I have been an amateur biblical scholar for many years now. I have read lots, attended lectures and numerous conferences and bible studies, read the bible through every year at least once, transcribed the New Testament, learnt NT Greek and read extensive church (& secular) history over the 30 years since I became a Christian. However all of this has been done in an informal manner and I have only once done a formal bible college course module.
I respect anyone that has spent all their working lives studying the Scriptures. I don’t presume to know as much as them. I do know what it is like to study something in depth. I am an expert on mobile telephony and several other related fields due to the 30 years or more I have spent studying those subjects full time throughout my working life to this date. There is no substitute for time and intelligence when studying something.
So why was Jesus so hard on the learned and those who had spent their whole lives studying the Scriptures in His day? There seems to be two reasons:
- “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Matthew 23, etc. They said but didn’t do.
- “You search the Scriptures because you think in them you have eternal life. And it is these that bear witness of Me and you are unwilling to come to Me that you may have life.” John 5:39 NASB. They did not study in the context of knowing and loving Jesus in the Spirit and coming to Him with their studies.
There probably would not be much hope for the learned and those who spend their lives studying the Scriptures in the Scriptures if it wasn’t for Nicodemus (John 3) and, even more significantly, Paul. Paul in particular redeems all those who have intelligence and an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Scriptural. But it is of course very significant that until he met the Holy Spirit in a personal, traumatic way (Acts 8) he was actually working against the God he professed to be working for. Afterwards he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision continuously proving by his acts his lack of hypocrisy.
Those who have the time, inclination and propensity for studying the Scripture full time are few in this world. For these people the danger is that the Scripture becomes a sort of god in it’s own right of which John 5:39 rightly warns us. There seem to be a lot of churches around (evangelical ones as well) where there is a lot of emphasis on the Scripture but very little evidence of Jesus manifested in their lives. I would not be alone in that assertion. If anyone starts making a big fuss about what translation to use, for instance, I’d like to see their lives first. There is a danger that people who spend most of their time studying these things may find it more difficult to find time to go visiting widows and orphans, the sick in hospital or prisoners. I’m speaking as much to myself as anyone else in this.