Can the Editor’s Subject Headings of Our Bibles be Trusted?

Tuesday is for Preaching

Sometimes we are led astray by the editors of our Bibles. Most of the headings are great and helpful and the editors mean well with their chapter headings and subtitles of sections but if you aren’t careful, you might get an idea set in your interpretive grid that leads you astray. For example: in the NASB version the editors have added these words as a subtitle before Acts 15:36-41, Second Missionary Journey.  

But if you read the text, it is clear that the section talks less about missional advance and more about the nurture of those who have already been reached. The second journey doesn’t turn into a church planting mission until the Macedonian vision that begins to be related in verse 9 of the next chapter and not until after we get the extraordinary news that the Spirit of God forbids the preaching of God in other regions of Asia, preferring that Paul, Silas a Timothy move on to Europe and Macedonia (Cf. Acts 16:9-13).

Here’s another example: Take a fresh read of Luke 15:11-32. Forget the editors’s section heading in whatever translation you are using. Just answer one question: Which son is the real prodigal?

Principle:  Know the text.

  • There is no substitute for hard study of the text.
  • Use the editor’s headings but remember they aren’t inspired.
  • A great commentary (at best) is what somebody else knows. It isn’t a substitute for what you know or a replacement for your laziness.
  • Know the text so you can deliver the word of God and not the word of a man.

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