Sometimes it is the very people who respect the Bible most who are moost tempted to censor Scripture. This passage is a fine example of how we are tempted to massage Scripture to remove “difficulties” and make it sound more like something our world can understand.
Why does our reading begin at v.3?
The chapter divisions are sometimes in the wrong place, but is that so here?
- Is the topic of 1-2 very different from that of 3-21?
- Do these verses connect more strongly with the material in ch.5?
The answer to both questions is NO – they don’t connect strongly to ch.5 (which was about a whole collection of good and bad deeds and seems to reach a conclusion in vv. 24-5. By contrast 1 Timothy 6:1-2 dealing with masters and slaves does fit well with talk of wealth and money in ch.6.
But all this talk of Christian slaves and Christian slave owners is uncomfortable for the heirs of William Wilberforce or Christians living in the USA (where a civil way was fought over slavery).I think the organisers of E100 did not want to associate Paul’s advice to Christian slaves to be respectful, well-behaved slaves with his strong warning against teaching “otherwise and not agreeing with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ”! They have (I expect unconsciously) censored the Bible!
This discomfort – and the consequent temptation (or even need) to censor the Bible – comes about because we forget that the Bible comes to us in human words. Muslim’s claim that the Q’ran was dictated to one man by God, it therefore contains divine words that MUST NOT be translated – for that would contaminate them. The Bible was written by dozens of people, inspired by God, but not taken as dictation. Therefore the Bible contains not the words of God but God’s message. Therefore, by contrast, it MUST be translated!