March 21, 2019

The Bible and the Believer (1)

The Bible and the Believer: How to Read the Bible Critically and Religiously
by Mark Zvi Brettler, Peter Enns, Daniel J. Harrington

• • •

One of my tasks this year will be to work on answering the two questions that Pete Enns raises regularly in his writings and podcasts:

  1. What is the Bible?
  2. What is the Bible for?

The nature and use of the Bible is a matter of debate and, often, controversy in the various traditions and forms of Christian (and Jewish) faith. One of the reasons I have liked Pete’s approach so much is that it cuts through a lot of the surface arguments and focuses on the fundamental questions we should be asking. I’m looking forward to the release of his new book, How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That’s Great News, which will be released in mid-February.

In the meantime, we will take up this theme by considering some other sources, including the book Pete co-authored with Mark Brettler and Daniel Harrington (a Jewish and Catholic scholar, respectively), called The Bible and the Believer.

The goal of this book is to show how Jews, Catholics, and Protestants can and do read the Hebrew Bible/Tanakh/Old Testament from a simultaneously critical and religious perspective. (p. 3)

This goes to the question: how does one approach the Bible? Much as people might like to think we simply take up the scriptures and read them for ourselves, we must realize that our very conception of the Bible and what it is designed do in our lives and in the world is shaped by centuries of tradition and a history of interpretation, including several hundred years of what has been called a “critical” approach to the Bible. Those who practice various forms of biblical “criticism” are trying to understand the background and original purposes of the biblical material.

Rather, we take the term “biblical criticism” broadly to mean the process of establishing the original, contextual meaning of biblical texts and assessing their historical accuracy. This, in turn, might allow those who take the Bible seriously to make informed judgments about its current meaning and significance (or insignificance). Such study is an indispensable step in biblical interpretation. (p. 3)

The book’s introduction gives a helpful overview of the kinds of “criticism” biblical scholars practice.

  • Textual criticism means gathering the ancient witnesses in Hebrew, Greek and other ancient languages, comparing them, and then discerning the most accurate form of the text we can reconstruct.
  • Form criticism seeks to understand the literary form and genre of the text and then explores how this understanding can guide our interpretation.
  • Source criticism seeks to determine if and how the biblical author or editor may have used various sources, which were then integrated into the composition of the text.
  • Redaction criticism refers to how and why a biblical author or editor (redactor) arranged his material and what points he wanted to make by doing so.
  • Rhetorical criticism focuses on how biblical authors used various literary forms of discourse to get the readers’ attention and/or persuade them.
  • Narrative or literary criticism analyzes stories and their various elements in order to understand the impact they are meant to have on the reader.

No one simply picks up the Bible and reads it. Engaging the Bible is a matter of interpreting it, and the various religious traditions that appeal to the Bible have always understood this. The authors of The Bible and the Believer capture this in an excellent overview of the history of biblical interpretation.

Modern critical methods were rooted in Luther and Calvin and the Reformation emphasis on sola scriptura. And though they were often practiced by those with a skeptical view of scripture and faith, the insights they have yielded over time have given those who read the Bible marvelous tools to advance our understanding of what the Bible is and what it is designed to do.

Comments

  1. Susan Dumbrell says:

    Doctor’s visit was successful
    Looking forward to 2019. So long as Trump goes away.
    I will be more positive and will read today’s post with some confidence.
    Thank you CM for all you present to us each day.
    Susan

    • I’m glad your doctor’s visit went well.

      I’m sorry, but Trump is not going away until January 20, 2021 at the earliest. He could be impeached by the House of Representatives, but a two-thirds supermajority of the Senate is required to remove him from office. The Senate has 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, so 14 Republican votes would be needed. It is possible but not likely at all that this would happen, not even if Trump is guilty of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” the Constitution requires. (I don’t know how much knowledge you have of the workings of American government, so I apologize if this elementary information is familiar to you folks ‘Down Under”.)

      Following politics is good. Following the news is good, but if looking at it too much makes you overly depressed and/or anxious, you may want to take a break from the news, or at least cut back. I had this problem during the 2008 economic meltdown here at the same time I was unemployed. It helped keep me sane during the tough times.

      Try to keep as much of an optimistic outlook as possible. I will keep you in my prayers.

    • senecagriggs says:

      Susan, don’t you live in Australia? If so, Trump is not really your problem is he?

      • Pellicano Solitudinis says:

        Nonsense.

        The USA is still the world’s dominant military power. It has enormous economic and cultural clout as well. What happens in your country affects everyone on the planet. Australia is a close ally, and therefore your military actions in particular affect us directly.

        • senecagriggs says:

          Trump certainly seems to have no inclination for war.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Not even counting Nuclear Football + Presidential Temper Tantrum?

            His just-fired Chief of Staff (the retired Marine General) DID have the Football under a two-party interlock, just as was done during the waning months of Nixon (and was done in the USSR during the August Coup of the Second Russian Revolution).

          • Four deferments agree with you.

        • Since Australia has had five prime ministers in the last five years perhaps you should be more focused on the down under

          • Christiane says:

            I’ll give you this, Stb

            your comments have a certain pitiful consistency

          • Pellicano Solitudinis says:

            I am very much aware of what’s going on in my country, probably more than most, and I cast my vote with great care. What happens here, however, doesn’t have anything like the kind of global impact that politics in America has. Everyone on the planet has a stake in American politics.

  2. Iain Lovejoy says:

    Of all the “criticisms” mentioned there seems to be omitted what, for want of a better phrase (it may have a proper name for all I know) I will “theological criticism” – focusing on the Bible’s function, use and meaning within the context of the religious tradition for and within which it was written and compiled. This is odd, because this function of the Bible is the only reason why it exists, why it is preserved and read, and it is this, not any original intent of the authors and redactors of the various texts, which determined what texts did and did not become the Bible canon in the first place.

    • Isn’t this called canonical criticism?

    • I think that the “theological criticism” that you speak of is actually part of the next step in interpretation and application of the text.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Agreed. These various forms of criticism are about how to read the text. Theology is about what to make of it. Different people approaching the same text with the same critical toolbox can still make different things of it, if only by prioritizing the various parts of the text differently.

      • Iain Lovejoy says:

        I think what I am talking about is closest to form or narrative / literary criticism, but from the perspective not of the intention of the author but of the tradition that included it in the canon. To give an example, I believe Revelation was finally included in the canon a long time after it was written: form criticism would look at what form or genre John was writing it as, and narrative / literary criticism assumes that what is important is what John intended to convey in his text. My question is about whether what is important is not what genre John wrote it as, or John’s intentions, but the genre it was understood to be, and the meaning it was understood to have, at the point where it ceased to be a separate literary work in its own right, but became part of the Bible. Does this make sense?

        • Yes, and I would affirm what Robert said when he pointed to canonical criticism, especially as introduced by Brevard Childs. Childs’s book, The OT as Scripture, encourages people to realize that, when a work becomes incorporated into an authoritative collection called “scripture,” a different sense of “meaning” emerges because the book no longer stands on its own. It becomes a part of the “tradition” that is passed down as a whole and is used as a single entity.

          • Let me say a few more things about this. I would still argue that this canonical/tradition-centered approach falls more properly under the realm of interpretation than criticism, because it goes beyond the level of the original historical meaning of the text itself, which is the purview of criticism as a discipline.

            Furthermore I would argue that it was protestantism that led us away from a more canonical view on the one hand, because it taught us to look at the text itself as authoritative. Therefore, the job of Bible scholars is to understand the text itself — and this led inevitably to the discipline of criticism.

            However, the irony is that most conservative evangelical protestants today don’t really study the text itself but rather study each text as a part of the accepted canon and the tradition of interpretation to which they belong.

            • I agree that the canonical approach is interpretation rather than criticism. An often unspoken factor behind Protestant canonical interpretation is that it is dependent on a high view of Church authority, since it was the Church through which the canon was written, collected, established, and defined; but Protestantism does not have a a working definition of Church authority that can justify a canonical interpretative framework, since said Church authority would have to predate the canon, and so would have an authority not dependent on Scripture. This is a problem for a Protestant canonical interpretation, because a canonical interpretation fits fare more genially and easily in the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox narrative about the Church possessing an authoritative interpretative tradition that is not fully expressed in Scripture, but on which correct Scriptural interpretation depends. I say this as a loyal Protestant who intends to continue to be one.

              • Christiane says:

                well, in the beginnings of the Church, there was no ‘new Testament’ . . . . . and it is likely other than St. Paul’s letters to the different Churches, no one had written the Holy Gospels of Our Lord out, although orally the ‘Story’ was being told and witnesses to that ‘Story’ were shedding their blood even prior to the formation of a recognized ‘canon’ . . . .

                so the Church was a functioning entity from the earliest days

                I think that the belief that Our Lord would return very soon was much held, and people thought that in their life times, He would return to them;
                but as they aged and as those among them who were with the Lord as witnesses began to die or to be martyred, it became apparent that the ‘Story’ needed to be written down and preserved and treasured and passed on intact,

                so the Church became a ‘guardian’ of the written Word at that point

                I don’t know from the word ‘authority’ so much as that there was in those days a great need to take care that all was preserved and passed on . . . . ALREADY, before the Councils met to agree on the formal canon of the books of the NT, spurious ‘gospels’ and ‘epistles’ were being written, so the Church, as GUARDIAN, needed to act ‘authoritatively’ AS CHURCH in order to determine:

                which writings had been read consistently over time in ALL of the communities of believers and which writings were acknowledged by those who sat at the feet of those who studied under the apostles . . . so that there was ‘evidence’ that those writings WERE in fact worthy of belonging to the ‘canon’

                So the Councils came together and the canon was formed over time with all intent to be faithful to that which was considered to be ‘the deposit of faith’ handed down from the Apostles to their followers and to their followers in a line that could be recognized and respected by the WHOLE Church . . . .

                so the ‘canon’ was formed by people of conscience who prayed together for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, meeting in council, as ‘Church’

                I don’t know from ‘authority’, but I do understand how it must have been that there was a fire in those people of the early Church not to ‘get it wrong’ or to forget or to leave out anything important to do with the ‘second Testament’;
                and I think they did a pretty good job, because it is said, this, in the Church:

                “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”

        • That would be interesting. And it would be cool if someone did an extensive study of how Christian understanding and use of Revelation has changed and evolved both through time and along different branchings of Christianity.

  3. I’m excited about this series. I ordered John Walton’s Old Testament Theology to read this month. It’s harder to read than I expected, but easier than it could be, considering it’s topic. And I’m definitely going to get Pete Enns’ new book when it comes out. I think I’ve realized, with a whole bunch of other people, that I don’t really understand the Old Testament, and how it relates to the New Testament very well. I’d like to remedy that this year.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Catherine,

      I have heard (haven’t read them yet) that Richard Hays’ “Reading Backwards,” “Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels” and “Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul” are all excellent for this. Hays’ approach echoes (pun intended) the way the Fathers of the Church, esp in the east, interpreted the OT. They read everything through the lens of Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection, and so came to a very consistent interpretation over time that also carries the flavor of the Judaism from which Christianity sprang.

      Dana

  4. Richard Hershberger says:

    I am a particular fan of form criticism, because it is something that everyone does. Even the self-professed literalist does it without realizing it. My usual example is the opening to Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd”. Try to read that literally and you immediately find yourself tied in knots. But of course no one tries to read it literally. We recognize that the Psalms are lyric poems, and we understand how lyric poetry works. This is a non-problem.

    But what about cases where the genre is less obvious? Lyric poetry is obvious because it is a form that we are familiar with. “The Lord is my shepherd.” “How shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” “I am a rock. I am an island.” These all work pretty much the same way, so far as how to understand what they are talking about is concerned. But not all scriptural genres are so familiar.

    One example is the Ancient Near Eastern Creation Myth. The opening to Genesis is not merely an example of this genre, it is a clever subversion of the form.

    A teenage girl, blonde, is walking down a dimly lit hallway, to a soundtrack of ominous music. A shadowy form leaps out behind her. It is a monster! She proceeds to kick its butt. The girl, it turns out, is Buffy Summers, the Vampire Slayer. This is a clever subversion of the horror movie genre. Ordinarily, the blonde is the prey. Here she is the hunter.

    Now suppose you had never seen a horror movie, or even known that horror movies existed, before watching this. You could still follow the plot easily enough, but the resonance with all those earlier movies would be lost on you.

    People often read the opening of Genesis like they were watching Buffy without knowing that horror movies existed. They can follow the plot, but the plot is not the point. To understand the point, you need to understand the context.

    So I start with Psalm 23 to show that form criticism is something that everyone, even the most literal “Bible believing” Christian, does. Once we establish that, then we can move on to other parts of scripture and examine the genre.

    • Excellent comment, Richard.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      One example is the Ancient Near Eastern Creation Myth. The opening to Genesis is not merely an example of this genre, it is a clever subversion of the form.

      Don’t know where I first heard of it, but it makes a LOT of sense:

      Genesis 1 is structured as a PARODY of the Mesopotamian Creation Myth.

      Like a fanfic, but with a Shymalan Twist and a bite.

      • Patriciamc says:

        That’s what I read too. On the first day, the god of light was not born, but on the first day, God, the Jewish God, created light, etc. A point by point rebutal.

      • Yes. In my Hebrew class the professor noted that the sun and moon are not named – they are simply the ‘lesser light’ and the ‘greater light’. To name them (the names sound almost exactly like the Canaanite names for the sun and moon gods) would give them too much dignity. The author simply treats them like any other created thing – plants, animals, bugs. Clearly a slap at ANE creation myths and Canannite ‘theology’. This also shows the real purpose of the ‘account’ – it is theological not historical/scientific.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Because at that time, the only names for Sun & Moon in most languages they would know were actually the names of those cultures’ Solar & Lunar Deities.

          And note the order is which they’re given in Genesis: Sun First, Moon Second, Stars Last. In Mesopotamian mythology, the Stars were the Greatest Gods, the Moon God inferior to the Stars, and the Sun God least of all. Genesis reverses the order.

  5. Step one: each of us in 2019 know more than any biblical author or theological interpreter throughout all of history.

    Step two: you are free to choose and accept what you believe.

    Step three: quit fighting dead men’s wars.

    Step four: the bible in klingon is the true bible.

    • Patriciamc says:

      Just like you haven’t read Shakespeare until you’ve read him in the original Klingon.

  6. Is acknowledging and starting with what the Bible actually IS a form of criticism, or just an acknowledge of reality over faith or dogma or tradition?

    Being honest about who wrote each book, when, for what purpose, how it was received, etc, that’s not criticism, that’s just history and reality.

    • “Criticism” is a technical academic term meaning the analysis of the historical nature and background of a subject, in this case the Bible. It doesn’t mean one is “criticizing” it, but that one is analyzing it to determine the reality you speak of.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        I think this is a barrier that Biblical scholars face. They are using “criticism” in a technical sense, but a lot of people take it that they are saying “the Bible sux!” Or even if the scholars are giving the Bible a favorable review, the possibility of that one-star review seems implied and presumptuous.

  7. Burro (Mule) says:

    In Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov, there is a scene in which a gang of street urchins are tormenting a simpleton (read ‘Holy Fool’) in the cathedral square. They steal a kopeck from his begging cup. The usurper Tsar Boris enters the square with his retinue of guards, and the fool begs him to murder the street urchins in the same way he murdered Tsarevich Dmitry (history has still to render a verdict on whether Godunov did this or not). Visibly shaken by the fool’s words, Tsar Boris restores the fool’s kopeck and asks the fool to pray for him. “Tsar Herod cannot be prayed for,” replies the fool. “The Mother of God forbids it.”

    The fool does not enmesh himself in the particularies of Russian power politics, in the decision of the Zemsky Sobor, in the plight of the rudderless Russian state, in the ambitions of the boyars , or in the deliberations of the Duma. He merely states; “The Mother of God forbids it.”

    It is material like this that presses home to me just how great an ascendancy the Academy has in Protestantism as a whole. What is an ‘Ancient Near Eastern Creation Myth’, but a phantasm of the Academy, which exercises its imagination to attempt to discern what effect a handful of stories that survived the general collapse of the Bronze Age had on their original hearers. The problem with the Academy and its methods is that it is a process of asymptotic approximation, and cannot establish TRVTH. It can never say ‘The Mother of God forbids it’.

    • Christiane says:

      Enjoyed this comment, Burro . . . thank you

      from our literary world comes sometimes the delivery of chaotic complexity dissolved into its most basic form so that we get it in one

      our poets, our artists, our musicians . . . . they have it over our theologians by half and more when they deliver clarity like a thunderbolt to us

      maybe that is how grace works, also? that in our bewildered pain, our ‘Lord, I don’t understand’ is met with a ‘Comforting’ so profoundly experienced that we cannot deny it? It is said that in order to enter the Kingdom of God, we must again become like little children . . . . .

      I’m for ‘knowing’ Scripture, but there is an element to sacred Scripture that goes beyond mental comprehension and touches something in us more primal . . . . like the prayers of the Holy Spirit for us in groans when we have no words . . . . like the woman who touches the hem of Christ’s robe and is healed . . . . . . the Church has a word for it ‘sacramental’ and for the Church to give it that respect, something of the ‘sacred’ and of the ‘holy’ is being acknowledged

      For me, how can I ‘analyze’ what is used to bless when it is something beyond my ability to grasp mentally?

  8. senecagriggs says:

    Here’s my bottom-line question from a bottom-line kind of codger [ me].

    With their theology, do Mark Zvi Brettler, Peter Enns, Daniel J. Harrington think the Bible allows for sexual relationships outside of a male/female marriage bond.

    That’s my bottom line.

    • senecagriggs says:

      Dear C.M., please don’t tell me I’m off topic. This IS the heart of the issue though it might make you uncomfortable.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Christians and Pelvic Issues…

      • Ronald Avra says:

        It is not the heart of the issue, and it is your myopic intransigence that disqualifies your interjections from serious consideration. Sexual relationships are tangential to the overall discussion.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        You may consider it the heart of the issue, but I consider it ridiculous. God sent the prophets and his Son to tell us where we can and cannot put our genitals. What a sad understanding of Christianity!

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        It also is somewhere between being an ad hominem and a circular argument. You either are arguing that they luv the gayz, so there is no need to address their aguments, or that luvving the gayz is the incorrect conclusion, so there any argument that reaches it is ipso facto wrong, and there is no need to actually address it.

      • YOU have made it the heart of the issue. Many Christians have realized that there are, in point of fact, far more important priorities.

    • Michael Bell says:

      You mean like Abraham and Hagar?

    • Michael Z says:

      Here’s my bottom-line question:

      Will these new perspectives lead us to a richer understanding of Scripture, a deeper love for the Bible, a closer relationship with God, and greater wisdom for applying what we learn to our own lives? Will they lead us a bit closer to letting the Bible be what God intends it to be and not what we wish it was?

      That’s my bottom line.

      But maybe I’m just weird and I should be focusing on pelvic issues instead of all that “knowing and loving God” stuff.

      • These perspectives have certainly led me to a deeper love for the Bible and a stronger faith. This is counterintuitive to most biblicists, though.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          The perspective that helped me most was finally getting over the Grimoire of independent one-verse Proof Texts (kinda like a Twitter feed) and getting able to see the NARRATIVE.

          (I’ve written imaginative narrative fiction myself; once the Christianese baggage has been cleared out, it made me able to see and appreciate the story, the twist endings, the scope of narrative.)

          As CM said long ago, the one-two punch of the Age of Reason and Industrial Revolution changed the Old Stories of God and Man into a Spiritual Engineering Checklist — Axiom, Axiom, Axiom, Fact, Fact, Fact, Check, Check, Check. Until like Saruman Curunir, Our Minds are Filled with Wheels and Metal.

    • I don’t know their views on this subject. Nor do I consider it central, as you say. I seem to recall Jesus placing love of God and neighbor in that position.

    • Christiane says:

      hello senecagriggs,

      some among us have chosen to FOCUS on the ‘sins’ of ‘the others’ intently and I would caution the wisdom of this as it overlooks ‘who we are’ in relationship to Christ and to one another in Him

      you have asked a question that is important to you, and that tells me that there may be a story there that is private and personal to you . . . . so I respect your question, not knowing of the reason for your need to ask it

      but if you go back into the Holy Gospels of Our Lord, I think you will find some wisdom there in the encounters of Our Lord with those who had been involved in sexual sin . . . the woman at the well, the woman about to be stoned, for example . . . . . and THERE look at Our Lord’s words in depth and know that He was seeing them as more than their sins, and that made all the difference . . . stones were put down, people walked away sorrowing, and lives were changed . . . because of His Presence

      maybe this suggestion might help you some, I hope so;
      in any case, a journey back into the Holy Gospels of Our Lord is never wasted on any of us ever

    • In other words, “With their theology, do [insert name(s) here] think the Bible allows for [things I have already decided are bad before doing any serious theological homework].”

      No, you have to do the homework first, THEN figure out if the Bible supports Assertion X or not. There’s too much stuff in the Bible that is contradictory if read on a surface, “literal common sense” manner for it to be otherwise.

    • –> “(Does) the Bible allows for sexual relationships outside of a male/female marriage bond. That’s my bottom line…. This IS the heart of the issue though it might make you uncomfortable.”

      Well, it doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does make me sad. Sad that a fellow Christian believes sexuality IS the heart of the matter. Sad that a fellow Christian would discard everything else Jesus says about pretty much everything else to make THIS the heart of the matter. Sad that a fellow Christian would pretty much ignore the rest of Biblical scripture to make THIS the focus of his/her litmus test.

      There’s more to our relationship with God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit (and their relationship with us) than this, Seneca. I implore you to read the gospel accounts over the next month or two and see what really matters to Jesus, to see where HIS heart is, and what he might be asking you to adjust in yours.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Well, it doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does make me sad. Sad that a fellow Christian believes sexuality IS the heart of the matter.

        It’s called “Pelvic Issue Obsession”, specifically the Pelvic Issue best known in connection with Fred Phelps and his more genteel comrades the Culture Warriors.

        Christians are just as screwed-up sexually as everyone else, just in a different (and usually opposite) direction.

        “I’m F’ed Up,
        You’re F’ed Up,
        He’s F’ed Up,
        She’s F’ed Up,
        They’re F’ed Up,
        WE’RE ALL F’ED UP!”
        — Punk(?) band related by J Michael Jones/Christian Monist at a local music festival

    • Burro (Mule) says:

      No, Seneca’s right. You libertines and Care Bears are wrong.

      Two or three days ago there was a post here about how terrible the Pentecostals and Third Wavers were for supporting Trump and what ghastly liberties they took with the Scriptures. Yet when I go to the “affirming” Christian page and read the responses to traditional Christians concerned about same-sex marriage I am revolted by the sheer sophistry and special pleading.

      Forty years ago I asked a continuing Anglican priest why he left the ECUSA over, of all things, women’s ordination. He said that the hermeneutic used to justify women’s ordination was deeply flawed. “Mark my words. The same hermeneutic arguments used to justify women’s ordination will be used to elevate sodomy to a sacrament. And it won’t stop there. That hermeneutic will serve them very well to condemn the lusts of others (the 1%), but not to restrain their own lusts. They’ll convince themselves that they’re in the line of Amos and Zechariah because they want to take away someone else’s money and give to, oh, whoever, but the truth is they whinny after their colleagues’ wives, or worse.”

      God BLESS that priest, wherever he is.

      • Better a libertine or Care Bear than a whitewashed sepulchre.

      • Patriciamc says:

        Women and gays, the evangelicals always incorrectly lump them together and show their low opinion of both.

      • I don’t think that priest got it right at all. It’s not the “same hermeneutic” at all. I had the same revolution in my thinking about patriarchy as I did about Young Earth Creationism, and both came from what I believe is a reasonable, defensible reading of the biblical text itself. Issues regarding LGBTQ matters are much less clear from the actual text and must be determined primarily through other considerations.

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Isn’t Pete Enns’ blog titled “The Bible for Normal People”?

  10. senecagriggs says:

    I-monkers; I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who uses short-cuts to make decisions.

    If I tell you there’s brand-new treatise on the Gospel of Ephesians that is getting rave review and it’s author Is Professor of New Testament at Bob Jones, are you going to be interested?

    Probably not.

    A theologians perspective on Biblical sexuality is one of those short-cuts. If they think

    Romans 1
    [ Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.]

    really okays sexual relationships outside of the marriage of a male to a female I’m not going to bother with their book. We are on different sides of the aisle.

    So to not waste time, I’m interested in the bottom line.

    • First off, have you read any commentaries that suggest that Paul is aping the words of his theological opponents in that paragraph? Which does make sense, because 1) ancient Greek did not have quotation marks, commas, etc, and 2) that entire passage leads directly to Chapter 2, where he takes that judgmental argument in Chapter 1 and beats those same opponents over the head with it.

      But all is is beside the point. The ultimate issue is your belief that anyone can pick up an English translation of the bible, go to any point and any amount of text, ignore the context (textual,
      cultural, and historical, then and now), and take it as literal instructions from God. You just don’t find Jesus or any of the NT authors using it that way. Until we deal with THAT, we’re going to continue to talk past each other.

    • I do have some bottom lines, Sen, I’ll fess up. I won’t, for instance, waste my time reading a book by an author who advocates or believes in a YEC; nor will I waste it reading a book by an author who supports conversion therapy for homosexual people.

    • Patriciamc says:

      The bottom line is to love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Christ in Luke 10:25-27.

      • Yes, but we should acknowledge this: It is not so easy to know exactly what loving God and neighbor looks like, because 1) our human limitations will inevitably require us to focus our loving efforts on some of our fellow human beings rather than others, and 2) we have no uncomplicated and unconflicted understanding of what love is and what actions it involves — sometimes our efforts to love lead to unintended deleterious consequences.

        • senecagriggs says:

          Quite brilliant Robert F.

        • Christiane says:

          “. . . . because 1) our human limitations will inevitably require us to focus our loving efforts on some of our fellow human beings rather than others . . . ”

          like giving over a trillion dollars to the wealthiest in our country in the form of tax breaks, giving ten thousand dollar raises to the politicians who engineered such a give-away,
          and not giving a little girl from Guatemala a drink of water on a long bus ride to her incarceration and her death?

          I guess ‘we’ don’t understand ‘love’, or we are so blinded by greed and fear of losing power that we are incapable of empathy?