Number 33 January 11, 2002
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth
not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth. II Timothy 2:15
By Jack Northart
The Bible was written as holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21). It was written utilizing manners and customs of the Oriental part of the world. Thus, there are numerous Orientalisms of that day and time that are used throughout the Word of God. It is important for those of us who study God's Word, and live in the Occidental part of the world to understand the various uses and usages of these Orientalisms in order to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
Dr. K.C. Pillai, a Hindu convert to Christianity, was a Bishop at large of the Indian Orthodox Church in Madras, India. When he came to the United States many years ago, his mission was to acquaint Christians with the Orientalisms of the Bible, or as he referred to it, "to give light through an eastern window." The nature of his presentations were entirely interdenominational, and he taught in many different churches.
Understanding Orientalisms is vital in order to rightly divide God's Word. It would be difficult to cover all of them in The Grapevine, but Bishop Pillai worked extensively on this subject and I wanted to share some of his insight in this issue from Volume 1 of his work entitled "Orientalisms of the Bible."
Matthew 6: 19-21
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
"The western interpretation of this scripture is that the treasure refers to money which is laid up in the world. Therefore, it is not security at all because moth and rust corrupt it, and thieves may steal it. On the other hand, money and labor given to the church, or some other worthy cause, is treasure stored in heaven. But as in all cases where symbols and figures of speech are used, the proper understanding of the scripture must come from its spiritual meaning. Christ was not referring to money. The "treasure" mentioned here simply means our thoughts. In fact, there are several symbols used in this passage. Let me explain them.
"Heaven" speaks of the realm of the Spirit. "Earth" is the realm of matter, which is material things. The "moth" is fear that eats away our thoughts. "Rust" is worry that corrodes and destroys godly, positive thoughts, and "corrupt" means to breed. In the light of Oriental philosophy then, these scriptures should read as follows: "Let not your thoughts be centered in material things where fears and worries breed defeat and frustration, and where the doubts break through and steal your thoughts. But let your thoughts be centered in the Spirit, where neither fear nor worry breeds defeat and frustration, and where doubts do not break through and steal your thoughts. For where your thoughts are, there will your heart be also".
If our thoughts are centered in material things, our lives will surely be plagued with defeat, frustration, and despair. The reason for this is that the things we see are not really dependable. We watch them come and go. And the things we think are real substance vanish before our eyes. Everything we know through our five senses is in a state of change and decay. But when our thoughts are on God, there are no fears, no worries, defeats, or frustrations. We are not staking our lives on that which changes, but on Him who changes not. Since there is no means of communication between the Spirit and the things of the earth, there can , therefore, be no satisfaction in them. But God, who is Spirit, can speak to the spirit within us. The oneness of Himself with our spirit enables us to be satisfied through fellowship with Him. Man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. Man cannot live by bread alone. To flourish, he must rather live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."
Lack of knowledge [of God's Word] is the root of most of man's problems. The mind operating on information gathered through the [five] senses, thinks negatively most of the time. And what he thinks, he is!
As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he… (Proverbs 23:7). He reflects all that is negative in his mind with the result that he is constantly fearful because he cannot convince himself that he is not facing impending doom. The solution for such a person is an acceptance of Christ not only as Savior, but also as Lord of his life. He then passes from the uncertainty of the darkness of the realm of the senses, into the light of the revelation of God to the spirit within him. If his thoughts are in God's Word day and night, he will learn the art of centering his thoughts on God. Only then can he reap the harvest of the spiritual realities of joy, inner peace, abundance, and health. He will manifest himself as more than a conqueror through Christ.
Tragic though it is, the facts indicate that while most Christians talk the victorious life of the eighth chapter of Romans, they actually live in the frustrations of chapter seven. The way out of chapter seven of Romans is given in verse one of chapter eight: "...walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit!"
As I mentioned, there are many more Orientalisms that are mentioned throughout the Bible and this is just one example. I would like to suggest reading about more of them in Bishop Pillai's books, "Orientalisms of The Bible", Volume I and Volume II, as well as another book entitled "Light Through an Eastern Window." With a working knowledge of these, the student of the Bible will have many apparently difficult verses of Scripture open up to him like never before.