"Since the days of John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven has been advancing with force. And forceful people are taking hold of it." -Matthew 11:12 (NIRV)
"The Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it." -(NLT)
"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." (NKJV)
This is a verse that has troubled me greatly when I read it today. Just go to BibleGateway and check out what all the different translations say.
I mean, how can different translations of the Bible be so inconsistent and contrary to each other? I found it very puzzling and disturbing. Being my usual nerdy self, I had to go Google more information on it for a good half an hour after reading this passage.
And what I discovered was this whole confusion over the meaning of the Greek word biazetai, which can be translated to either negative violence or positive force, depending only on a very close study of the context in which it is used, much like many words in the English language today.
Christians being Christians, or rather humans being humans, there was plenty of argument and debate about it.
But I came away from my reading at peace because what I consistently got from all my reading was context, context, context. In order for this statement to fit in with the rest of the Bible and its entire message, what was Jesus trying to say here? The context is everything.
And when I look at verses like Philippians 3:12 ("Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to TAKE HOLD of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."), I realise that this verse is not so troubling at all when looked at in the right context. In fact, it fits right in with the rest of my theology.
And this just served to remind me of the importance of context. Of fitting things into a bigger picture. Reductionists believe things can be explained the more you break them down. But all the science in the world can't explain profound miracles like falling in love.
Surely, surely everything is part of a bigger picture - and when we understand that big picture, we understand the parts.
That's why I'm so determined to finish reading through the Bible for the first time in my life this year. Because I don't just want to know those reassuring little verses I memorised in Sunday school - the ones everyone hangs on their walls or prints on souvenirs.
I want to understand the bigger story. I want to know the context. I don't want to interpret my own meaning without understanding the story's history, or blindly swallow secondhand reiterations and interpretations of it without knowing the Person who wrote it and understanding His heart.