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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.

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.


Edit: Changed a few embarrassing spelling and syntax errors.
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UncleRice 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.
Mclandis Mar 30, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
who killed for fun

And the Israelites (if you believe the Bible) committed genocide against entire cities (including slaughtering young children) and indulged in pedophilia with their God's blessing.

practiced human sacrifice

Actually, the Biblical God also accepted human sacrifices.

treated women like cattle

In other words, just like the Israelites. Not that the original statement is true; last I saw, Egyptians had less institutionalized misogyny than the Israelites.
TESM Mar 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
While the "culture" claim may also be true, it's always worthwhile to point out that Scripture captures more than 1,200 years by textual dating (and oral tradition perhaps goes much longer). Thus there isn't one "different culture" but in fact many, many cultures that are represented in Scripture and in the people of God.

Not only is it a story of Israel's (the people's) virtue, but also their many mistakes and misappropriations of God's word. We never think of the prophets or moreso kings, judges, and leaders doing what is contrary to the law. Furthermore, how well Israel and the Rabbis were to record it.
kyrtuck Jan 16, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Somehow I don't think I misread the Book of Leviticus sucking so much. I don't think I misread all the inane "such and such married whats his face" geneaology stuff. I don't think I misread all the OT battles and their completely improbable head counts. I don't think I misread God hardening people's hearts. I don't think I misread Jesus willingly choosing to go to the cross making it all look like suicide. I don't think I misread Paul's homophobia and saying "women shouldn't teach men". I don't think I misread the insane monster infested heap of batshit that is Book of Revelations.
TESM Jan 16, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Sounds like you studied it pretty well.
I have read it and find it to be a reprehensible book on the whole:…
The bible is full of vile things that no amount of context can justify, especially in a book that supposedly is a moral guide to life. How does context justify rape, murder, genocide, infanticide and other intolerable cruelties? I can think of no legitimate excuse. I was a christian for a very long time- I know the bible, and it played its part in making me an atheist. 
TESM Jan 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
"Context" is a loose way of putting it. Again, this piece is about study.

If you think every phrase in Scripture is a "moral guide for life" then you were not taught how to read the Bible, simply given a vague ideology or a dull tool to apply to the entirety of a book, really a series of books, that must be approached jointly (as a whole) and individually from their own context.
To me, it comes off as yet another attempt at justifying the bible, despite its injustifiability- intellectually and morally. 

That is what it purports to be, both at anintellectual platform as well as a broader subject- a guide for life, the actual word of god given to humanity. One wonders why such a book, either written by god himself or inspired directly by him, would neglect to condemn simple things like rape or bullying, but endorses child abuse and slavery. And if it is not the word of god, then what good is it to a believer?
(That's a very serious question on that last part.)
TESM Jan 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
If you're claiming "that what it purports to be" you have to provide evidence that it speaks about itself as an "antiintellectual platform" (which it does not).

You, taking the cue from other Christian groups who believe in "sola scriptura," hold that the Bible is merely "a guide for life" when even Scripture speaks of extra-scriptural things as being guides for life (e.g., other people, teaching practices, laws, etc.). Likewise saying "actual word of God given to humanity" is a phrase by which a number of people may presume a number of things about the words and the phrase. It's vague and leaves itself open to many errors.

Likewise, many have tried to quote the obvious contradictions you state but do so, again, without any ounce of literary criticism. Anyone can ignorantly comment on words, believer or not. I've never seen a law that said, "As the Bible says: rape women." If we can find no such laws on systems of law made from Scripture it seems likely that WE have misinterpreted the word.
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