Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who is the Bible for?
In a nutshell, I think that we can import our culture too much, but to say that we must understand the bible only if we understand exactly what was in the mind of Paul, Peter, Amos, etc. is dangerous at best. We do use culture, but the bible was authored by God to all, not (to take the example above) authored by Paul to Timothy (highlighting the difference between author and scribe, essentially). To me, to view the bible through our culture first or through (whatever century) Jewish culture first is a gross importation of culture.

In a slightly related link:
Justin Taylor

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I disagree that you must understand Shammai and Hillel. Christ gives His context (He is the author, after all) to understanding. The fact that Christ says "except" tells us that He is speaking not on the absolute of whether or not, but in a nod toward the "when is it legal". Knowing the culture certainly sheds light on what the Pharisees’ motivations were, but the real question Christ is answering is, well, shown in what He answers.

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Well said (and James K., too!).

I might not categorize dispensationalism as quite in the category as open theism, egalitarianism and the acceptance of homosexuality, though (taking a plain text and obscuring it or expanding it as Donald does above). But I am not adroit enough to defend either side (not that I am in other categories, either, mind you).

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I suppose I see act as a Berean means study the scriptures, not culture first, then the scriptures. I see the view of the adding information not originally in the bible as a contradiction of the idea of being a Berean (i.e. eagerly studying the scriptures). And, I suppose, saying culture is what ultimately defines the meaning is flawed since we don’t a) know Christ’s thoughts (to speak specifically to this) and b) we still only have a good idea of Jewish culture. You have to assume what pieces of culture dictate meaning (and, in this case, attempt to peer into the mind of Christ). Over and over God states that we let the scriptures inform us. I guess I just see that God did write them to us to be understood plainly. I don’t think that it means that all scripture is easy, it’s not, but that’s a fractional exception (ha ha, punny), not a rule.

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The challenge is teleporting what the scribes (Paul, Peter, David, etc.) thought. Not only is that not something we can do, I don't think it's wise to try to discern reading between the lines. If we were to apply that thinking, then, as an example, Matthew would be incorrect in citing Isaiah as a prophetic writing about the messiah, Christ would have been wrong to correct the Jewish culture from Moses’ time, etc. In the end, I think that Christ went out of His way to make a grand example and say stop injecting our (self reasoned) ideals and culture (whether 1st Cen AD, BC or 20th cen AD) into His words. Stop making law say what He didn’t say. We do run the risk of teleporting God’s word into a relativistic cultural setting one way or the other. It seems a plain reading would be preferred over an inferential reading if at all possible. Or so go my thoughts.

And, just to make sure it isn’t lost, I think that both of us would pray fervently that we understand and apply what we are reading. Problems can arise in both camps (if this issue is taken as an either or, that is). I certainly don’t claim perfect understanding (as you would avoid as well, I think, well, I sure hope ;-)).

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