Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Interpreting the Bible

I have come across so many different interpretations of the Bible lately that I thought I would write about it. I took a class on it in college called hermeneutics. I really enjoyed the class because I learned a lot about the practice of interpreting the Bible, but especially because the teacher told us plenty of examples of times where we use a verse to back up our argument when that is not what the verse means. I have heard that a lot in the Christian ranks.
We need to take a humble approach when studying and understanding the Bible. We all have presuppositions as a result of how we were brought up. And it is easy to say, well this is how I have always known it, so it must be true. We must humbly come to the Scriptures and study to see what passages are really saying. To understand what the author and God are trying to communicate, we must study the background, context, who they are writing to and why, the culture and customs, and also the language. Unfortunately, humans did the translation of the Bible and words change meanings as well.
One must also be careful where resources are found for interpretation. Scholars are humans too, and many disagree, soooo..... someone has to be wrong in their interpretation. That is why it takes much time in study before we become sure of a meaning, and then even still, unless it is a major proven doctrine, we must not be dogmatic about its meaning and label everyone else as liars.
Well, there are other thoughts on my mind for this post, but if it gets too long, I will lose the 3 people that visit my blog.


Seda said...

You make some good points, David. It can be really tricky. Filtered through two thousand years (or more) of changing culture, not to mention our culture being different, and translations from at least one language to another by men (almost always men) who carry their own assumptions and agenda, how can you be sure what the author(s) meant?

But can't we all agree that the heart of the gospel is love? "Love thy god with all thy heart, and love others as yourself." "Love your enemies." Jesus wasn't too concerned about doctrine - he defied the law (as the spiritual leaders of his time understood it) left and right. James said, "Faith without works is dead." So perhaps we have a guidepost to measure doctrine by.

And I have the sense that the focus on doctrine is misplaced anyway. What does it really mean to love fully? With all your heart, and your mind, and your soul?

Jewda said...

I've been amazed by some of the things I've read in the Bible post-koolaid drinking. I've been told some things over and over, and I never took the time to really search the Scriptures. I see where I was taught a lot of bias...particularly at school. Before I lose 3 of your readers, I'll stop my comment.

David Carrel said...

Yes Seda, love is above all what we should do. I Corinthians 13 as I have heard you quote and that you love, says we can have faith and much more, but above all these is charity or love. So yes, love should be the guidepost.
Doctrine is good to have to, but without love our doctrine is dead. I Timothy 3:16-17 is a good verse for doctrine. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitably for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; That the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto good works." So we have doctrine to teach us how to live and to have the end result of good works.
Thanks Seda, and Jeff, thanks for not losing any of my readers and letting me lose them with this post. Oh, and the post-koolaid took me a minute, but that is funny.