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October 12, 2011
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Where do errors arise in biblical interpretation?

The first is misreading the text, the second is misunderstanding the context, and the third is not reading that section in light of the whole of that section.

The fourth is forgetting who it addresses--that is to say (allegorically) people of a certain heart or disposition.

The fifth is seeing these words distinct from a life that has been lived.

The sixth is to see the Old Testament without considering and making it separate from Wisdom, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and to see the New as separate from Christ's example.

The seventh is to see the Old Testament radically distinct from the New--what does Christ cast aside, what does He fulfill, and what does He do in His life?



We, first of all, are so easily lead into error. Furthermore, the impious, atheistic, agnostic, lukewarm, and indifferent will never read the Scriptures accurately. This does not mean the words are inaccessible; it is quite the opposite. The text is "not laid bare to mere children" but it "does not exhaust its riches to the wise and the learned" (Augustine). If all these errors are accounted for--no small task--and yet those words are not lived, their reading of it will amount to nothing.

If one comes to Scripture seeking honor or pride he will leave as a fool with neither. For the proud "puff up their chest" but the pious man "strikes his breast" (Augustine, Confessions, Book X). For "who could stand before you?" (Ps 130:3). The men above, the worst being the impious and indifferent, cannot access Scripture precisely because they deny (the possibility) of its truth. No man assents to what he does not trust or believe, but if this is so he cannot criticize such a text and life properly--he searches the words but does not see the grammar; he sees the story but not the lesson.


But to those Christians, those who look with disdain and haughty pity at those atheists and agnostics, you are even bigger fools! And perhaps I am chief among them if I dwell with them (that is, Christians such as these). For "Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord God. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?" (Ez 18:23). Likewise "I have no pleasure in the death [i.e., both physical death and those who live wickedly and disassociate themselves from God] of anyone who dies, says the Lord God. Return and live!" (Ez 18:32). Rather, you Christians who are no better than those ancient Jews, you puff yourselves up and yet in your hearts you "sacrifice to false gods" such as pride, honor, praise, haughtiness, among many other things. When you live so as to defame Christ, that is to say without mercy, kindness, compassion, and patience for the sinner--even despite his obstinate heart!--and bear His mark upon you in such a manner, you give just cause for non-believers to hate you, and unjust cause to hate Christ!


To my faithful brothers and sisters, assuredly greater than me, remember to "love thy enemy" and in all things be patient, kind, and loving. We are weak and, as the Jews, "chosen from the least of (the) peoples" (cf., Duet 7:6-7). Yet "[I endure all things]for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:10b). Do not forget that it is by His grace that we are where we are--do not ridicule those who are suffering physically, emotionally, or spiritually. For "Anyone who oppresses the poor [of any sort] is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God." (Prv 14:31), and all men are made in the image of God. Pray, brothers and sisters, for our own salvation, but more so for the salvation of the world and that "sinners may return to you" (Ps 51:13b).

Do not condescend--though I am often a principle offender--but "build the kingdom of God" (cf., 1 Thes 5:11). We must live Christ's life, and in doing so in our own individual way, we, as a people of one heart and mind, offer the greatest counter and defense of our faith. The joy that comes from Christ is due to each man, and it is not to be hidden or reserved for the few. Whether it is your work, intellect, prayer, community, or silence, let each of these in some small way speak of Christ. And when we fail in this, regret but do not despair. Rise and walk again, "carry your cross and follow me" (cf Lk 14:27).


Remember, then, that the greatest source of biblical errors is failing to live out a biblical life (i.e., Christ's life) and be challenged by it.

In order to live it you must pray it.
In order to pray it you must understand it.
In order to understand it you must study it.
In order to to study it you must read it.


-M
This piece came to me midday. I was contemplating holding off on it until I did my "Interpretation" piece, but I felt this was distinct enough. Beside, if I repeat myself a little in the future, it will probably be with greater clarity. I hope.

The purpose of this piece and its genesis came about by arguing with many concerning biblical interpretation. Much of it deals with those of a protestant disposition or background (but are now atheists).

Though this reflection is far from perfect and, in fact, perhaps not as strong as some would like, I think the latter 2/3, which is more an exhortation is worthwhile.

Criticisms more than welcome. The fool must be taught wisdom.

-M

____
Edit: Changed a few embarrassing spelling and syntax errors.
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:iconderroflcopter:
Derroflcopter Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2014
"Furthermore, the impious, atheistic, agnostic, lukewarm, and indifferent will never read the Scriptures accurately."
I disagree. I think it's possible for non-Christians to read scripture about as accurately as Christians do, just not in the same way or for the same reasons. It's also totally possible for even well-meaning Christians to totally mess up their interpretation, as I just witnessed today with a fundamentalist using John 1 to try to say that the "Word of God" (which she took to be the Bible rather than Jesus Christ, the divine logos) is co-eternal and one with God. She just said revelation (in all of its glory in our lowly, ambiguous human language) = the Revelator. Yeah.
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:icontesm:
TESM Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I disagree. I think it's possible for non-Christians to read scripture about as accurately as Christians do, just not in the same way or for the same reasons.

That sort of describes "accuracy" in this way: I shoot at a target at hit the ground, but it's accurate because that's where I was aiming. "Different ways and for different reasons" (paraphrased) just means that the Bible is someone's own personal interpretive slate.

I agree that well-meaning Christians, learned ones, bad ones, and everything in between can screw up Scripture. That's nothing new to me. But that's why there are standards beyond personal apprehension and interpretation that help illuminate the passages of Scripture.

Scripture is also a guide to spirituality and morals. Thus people who do not live moral lives (or spiritual ones) cannot apprehend in their current state the power of the text from an interpretive standpoint. In the aspect of conversion of heart and mind, Scripture holds greater power than any one man's interpretation, because at the point it's the work of the Spirit.

I just witnessed today with a fundamentalist using John 1 to try to say that the "Word of God" (which she took to be the Bible rather than Jesus Christ, the divine logos) is co-eternal and one with God. She just said revelation (in all of its glory in our lowly, ambiguous human language) = the Revelator. Yeah.

The "Bible" is co-eternal and one with God? *Sigh*

Many Christians are woefully ignorant of history, let alone Scripture. (and as for Revelator.... language).

This piece is old, too (2011). I've been hoping to update some of my stances.

Thanks for your comment.
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:iconreasonablebeliever:
ReasonableBeliever Featured By Owner May 18, 2014
the Bible is very hard to understand, atheist like to cherry-pick verses to show how "evil" our book is. If they read the books (cause the bible is a collection of books) in context, like your suppose to, there would be no debate.
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:iconmclandis:
Mclandis Featured By Owner May 19, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
So how else is one supposed to interpret the Biblical God's bloodlust and acceptance of pedophilia? Context really doesn't help at all.
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:iconreasonablebeliever:
ReasonableBeliever Featured By Owner May 19, 2014
Old Testament my friend, read New Testament.
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:iconmclandis:
Mclandis Featured By Owner May 19, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
1) The NT isn't much better in this regard. On top of that, Jesus says that he comes to preserve the old laws.

2) The OT is canon, is it not? If so, then my criticism still stands.
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:iconreasonablebeliever:
ReasonableBeliever Featured By Owner May 20, 2014
1. Why isn't it? show me the verse when he says it, he obviously says he is the truth, the way, and the life. So He's the new way.

2. Yes, so? doesn't mean anything. The old testament gives stories to teach lessons and talks about the coming messiah, which I fulfilled in the new testament. If you don't believe in god, god never killed anyone or said any of those things. read in context my friend.

look, We'll agree to disagree, if you want to continue send me a note ;)
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:icontesm:
TESM Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Well, maybe.

Even believers have debated Scripture since the beginning. Debate and multivalence isn't necessarily bad. But a plurality of ideas isn't necessarily always good either. It's never quite so easy.
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:iconreasonablebeliever:
ReasonableBeliever Featured By Owner May 19, 2014
Hmm, true true. Catholics for the win! :D
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:iconunclerice:
UncleRice Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
It is a very complex book that was written for a very different culture than ours. As much as some like to paint it as evil, the reality was the neighbors of the Israelites and Early Christians were far worse. The Bible promoted a level of equality and good behavior that was superior to their neighbors who killed for fun, practiced human sacrifice, and treated women like cattle.
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