely vital for us, as Bible Readers, to read the Scriptures according to correct grammar. Ignoring the rules, the system, the structure (any of these three comprise the basic definition of grammar) and making conclusions from a text within a grammar vacuum leads to error. We must, without hesitation or whining, seek to understand the grammar of our Early Modern English Bible: the KJV.
Granted, few (!) of us sprung out of bed this morning and cried out “I must study grammar!” Even fewer show genuine alacrity in pursuing the word with proper grammar as a backdrop. Indeed, most of us bristle at the notion of grammatical study, scoffing— “I can read the writing on the wall…” Well, and with no apologies to Paul Simon, we do not have a choice. God gave us both general revelation (Ps. 19:1) and specific revelation. (Proverbs 30:5 answers specific questions that general revelation can’t possibly address—Pro 30:4.) Again, we have received specific revelation in a specific system: the English Language. Therefore, we believe the word, meaning we believe all of it: the vocabulary, the punctuation, the order, the system…we believe the grammar is 100% true. It’s time we at least attempt to study it.
Consider a transportation analogy: travel from your house to the nearest major city. You will see vehicles (words) of all types; you’ll see traffic signals and direction signs (punctuation); you’ll see rules posted such as speed limits (common grammar), and you’ll notice unwritten rules, such as driving on the right side and the use of turn indicators (grammar that is understood). However, if all manner of vehicles were assembled on an asphalt slab together, but the rules of the road were ignored and the system of traffic was jettisoned and replaced with a command to “just do it”… chaos will surely follow. Even if we can identify each vehicle (vocabulary), the mere violation of one traffic rule can create a wreck. Grammar is the rules, the structure (both obvious and indicated), on the communication highway. If we violate the grammar of our English Bible, even in ignorance, we will end up in the proverbial wreckage, or doctrinally off in the weeds.
The next few blog posts will highlight the affect of grammar on doctrine. Please know, I am only a student and am no expert; but I do enjoy the word ‘coming to life’ with grammar applications and I think you will too. I hope you will, maybe for the first time ever, really ‘dig’ this grammar with me! Let us study.