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5 years ago  ::  Nov 11, 2008 - 12:40PM #11
theprinterlady
Posts: 1,812
KOOLPOI:  How do Evangelicals decide which passages in the Bible to take literally?

TPL: This sounds like such a simple question, right? But what is an "Evangelical", and how broad a spectrum does it contain on "reading the bible literally"?

For some denominations (Like Assembly of G-d, for instance), EVERYTHING is read literally.... which then begs the question... in the crucifixtion story of Matthew, for instance, there was a mass resurrection at the time of Jesus' death (See Mt 27:51-53)... which means Jesus was not the "firstborn of the dead", since these other people (who had been dead for how long?) beat him to it. This causes a problem for literalists, but for metaphorists, it's a boon.

The fact is that in ancient days, the Jews were weird in that they wrote history that highlighted their faults and errors, rather than their successes. No other culture did that. Was it "literal history"? No, because the "point" of it was to teach a lesson. Other cultures had "triumphant" history (even when they had gotten their rear ends kicked) because the "point" of history was to preserve national pride or at least keep failures from making the record. So was it literal history? No. Thus, whenever reading a historical record, one can assume that SOMETHING in there is based on "what really happened", but without factoring in the POV of the "historian", one is in serious danger of attributing to history things that were either meant as varnish to a reputation, or meant as the "moral of the story"... they didn't "really" happen as described, but the "lesson" is preserved.

A bigger question for someone trying to understand the scriptures might be... what do the words we use in English for concepts like "salvation", "redemption", "judgement"... what did those words mean in the original language, culture and time in which they were spoken?

For instance, the word translated as "judgement" in the Tanach doesn't mean "judgement" in the court sense, but "Justice" in the sense of making wrongs right. "Justice" is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, defending the defenseless, etc. Yet when modern readers read "judgement" or "justice", they tend to think of the criminal legal system, not doing good works.

IOW, comprehending the bible means a lot more than just trying to figure out if it's "literally true" or not; it's about understanding "why" it was written in the first place, and what the different concepts under discussion meant to the people discussing them.
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5 years ago  ::  Nov 11, 2008 - 2:37PM #12
Xristocharis
Posts: 5,051

theprinterlady wrote:

For instance, the word translated as "judgement" in the Tanach doesn't mean "judgement" in the court sense, but "Justice" in the sense of making wrongs right. "Justice" is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, defending the defenseless, etc. Yet when modern readers read "judgement" or "justice", they tend to think of the criminal legal system, not doing good works.

IOW, comprehending the bible means a lot more than just trying to figure out if it's "literally true" or not; it's about understanding "why" it was written in the first place, and what the different concepts under discussion meant to the people discussing them.



This actually reminds me of the Greek word for "judgment", which actually means something more like "to render a decision". The term "judgment" has a very negative connotation in English. To "judge" something or someone usually carries the implication of finding guilty, or to judge something bad or guilty (etc). But these implications aren't inherent to the Greek word, or even to the English word "judgment". Sometimes it's not just that meaning is lost in translation from one language to another, sometimes (and perhaps more often) meaning is lost when attempting to translate from one culture to another.

It's not just the biblical language(s) that are foreign to us, but we're talking of completely foreign cultures and ways of perceiving the world around us.

One of the most dangerous (in my estimation) things we can do when approaching the biblical texts is to assume the author(s) saw things the way we do today.

We tend to view things very mechanically today. When we quote so-and-so we assume that it must be a verbatim quote, the ancients didn't have that kind of journalistic rigor, it was often more important to simply get at the heart of something, rather than merely repeat the words.

Take the four gospels as an example, in the Synoptics something attributed to Jesus a lot of times isn't the same between all three. Two things are at work, one the one hand the author is more interested in getting the essence of something rather than a word-for-word iteration; secondly each author has a distinct purpose for writing which flavors the quote in a direction which emphasizes what they are saying.

(As an aside, I actually believe this is one of the biggest reasons why the Christian Church has, throughout history, resisted any attempt to "harmonize" the four gospels into a single narrative and insisted on keeping all four and simply accepting the differences as being different because each says something important and unique. A harmony would ultimately lose these distinctions and thus something vital to the Jesus Story would be lost.)

Even more than just aiming for the speaker's essential meaning, it wasn't uncommon for writers to put words into the speaker's mouth. From our journalistic perspective, we'd call this being dishonest, from the ancient POV this was often done to help communicate something essential, in other words Person X would say something like Statement Y.

If there are discrepancies, for example, between the records of things Paul said in the Acts, and things he wrote in his actual epistles, it may be a case of the author of Acts ("Luke") putting words into Paul's mouth because of its effectiveness at communicating what needs to be communicated. Granted I'm framing this as an "if" statement, because I have no specific examples in mind.

We need to keep these things in mind, because I think we'll save ourselves a lot of pain if we are willing to try and distance ourselves from our 21st century biases and take on the role of a student attempting to understand through the rigor of study.

I would much rather be confused by a biblical text and have no answer (and let it challenge and push me) than simply make something up.

That's actually a pet peeve of mine. It seems quite often rather than simply allowing oneself to be befuddled by a given text and let THAT help push one to further study, there is this drive to conquer the text, to own the text and come up with explanations that seem to rob the text of its honesty. This is one reason why I'm generally against trying to "harmonize" the Bible. I don't think contradictions are a bad thing. I'd much rather let the texts exist in tension than come up with a solution that really is most likely just a load of BS.

Allowing the texts to be in tensions ultimately forces me to seek, study, be challenged, question, and work things out with humility. It forces me to respect the Bible, that rather than trying to conquer it, let it conquer me.

Ultimately, more than simply trying to interpret the Bible, I would much rather the Bible interpret me. Which, of course, is probably a fairly Lutheran thing to say.

Anyway, this is getting really wordy. But these are some of my thoughts.

-Jon

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." - Dom Hélder Câmara
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5 years ago  ::  Nov 11, 2008 - 9:31PM #13
YoungEarthCreationbyGod
Posts: 22
I take the Bible Literally and I just put my faith in my relationship with God and that's my opinion and I could be wrong but I consider myself a Evangelical Christian.
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5 years ago  ::  Nov 11, 2008 - 9:39PM #14
theprinterlady
Posts: 1,812
If you take the bible literally, how do you reconcile the obvious contradictions?

How do you know which idea of G-d to believe in?
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5 years ago  ::  Nov 22, 2008 - 8:26PM #15
Xristocharis
Posts: 5,051
[QUOTE]The proponents of dispensationalism depart from the above rule at times, and although they may not want to admit it, they seem to follow this rule:

· If the plain sense does not fit my theological system, then I will seek some other sense, lest I should end up disagreeing with the dispensationalists![/QUOTE]

I fixed the above for you.

-Jon
"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." - Dom Hélder Câmara
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5 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2008 - 7:57PM #16
Theo
Posts: 4,620
When the natural sense makes good sense, seek no other sense. When the natural sense does not make good sense or conflicts with the rest of Scripture then look for signs that it is to be taken spiritually, or as a figure of speech or metaphor. And lastly, consider the times and the culture… figures of speech are often culturally based.

For example, St. Paul asked the question… Rom 7:24-25 “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~ NKJV

To interrupt Paul literally here, would mean that in his mind, the body is a disgusting thing we should desire to be rid of – and yet the rest of the Bible makes it clear that our hope as Christians is the resurrection of the dead. Even St. Paul spoke of his hope of resurrection – meaning that someday his body will be raised back to life. 

So what are we to make of Paul’s question?

Historically we know that in ancient times, the dead body of a victim was often chained to those found guilty of their murder. And everywhere they went, they were chained to a rotting corps. So Paul, aware of this custom, referred to his “old man,” another figure of speech for his former life as a non-believer, as a body of death… meaning that he and we as fellow Christians, are dragging around with us, our former selves – our old man of sin and unbelief – our body of death if you will. But that someday, thank God, we are going to be delivered, our old man – i.e. this body of death – will be done away with, and we will be raised from the dead and inhabit new glorious resurrected bodies.

That is how we interpret Scripture, and how we know to interpret something as literal and something as figurative.

~ Theophilus
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5 years ago  ::  Dec 28, 2008 - 9:12PM #17
andrewcyrus
Posts: 4,252
I received my first KJV bible and the Lord Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade on my 18th birthday.

I fell in love with Jesus then and am still in love with him today. The idea of a risen Lord and Saviour is a lofty concept. Still even today as my body grows older I see the Spirit growing as I decrease in physical strength.

All the concepts of the Bible the literal and figurative are explained within it's words. I found it takes love, prayer and alot mental devotion to interpret it's passages. When i prayed for the Holy Spirit more knowledge was received. Some passages that helped me understand more came from my  risen Lord and Saviour;


Jesus has risen and is now apearing for the first time to his diisciples;

Luk 24:44 And he said unto them, These [are] the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and [in] the prophets, and [in] the psalms, concerning me.
Luk 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
Luk 24:46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
Luk 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Luk 24:48 And ye are witnesses of these things.
Luk 24:49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
Luk 24:50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
Luk 24:51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
Luk 24:52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
Luk 24:53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
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5 years ago  ::  Dec 28, 2008 - 10:01PM #18
andrewcyrus
Posts: 4,252
Here is a Website devoted to the father of the English reformation. In it is William Tyndales - Pathway to the Scriptures

I found it very uplifting.

http://www.williamtyndale.com/0pathway.htm


Blessings,

Andy
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5 years ago  ::  Jan 25, 2009 - 9:12AM #19
Semachiah
Posts: 97
Shalom,

[QUOTE=koolpoi;864481]How do Evangelicals decide which passages in the Bible to take literally?[/QUOTE]
Keep it in the context of the entire Bible and not just your view, opinion or doctrinal belief.
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