Thursday, August 29, 2002

The Bible is ....-I said I'd post my essay on "In my opinion, the Bible is..." that was given in my Understanding the Bible class. Here it is. In my opinion, the Bible is God’s message to man, which needs to be heeded. It lays out the story of God’s love for mankind despite our sinfulness, culminating in his sending a subset of Himself, Jesus, to die for our sins and to be resurrected back to rejoin God at the Father’s side. While written by a variety of writers over a thousand years, it maintains an overlying story of God’s interaction with and love for mankind. While everything of God isn’t in the Bible, it’s a basic part of my faith that everything in the Bible is of God. Thus, the Bible will play the role in the believer’s life what the Constitution plays to a jurist. Just as unconstitutional laws are thrown out, actions and thoughts that run counter to scripture should be considered unbiblical and thus avoided. Despite being finished nearly two millennia ago, it’s advice still rings true today. In my opinion, the Bible is the Word of God without error. However, there are some passages of the Bible that are better read metaphorically rather than literally applied. Matthew 18:21-22 has this passage
21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (New Revised Standard Bible, 1989)
This would be better interpreted to keep on forgiving indefinitely, especially in the alternative reading of “seventy times seven.” Given the mandate to forgive other freely in Matthew 6:14-15 just after the Lord’s Prayer
14For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (New Revised Standard Bible, 1989)
A literal reading of Matthew 18 would allow the reader to be unforgiving at sin #78, which runs counter to what Jesus was teaching during the Sermon on the Mount. While allowing for such metaphorical reading can allow people to try and skate past verses they don’t like, allowing God the option to speak metaphorically can be useful in resolving apparent contradictions. In my opinion, the Bible is historically accurate. While modern science may cast doubt on the literalness of Genesis 1-11, the archeological evidence I have seen over the years backs up the remainder of the Bible; the story of Abraham and his descendents are at worst an authentic period piece. I still have yet to fully reconcile in my mind the 15-or-so-billion year life of the universe that science has settled on with the six-day creation story of Genesis, nor have I reconciled the fossil record and carbon dating with Noah’s Ark. For instance, a case can be made to read the “days” of Genesis 1 as eras. However, I am confident that as science evolves, the Biblical test will be shown to be valid with a minimum of metaphor. In my opinion, the Bible is both a product of the past and a book for today. As I have learn over the years of Bible study that there is two parts to reading the Bible. One part, that I have heard called exegesis, involves understanding what the writer was trying to say, given his audience and the history and culture of the time. A good example of that is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. In a recent essay, Gary Petersen (2002) questioned “Is it proper, Biblically speaking, for a married woman to lead prayer in a worship service when her husband is with her?” A straight-up reading of the verse
34 women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the Law also says.35 If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (New Revised Standard Bible, 1989)
would not allow women, or at least married women, to speak in church. A possible explanation that I have heard over the years, which Keener (2001) confirms, is that the churches and synagogues in Paul’s day were segregated, so that a woman asking a question of her husband would have to be shouted across the room and thus be disruptive. If true, this might shed a different light into Paul’s letter. It might also be an example of wishful hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the second leg of Bible study, figuring out what the verse means for me today. People looking to justify a woman’s role in the church might be looking to tweak the context in order to get the answer they are looking for. When done properly, hermeneutics can take the first century writings and give them life for the twenty-first century. However, careful exegesis should be done to make sure the modern-day reader isn’t putting thoughts into the mind of the writer that weren’t intended. In my opinion, the Bible is a very good book to read. My life has been enriched this last year when, with my wife’s (then fiancée) help, I got into the habit of reading the Bible on a daily basis. The daily time spent with God’s word has been a blessing. Since May, I’ve been journaling my morning devotions in my weblog, which has enriched my life even further, even helping edify some of the readers of my blog. My walk with God was poorer when I wasn’t reading the Bible on a regular basis.
Works Cited
Keener, Craig S. “Was Paul For or Against Women in Ministry.” Enrichment Journal. 2001. < http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/enrichmentjournal/200102/082_paul.cfm> The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989. Petersen, Gary. “Women Leading Prayer.” Country Keepers by Gary Peterson. August 18, 2002. < http://gary.countrykeepers.com/2002/08/18.html#a464>

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