Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Seeing Through the Bible

This post will tread closer to topics that I would rather not debate at this site, yet I feel as if it is important for me to write it out – it helps me to think it out.  So…I ask for some leeway and will also offer some leeway in the comments.  Just remain polite and respectful of others.


It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles.  If you see through everything, then everything is transparent.  But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world.  To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.

-          C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

A conversation between Sarah and Paul VanderKlay, at about the 38-minute mark:

Sarah: Do you think the Bible can be an idol itself?

Paul: Oh, yes.  Absolutely.  And we see that played out often.  Idol and icon: what’s the difference.  An icon we are supposed to see through.  Jesus is the icon of the invisible God; I am quoting Greek here. The book of Colossians.  We are supposed to see through the Bible to the Bible’s source.  That’s the whole idea of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

When we stop seeing through the Bible to its source and just divinize the Bible itself, well, now you’re worshipping a book and we are not supposed to worship a book.

Of course, the Bible is the Word of God.  But it isn’t God.  Can words capture God?  Words that are comprehensible to humans?

The Bible was originally written in many languages, all – to varying degrees – languages lost to history.  The Bible describes that which is almost incomprehensible to any language.  Both conditions drive us to difficulty in interpretation – a challenge ongoing even today.  Sola Scriptura hasn’t resolved these issues.

Regarding the Hebrew Bible of 39 books:

The texts were mainly written in Biblical Hebrew, with some portions (notably in Daniel and Ezra) in Biblical Aramaic. Biblical Hebrew, sometimes called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of the Hebrew language.

The first translation was into Greek, but this wasn’t the Greek of opah and ouzo.  It was Koine Greek, “spoken and written during the Hellenistic period, the Roman Empire, and the early Byzantine Empire, or late antiquity.”

The Latin Vulgate by Jerome was based upon the Hebrew for those books of the Bible preserved in the Jewish canon (as reflected in the Masoretic Text), and on the Greek text for the rest. …Christian translations also tend to be based upon the Hebrew, though some denominations prefer the Septuagint (or may cite variant readings from both).

We haven’t even come yet to the New Testament….

The books of the Christian New Testament are widely agreed to have originally been written in Greek, specifically Koine Greek, even though some authors often included translations from Hebrew and Aramaic texts.

Some scholars believe that some books of the Greek New Testament (in particular, the Gospel of Matthew) are actually translations of a Hebrew or Aramaic original.

And some believe the original language of Mark was Latin.  That’s wild.

But WWJS?  In what language did Jesus converse?

It is generally agreed by historians that Jesus and his disciples primarily spoke Aramaic (Jewish Palestinian Aramaic), the common language of Judea in the first century AD, most likely a Galilean dialect distinguishable from that of Jerusalem.

Keep in mind: people didn’t travel much then.  There was no such thing as mass media beyond one’s village.  Language and dialect varied even from village to village – a “Galilean dialect distinguishable from that of Jerusalem.”

The villages of Nazareth and Capernaum in Galilee, where Jesus spent most of his time, were Aramaic-speaking communities. It is also likely that Jesus knew enough Koine Greek to converse with those not native to Palestine, and it is also possible that Jesus knew some Hebrew for religious purposes.

Of course, Jesus knew enough of any language necessary; He spoke in the language common to the people to whom He was speaking.  Koine Greek, Aramaic of a Galilean dialect, Hebrew.  And I am certain: none of these could be understood by any speakers of Greek or Hebrew today.  As to Aramaic:

Neo-Aramaic languages are still spoken today as a first language by many communities: predominately by the Christian Assyrians, followed by the Mandaeans, and nearly extinct among the Jews of Western Asia. There are numerous variants spoken by Assyrians…

And I am certain it isn’t the Aramaic that Jesus spoke.

What is my point.  The difficulty of interpretation was built into the Bible from the beginning.  The Bible, from the beginning, was a translated text.  Think about what this means – both regarding our humility toward it and about it as well as the necessary nuance and subtlety with which we must approach our understanding. 

We have enough trouble communicating difficult topics in writing via our native language.  Increase this difficulty exponentially when dealing with multiple translations.  Of course, scholars and theologians will go to the original Greek – but it wasn’t even originally in Greek.  And have you tried understanding words in Greek – or any other language?  It usually takes several words in English to get some general idea of what one word from another language means. 

Bible Gateway offers almost sixty different versions of the Bible – and that is just in English!  If understanding was so straightforward, would this be happening?

I have been chastised (or mocked) by the Saker: go to the Patristic fathers, he says.  Fair enough.  But I can do him one better. Let’s go to the disciples – the ones who actually walked with Jesus and heard His actual words in their native dialect – the same words we are hearing twentieth-hand and the same words that even the Patristic fathers heard third or fourth hand.

I could cite several examples of Jesus’s frustration at his disciples’ lack of understanding – the same disciples who heard it straight from Him, the same ones who lived in His culture and context, the same ones who spoke His language and dialect, the same ones who saw His miracles.  Even from the beginning our knowledge and understanding was to be only partial:

Paul told us what was most important: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and the importance of love (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8). Our knowledge, he says, is only partial (verse 9). It will be completed after Christ returns, but for now, love is more important than knowledge (verses 13, 2). In saying this, I don’t mean to imply that doctrinal correctness is not important. We strive for correctness, but admit that we are not infallible.

That would be the Apostle Paul to you; don’t refer to him as if he was your buddy.

Peter was ready to bring on the revolt against the Romans, with his sword on the ear of the guard.  Some say that the betrayal by Judas was actually his attempt to force Jesus to lead the revolt against Rome.  In the first chapter of Acts, they asked “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”  This is how well the disciples of Jesus understood Jesus.

Further, read the accounts of the early church in Acts and several of Paul’s letters – talk about family feuds.  How on earth did this bunch of ragamuffins – divided bitterly regarding doctrinal correctness – ever conquer Rome?

Yes, we should understand the Patristic fathers, but we must also understand the complexity of the task of understanding – so complex that those closest to Jesus didn’t get it; so complex that interpretation continues – as it must – even today.

So, I return to the discussion between Sarah and Paul VanderKlay:

Sarah: It seems like that sort of Biblical idolatry is tied to trying to fit the Bible into this very materialist, literalist type of interpretation.

We want to force the Bible to fit.  Sarah is getting at the historicity of the Bible.

Literal: in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical.  …following the words of the original very closely and exactly.

You tell me: what, on earth, can be “literal” about the Bible?  What, on earth, can be literal about anything in language?  We have to define our meaning all the time – and this in our own language: words as seemingly simple as liberty, equality and fraternity.  Consider this reality when trying to understand the meaning of words from which we are removed twenty-fold, and then let me know about “literal”!

Allow me to compound the problem: The Bible is intended for us to find God; it is not intended for science, biology, anatomy, even history beyond that which is aimed at finding God.  Do you think this finding of God can be put into words – words in any language, words subject to clear and unequivocal interpretation by even the most scholarly of human beings?

Until about three hundred years ago, the most brilliant scholars in the Christian world were grounded in understanding the Bible.  Many of these devoted their entire lifetimes to its study; all of these took it as necessary for education and understanding of the world around them.  Yet, here we are – with less consensus than ever.

John 1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 The same was in the beginning with God.  3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

What can we truly comprehend about any of this – even these four short verses, about 50 words?  Yes, we cannot escape the Word.  But to think that we – the clay in this creation, waiting to be molded – can comprehend infallibly even these four short verses of the Word is arrogance of the highest order.

Many want to take the Bible literally.  You cannot – God cannot be understood in such a manner, and for sure not in a language twenty times removed from you and infinitely removed from God.  In any case, there are too many passages where a literal understanding is not in any way possible. 

Am I suggesting that we should accept some parts of the Bible as irrational, not grounded in reason?  Hardly, in fact precisely the opposite.  God is the source of both reason and faith.  How could these be in contradiction?  How could a faithful Christian be afraid of using reason to break open the mysteries of the Bible?  He will not disprove God; he will only come to understand God more deeply.

Where humans criticize the Bible for apparent contradictions between faith and reason, this only reflects the shortcomings of humans – for all of the reasons given.

Am I suggesting that we are free to make up any meaning we want from the Bible?  Hardly.  But if it was so simple to understand the meaning, why would the Apostle Paul remind us that we can only know in part until the perfect comes?

We look through the Bible to see God; we have been given Jesus Christ – the Form of the Good made manifest – to aid us in our understanding. 

1 Corinthians 13: 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.


Paul wrote of the resurrection as being most important; from the first days after the Resurrection, we see the same thing:

Acts 2: 32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.

37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”  38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

This is Peter – the same Peter who was a scared little baby when Jesus was taken to be crucified.  Do you want evidence of a miracle?  Christianity was born from this – against the mightiest empire and against the religious leaders; it has outlasted countless man-made empires and institutions.  It conquered the empire (for the good and bad of this outcome) without sword or army.  This is more miraculous than turning water into wine or any such.

The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.

…to ‘the disciples’, to those who accepted the teachings of the apostles.  There is no question of its being restricted to those who profited by that teaching as much as they should have.  There is no question of its being extended to those who in some refined, spiritual, inward fashion were ‘far closer to the spirit of Christ’ than the less satisfactory of the disciples.

Do you think those first 3,000 understood perfectly, or was their incomplete understanding sufficient? They were added to the church “that day.”  Their incomplete understanding was apparently quite sufficient.

We use the Bible to see through to God.  Try to make any sense out of the first four verses of John.  Wrap your mind around the Resurrection and its implications.  Understanding even these snippets of the narrative is difficult enough for one lifetime, even a lifetime built on the shoulders of the giants before us.


As I have internalized these thoughts, my faith has grown significantly.  This has been an important side effect of searching for a proper foundation for liberty – clearly the side-effect has proven more important than the original objective.

Reason does not do battle with faith.  Nor does Christianity do battle with Liberty.  Nor do custom and tradition do battle with Christianity.  Each of these, in fact, support the others.  The more that I grasp these, the more that my reason, faith, Christianity and liberty grow.

Not a bad side-effect for this little insect.


  1. I’m glad you addressed this. Idolatry of the word is one of the most troubling things about Christians. When I noted that God has feet when he walks through the Garden….I was definitely running with scissors with people who thought my belief system needed correcting by mocking me.

  2. Another problem is the "ambiguity of the genitive". This comes up in the Qur'an also but I'll stick to Christianity here.

    Take for example the phase "love of Christ". Is Christ here the object or the subject? Or is it both, i.e., a plenary genitive where the author understood the ambiguity and meant the phrase both ways.

    Or take the phrase "the revelation of Jesus Christ". Here we have the same confusion. Is Christ revealing something or being revealed? Or both? Here is a quote that expresses this:

    "In New Testament Greek exegesis, some phrases such as "the love of God" can be ambiguously interpreted as "the love God has for us" and "the love we have for God". Trying to classify these as only either subjective (the first interpretation) or objective (the second) is so fraught, that a third option is chosen: namely, both senses are implied (i.e. this is the love that goes both ways between us and God), and the term "plenary genitive" is used instead of either "subjective genitive" or "objective genitive".

    1. Yes, Ahmed, in cases where the words to necessitate one idea over the other both can be considered (and probably should).

      The only other point is that many time the immediate context of the phrase will tell more about what is meant.

    2. Excellent points Ahmed! However, I see a problem when one refers to God "objectively" as this seems to tread dangerously close to idolatry. The bible seems to repeatedly warn against his problem. There's the commandment against worshipping idols, and as soon as we imagine anything about God, we've crossed that line. Moses points out that God is not out there somewhere, but right in our mouth praying. Paul says effectively the same thing as does Christ when he points out that he must objectively leave so that the spirit may come to subjectively dwell within each of them. Paul even corrects himself when he says, "we know, or rather are known of God...etc." By definition, an all-knowing God cannot be known. Transcendence transcends objectivity.

    3. shnarkle, I agree with what you write and at the same time see that we have been given Jesus. To be clear - my second statement in no way should be taken to mean I diminish my first statement.

      Just saying that it gets a little much about God (have I just objectively identified Him?) and Christianity.

  3. "The Bible was originally written in many languages, all – to varying degrees – languages lost to history. The Bible describes that which is almost incomprehensible to any language. Both conditions drive us to difficulty in interpretation – a challenge ongoing even today. Sola Scriptura hasn’t resolved these issues."

    Both of the main languages of which the Bible were written are still largely in tact, Greek and Hebrew. Parts of Daniel were written in Aramaic, so that one I agree with though Syriac today is probably a cousin.

    I know modern versions of Greek and Hebrew are different that those used to write the Bible, but they aren't that different. It isn't like Modern English vs Old English. Most languages have not changed as much over time. And there are many scholars who are very knowledgable in the original languages. They don't have to interpret at all. They just read it. Of course the issue for most of us isn't interpretation it is translation and the decisions that have to be made moving from language to another. I think that is a bigger factor, but the Bible isn't even close to incomprehensible.

    1. The problem isn't one of comprehension, but praxis. One can comprehend that a child is drowning, but unless they have something in their heart to respond, they will simply let the child drown. We all understand that theft if wrong, but there are times when we justify stealing. This is nothing less than an abomination to the gospel writers (see Luke 16:15). The difference between the Old and New Testaments is one of praxis. God's law lives in Christ. It is manifest in, with, and through Christ, but not just any Christ. It is a spirit-filled Christ. The logos kills without the pneuma. It is the pneuma that kindles and makes the light shine so that we can understand. Our understanding isn't what leads us to the truth, but the truth leads us to understand.

    2. The Law kills not sure the logos in terms of the Word kills. Look at the parallel between Ephesians and Colossians in the phrases "be filled with the Holy Spirit" and "let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you". Logos and Pneuma are 2 sides of the same coin. Or they work together. John's gospel talks about this too. But I agree with all you said about the importance of the Holy Spirit in teaching and working in us.

    3. RMB, a couple of thoughts - neither to be taken as if I am an expert here:

      First, the original Greek is not original as Jesus - to our knowledge - spoke primarily in Aramaic.

      Second, I have familiarity with how quickly a language can change, divert, evolve into different dialects - within decades or a few short centuries.

      In any case, if it was so simple, we wouldn't have 60 versions in English.

    4. I agree that Jesus probably didn't speak Greek. Maybe he did to the Romans, if he came into contact with them. But otherwise spoke Aramaic as you say. What I am saying is the autograph. The original writing was in Greek. Koine Greek was the lingua franca of the Roman Empire. It was used for scholarship, business records, history, etc. It would make sense for the authors to write in Koine since they probably wrote in it mostly and knew it would reach the wider audience of the day.

      The 60 versions in English is a translational issue. Dialects come from changes in spoken language. Two different things. Languages change but even today people learn languages that they didn't grow up speaking and become fluent in them. If that is possible it is possible to understand past versions of the language you speak.

  4. "Many want to take the Bible literally. You cannot – God cannot be understood in such a manner, and for sure not in a language twenty times removed from you and infinitely removed from God. In any case, there are too many passages where a literal understanding is not in any way possible."

    But doesn't a literal understanding include metaphor, simile, personification, figurative language, parable, styles of poetry etc?

    You either interpret what the words mean in the language and in context or you interpret according to some idea you already want to introduce and use the Bible as a pretext. Forcing figurative meaning onto a historical narrative doesn't help anyone understand it better for example.

    I agree with the thrust of what you are saying. I think you are trying to say: be humble, be reasonable in your criticisms of others, allow for some variability of understanding because this isn't easy subject matter. I agree with you there. I also agree that the Bible isn't to be pursued itself. It is the means to know Jesus and his truth.

    I guess I just have a hard time with the idea that language is so unknowable and interpretation is such a black box.

    For instance, I think most English translations get it right when I compare the English to the Greek and Hebrew. Most of it is very straight forward. That which isn't can be learned by looking at a concordance and looking up the word. It can all be done online quickly.

    That won't eliminate disagreement or that still doesn't mean that all parts of the Bible are easy to understand. They aren't. But the language itself doesn't pose much of a problem in my mind. I believe that because for example Greek scholars today, at least the ones I read, say they are 99% sure about 99% of the NT autographs. Maybe it's 95%. But that tells me what was originally written is well known and reliable.

    1. A cogent and well-written reply, RMB. Thank you.

    2. RMB, I offered a definition of literal when using the word: Literal: in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical. …following the words of the original very closely and exactly.

      So...not figurative or metaphorical, as you offer. Now, your definition might be more accurate, but it wasn't the definition that I used.

      In any case - and as you note - we agree on the larger point: be humble, don't be so quick to judge. There are men and women of good faith who disagree on many interpretations and understandings. This is as it must be, because we are discussing God...for goodness sake.

    3. Yeah, I noticed I wasn't commenting on your definition so much as one that I have seen used in general for biblical interpretation. The 2 broad categories are Literal and Allegorical. Literal means you take words as they mean in normal conversation, use whatever literary devices that are present in the text, and go from there. Allegorical is where everything has a deeper spiritual meaning. Words become symbols of something else, but the meaning in derived from the interpreter not the text.

      I bring it up because the amillenial view of eschatology depends on an allegorical interpretation of Revelation, Zechariah, Joel, Daniel, etc.

  5. "As I have internalized these thoughts, my faith has grown significantly."

    That is really the most important part of all this. Thanks for sharing!

    1. A life with Christ is greater than a life with liberty for sure. It'd be wonderful to have both though!

  6. I wouldn't worry about Saker's ridicule. For the Christian, scripture is the first place one goes, not the church "fathers." While the patristic writers are useful, sometime they are wrong and cite myth (one refers to records of the Phoenix, for example).

    Saker is just peachy with Putinist Russia, but he won't live there, claiming it's too dangerous for him. The reality is that Russia is a corrupt hot mess that is nearly bankrupt. His constant use of the term "Ukronazi" marks him as an intentionally ignorant idiot.

    1. I am with you Quartermaster. The Church Fathers were commenting on the Bible nothing more. Some are great. Others, like Origen, probably didn't even believe in Jesus.

    2. Quartermaster, I agree with you regarding whatever Saker said about me, etc. I disagree with you regarding your view of him. But it isn't worth debating this here.

  7. This is the lens through which evangelicals view the Holy Bible:

    "The Perspicuity of Scripture"
    by Larry D. Pettegrew (

    When I was young and a fresh seminary graduate, I could have written the above article myself. More than thirty years later, I find it to be but a clockwork for knowing God--one void of tradition and mystery, bordering on arrogance. To be sure, the most critical issue of the Scripture is plain: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But to declare each man an exegete?

    As always, thank you Bionic for leaving no stone unturned.

    1. What is the Bible declares everyone an exegete? These passages are about all believers.

      1 John 2
      27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

      1 Peter 2
      9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

      Tradition is fine but Jesus rebuked Pharisees for following tradition over Bible which is the same reason the Protestants protested.

    2. If you read the essay I mentioned, you would find that Christ gave his church pastors who are "apt to teach" (1 Tim 3:2). If Christ gave that gift, it suggests that some are better exegetes than others.

      As my dear professor of church history said, "Catholics have one Pope. Protestants have thousands of popes."

    3. Geoff, I admit I didn't read the article. But I am familiar with 1 Timothy 3-5, Titus 2, 1 Peter 5, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, etc.

      Teachers/pastors are a gift and gifted at exegesis. I agree. But not necessary for an individual to learn the Bible according to 1 John 2, John 14 and 16.

  8. I read a book that goes into great detail about the confusion in understanding the Semitic texts of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. When those spoken languages were written, they were mostly three consonant words, no vowels, no accent marks. Many words of different literal meanings were spelled the same.

    The book, 'The Bible Came from Arabia' by Kamal Salibi, notes that the Hebrew names of the tribes of Israel are found all across western Arabia, in family names and place names. The Muslim holy city of Medina (Yathrib) use to be mostly Jewish.

    The interpretations of biblical history (the travels of Abraham, Moses in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the 40 years in the wilderness, the location of the promised land, etc.) are all subject to reinterpretation.

  9. What a disjointed bunch of ridiculous woo-woo and a crock of HS!

    Like Edward Snowden, in his book, “Permanent Record,” who described working for the “government,” so-called, and how he, Edward, developed a growing skepticism over what he was seeing and that things were “...not checking out…”, you, too, need to develop a “growing skepticism” over your “faith.”

    In your dismount, you say, “...Reason does not do battle with faith…”

    This is because “faith” is incapable of battle with “reason.” Faith, that being assumptions without evidence, is unfit for a grown human being to employ in such an area as said individual’s belief in a god, a bible, an afterlife, or a soul, etc.

    Regarding your “faith,” you need to start at the beginning.

    For example, was there even a “Jesus”?

    There is no shortage of “reason” out there for you to consider. Begin your journey.

    Subscribe to the podcast, “The Atheist Experience” for a starter.

    Watch a Richard Carrier YouTube.

    Christianity is not compatible with reason nor is it compatible with Liberty.

    Stop everything you’re doing and try and clear your head of this religious woo-woo.

    Good luck.

    1. But yet most of your propositions are based on Faith.

      Start here. Is the material all there is? Logic tell us no. Math is an immaterial reality. The pictures in your mind are an immaterial reality. Platonic forms are an immaterial reality. There is more to existence than matter. Material atheism can't be.

    2. Oh, Bill. You have convinced me with your damning words. Thanks for this. No need for you to ever stop by again to see if I have changed my ways - your eloquence and logic have convinced me of your sane conclusions.

    3. Voting Rights
      Healthcare Rights
      Reproductive Rights
      TSA Pat-Down Rights
      National Security State Surveillance Rights
      Free and Compulsory Education Rights
      Collective Bargaining Rights
      Equal Employment Rights
      Fair Housing Rights
      Equal-Access-To-Private-Lunch-Counter Rights
      Animal Rights
      Tenant Rights
      Gay Rights
      Migrant Rights

      "But . . . but .. . but . . . muh property rights, muh Non-Aggression Principle, muh 'taxation is theft'!"

      Rights. They're a religion.


  10. Re: "Idol and icon:" We are all icons of God, or at least called by God to be his icons. How many are likely to refer to themselves as God? Yet, to refer to Jesus as God is to make him an idol. Idols are worshipped as God because they're not transparent.

    Prior to understanding God or the bible through theology, they didn't just study divinity, they engaged in divinity. John is not a theologian. He is referred to as "John the divine". Jesus doesn't just refer to himself as "the light of the world", but points out that his disciples are as well. The early church adopted the title of "the way" as well when referring to themselves. This is blasphemy to the modern ear.

    "But to think that we can comprehend the Word is arrogance of the highest order."

    Yes, but the bible isn't calling us to think, but union in, with, and through the spirit filled logos. The faith that is understood isn't the faith lived. Christ is the mediator, not our intellect. While they're not in opposition, the intellect is unnecessary as a mediator, and should never be the goal.
    "the Bible as irrational, not grounded in reason? he will only come to understand God more deeply."

    God is not grounded in reason or understanding. God is grounded in Spirit. It isn't that God is irrational, but non rational. God is not a Supreme intelligibility or Supreme idea. One's understanding can never stand under, or be more fundamental than Ultimate reality. The intellect only provides an additional mediator where Christ is the only mediator necessary.

    "we have been given Jesus Christ to aid us in our understanding."

    No, this isn't Christ's purpose. Salvation isn't an intellectual exercise. Revelation allows one to understand, but that's not its purpose.

    It's the difference between saying,"we are all witnesses of this." verses a profession of faith based upon the witness of others. Seeing is truly believing, yet for those who conform their lives to what they haven't seen, are blessed because they are conforming their lives to reality which also aids in understanding, but again the purpose is to see rather than just believe. The miracles come not with understanding, but by direct connection with the truth. One doesn't have to think about it. It's a "no-brainer". There is no decision to make when one has a direct connection to God. This is only through the spirit. The logos without the spirit kills. We do not grasp the spirit. The spirit takes hold of us. By definition, the word is never what it means or signifies

  11. This is the most interesting discussion on biblical language I've yet read. Thanks!

    "Many want to take the Bible literally. You cannot – God cannot be understood in such a manner"

    I definitely agree, at least in some degree, though I think there are events in the Bible that must be taken as historically true in order for it to mean anything, specifically those events in the life of Christ chronicled in the four Gospels, and most especially the events of the Passion.

    If one believes that Jesus, the Son of God, was not actually born of the virgin Mary, was not condemned to death by Pontius Pilate and crucified, and was not resurrected from the dead on the third day, then in what sense would one be a Christian? Could one be considered a Christian, because one believes the beauty of the story of Christ's journey on earth reflects some sort of mythological, metaphorical, metaphysical or psychological truth?

    To be clear, I'm not saying this was your argument. The quote I highlighted above just sent me off on a tangent I've taken quite often in my own mind.

    Much of the Old Testament, especially the Creation story, and Revelation, I'm okay with being taken metaphorically (I'm a "hallway" kinda guy, in C.S. Lewis' sense), but the New testament would seem to rise and fall on the historical accuracy of the accounts therein.

    Thankfully, as far as I'm aware, it has stood the test of time.

    1. But if parts are literal and other parts are metaphorical, how do you decide that? Or who gets to decide that? What things would indicate to a reasonable person what is allegory, metaphor and what is literal?

    2. ATL: "I definitely agree, at least in some degree"

      After I published this and stared at it again, I felt not very good about how I wrote this. Yes, some things must be taken as quite literal (albeit even literal means we see through words).

      RMB, my less than authoritative response: the Holy Spirit guides us here. What changed that Peter went from being a wimp to being a rock? The Holy Spirit came to him...and Peter understood.

    3. Yes, definitely Holy Spirit, He is necessary and sufficient. In terms of the text, you can look at the type of literature, context, etc. The Bible gives lots of clues to guide you.

  12. RMB has already expressed the thoughts I was having. I might add to his, the difficulties in understanding are not all the same. I may understand perfectly the vocabulary used by a teacher, but completely miss the content. I think you have conflated them regarding the disciples lack of understanding and by extension, ours. Linguists of all faiths have immense agreement on the meanings of the words while at the same time expressing gross misunderstandings of the teachings.
    I think you have a straw man regarding literalness. I'm not familiar with anyone who has said there are no literary forms anywhere in the canon. So no, asserting you read the Bible literally is not to say that there is no hyperbole or imagery. It is more to say that Origin went too far with his fanciful allegorization of Scripture. It does mean what it says whether it says it literally or figuratively. It is a fact Jesus is the Good Shepherd. We all understand that to mean he identifies himself and his ministry with what He said earlier that a good shepherd does, i.e gives his life for His sheep. Likewise, Jesus is the door. He has no hinges or knobs but no one gets to the Father except through that door.

    1. Yeah, Origen, really is the bad guy. Introduced Greek myth interpretation methodology into the church.

    2. Unknown "I'm not familiar with anyone who has said there are no literary forms anywhere in the canon."

      I am familiar with many who say that the Bible must be taken literally...they say this so forcefully while at the same time identifying there own personal exemptions.

      Even while stating the exemptions, they state this - and also state that someone else's exemptions aren't valid: "You are not taking the Bible literally!" they yell.

  13. I very much appreciate this presentation, BM. So many people look at one passage, or one verse even, read it literally and think that they have the mind of God on the subject. For my part, I have learned that if I want to better understand a Bible subject, I have to look at every passage where that particular subject is discussed. I have gotten more than a few surprises following that path.

  14. Interesting article; thank you for sharing it. Food for thought: Psalm 138:2 "...for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." 2 Timothy chapter 2:15 "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy chapter 3:16-17 "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Peter chapter 1:20-21 "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Anyways. Peace to you.