Often it is difficult to discern the meaning of certain passages. For example, in the Gospel of Luke there this curious text:

Luke 16:22: “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom..."

What is the meaning of "Abraham's Bosom" — since Adam, Abel, and Noah lived long before Abraham? Some believe A/B is paradise while others feel it resides Hades, which is described as punishment in flames (16:23-24).

Why the ambiguity? Would this be more readily understood in the culture/context of the time?

  • I think further detail and clarity is required as to whether Jesus Christ, himself, is being criticised or whether John the Apostle is being criticised or whether the lack of reliable manuscripts is being highlighted. Or, if all scripture is inspired of the Divine Holy Spirit, whether it is he that is being criticised. Or whether a confession is being made of 'difficulty' of understanding ? Verily thou art a God that hideth thyself (Isaiah 45:15) . . . and rightly so. – Nigel J May 27 at 21:35
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    +1 Question. I wouldn't necessarily say elusive, but ambiguous at best. As @Caleb George mentions in his answer, it is more to get the audience to think and make a decision. – agarza May 27 at 21:43
  • @NigelJ This shouldn't be viewed as criticism about Christ, John, the Holy Spirit, or anything else related to them. Rather, it has occurred to me on many occasions that hundreds of passages throughout the Bible are simply hard to understand, many that I've yet to appreciate at all. At this point, I don't think it has to do with my "difficulty of understanding." Surely, you've recognized many enigmatic narratives yourself? – Xeno May 27 at 21:49
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    You ask 'Why not be more straightforward ?' Of whom are you asking the question ? None of the users on BH wrote any part of the bible. To whom is your question addressed ? To God, perhaps ? If so, then ask it in prayer. Maybe you will receive an answer. – Nigel J May 27 at 21:53
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    @HoldToTheRod I'd like to do whatever is appropriate. Maybe I could simply focus on Abraham's Bosom - or - John. Frankly there are so many instances where the Bible is very cryptic and puzzling that it's hard to know where to begin. I will try to do as you suggest. – Xeno May 27 at 22:54

Matthew 13:10-17 is very instructive on this point. Jesus used his parables as a sword to cut through the crowds; on one hand fell (and continue to fall) the majority who fail to understand the message, and on the other hand are those who seek greater understanding, and in seeking, find the truth.

There is a running theme in John of Jesus saying obscure, sometimes offensive things, in order to force people to make a choice. They could walk away, as almost everyone did in John 6:66, or they could keep seeking and trusting in Jesus, as Peter does in John 6:68, "To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

I also recommend meditating on 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 in combination with Hebrews 4:12. The Scriptures are a sword that cannot fail to cut between the spiritually and the carnally minded. Those who set their minds on the things of the earth will find the gospel to be foolishness. But "the one who is spiritual discerns all things".

  • Great answer! + 1. – Xeno May 27 at 21:32
  • Sharp and incisive. Just like scripture. Upvoted +1. – Nigel J May 27 at 21:41

No - not deliberately ambiguous. Bit, definitely ambiguous. Let’s look at why ...

1COR 2:14** But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Ambiguity - being open to more than one interpretation (Oxford Dictionary). Scripture can be ‘looked at’, or ‘seen’ from either a natural perspective, or a spiritual perspective. Two interpretations. And, (at least) two are needed to provide a basis for ambiguity.

Paul further expounds on this ‘clash’, the natural (old) man and the ‘new’ man in Romans 7. This ‘clash’ between the ‘natural’ and ‘spiritual’ was prophesied. That is, this ‘ambiguity’ was foreseen

JEREMIAH 5:21 ’Hear this now, O foolish people, Without understanding, Who have eyes and see not, And who have ears and hear not:

  • I'm reminded of Hebrews 4:12: "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." When we absorb Scripture for the truth that it is, we are internalizing the Mind of God. – Xeno May 27 at 23:22

While we should try to understand all scripture, what is important in the scriptures is clear enough. While the exact meaning of John 3:5 is debated, the message of John 3 is clear. While the meaning of Abraham's bosom may be unclear, the message of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is clear.

While I believe you are seeking to do God's will, do you not find that seeking to justify sin is what causes people to grossly misinterpret scripture.

The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” (John 7:15–19, ESV)

Scripture is meant to continue to correct and improve our lives.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16–17, ESV)

As scripture is less clear we seek what is most probable not what is just possible.

Conversely, it must be admitted that most heterodox (whether theological or exegetical) positions are built upon what is possible; but whether they are probable is a different matter. Just because a view is possible does not make it likely in a given text. -- Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 10). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Hopefully, with our questions and answers, we are learning and growing in Christ.

P.S. Sometimes in John there is intentional double meaning. For example, in John 1:5 κατέλαβεν can mean overcome or comprehend like the word grasp. Overcome fits the meaning for literal light and dark, while comprehend fits the meaning of light as knowledge. In John 3:3 ἄνωθεν can mean above or again. The Peshitta translates this word with the same root as Hebrew רֹאשׁ which can have the same meanings. Thus, the ambiguity in the Greek probably reflected Jesus' words.

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    Part of your answer reminded me of the exchange in John 7:19-20: “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me? The crowd answered, 'You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?'” (emphasis added). We probably cannot fully plumb the depths of this scenario, but I've often wondered if Christ's words were not meant to inflame passions in preparation for His ultimate Sacrifice. – Xeno May 27 at 23:50

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