Here’s a question I once posed: if the Bible is the Word of God, why is it apparently such a complex book to figure out with so many interpretations, understandings and misunderstandings? I may have posed the question and hinted that I would answer it, but, to be honest, it never really was totally answered. Perhaps it’s an unanswerable question?
It’s the 64 million dollar question for Christians today. Many have attempted to tackle it and many of these believe they have answered it, but have ended up creating more problems than solutions. Put yourself in the place of a new believer, someone who is embarking on an exciting new journey, having been “sold the idea” that all of life’s problems and mysteries are dealt with in the pages of this one book, The Bible. So, spanking new Bible in hand, he turns up to his first Bible Study meeting and discovers that Bible truth comes in many varieties!
Has this always been so and, if not, what has changed to make it so? What was the function of Scripture in Jesus’ day? Was it open even then to many different interpretations and understandings and, if so, what was the source of these different views? Were there different schools of thought among the Jews of his day as to how to interpret God’s word?
These are perhaps the most relevant questions to answer because we know that, since Jesus’ day, there have been innumerable schools of thought in the Christian world, largely thanks to the infiltration of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle. This is not for debate, as it is historically verifiable, and was fully covered in my previous book, How the Church Lost the Truth, where I demonstrated this history and also the origins of the various viewpoints regarding Creation, Israel, Hell, Salvation and End Times.
Just to flesh out these assertions a little, Plato introduced the idea of dualism, the separation of the physical and the spiritual, a pervasive concept that affected many aspects of the Christian life, including Bible interpretation. It gave rise to distorted views that the Old Testament (and the God of the Old Testament) was inferior to the New Testament, giving rise to Replacement Theology and also to the use of false allegory, in attributing grand but often random spiritual meanings to physical events in the Biblical text.
Aristotle championed the use of human reason to figure out the world. Alas, this also wormed its way into Bible interpretation, elevating human understanding to stand alongside divine revelation and thus blurring the edges between what is from the mind of man and what is from the Mind of God. This allowed folk to read their own ideas into Scripture and therefore coax the Bible to say whatever they wanted it to say!
Out of this Greek analytical thinking, the Bible was (and still is) prodded and poked, as if it were the shell of a rare bird’s egg, ready to burst and spill out the reluctant secrets of its Author. New techniques for dissecting it are continually appearing, as if God really would provide us with His written word as source material for analysis, investigation and criticism rather than as everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)
Here is a list of just some of these techniques, with the approximate date when they first appeared: theological interpretation of Scripture (2005), biblical theology (1787), canonical criticism (1983), reception theory (1970s), intertextuality (1990s) and redemptive-movement hermeneutic (1990s). And you really don’t want me to describe and compare them, that’s what Wikipedia on the web is for.
Some of you may call me an anti-intellectual, arrogant so-and-so for dismissing the work of so many great theological brains, but I am unapologetic about this because our focus must always be on God’s work and not man’s work. Suffice to say, if you want to mix up dry philosophic analysis with a lot of hot air, then by all means venture into these areas, but your time would be far better spent getting to know the Author of the book rather than by pulling His book to pieces just to prove your cleverness.
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)
Atheists love it when we engage with them purely on an intellectual, philosophic level when discussing the Bible, because they know how easy it is to tie us up in knots, with such questions as, can God create a rock so heavy He can’t lift it – if He can then he’s not omnipotent and if He can’t then He’s also not omnipotent. Do we really need to exercise our brain cells in such a way? Can an atheist truly be won over to a revealed faith purely through the strength of your argument?
We hear of Christians living in the Third World who have such difficulty in finding access to a Bible in their own language, let alone actually owning one. And when they do get their hands on one, it is treated like a priceless gem and the words on the pages treasured for the spiritual jewels that they are. In the affluent West we can own Bibles in a myriad sizes, colours and versions, yet we are the ones living in poverty, spiritual poverty. We frame the unadulterated Scripture text with commentaries, daily reading plans (commentaries by any other name), books from our favourite Christian commentators and even more commentaries. We tend to shy away from the raw experience of quiet time with nothing more than a Bible in hand and a prayer for understanding on the lips. We do so, I believe, because of one of the cultural diseases of our modern age, the cult of the expert, the idea that we need to be told by others how to think about things. In the secular world, we all have our favourite reviewers for books, movies, music and it seems we also have them in the Christian world (me excepted, of course!)
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How do we really get to know the Bible?
Written by: Miriam Emenike
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