Taking The Bible Seriously And Not Literally
I love the Bible! I have written on this blog of my love for God’s word. (see https://godwrestler.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/bible-study-as-a-subversive-act/) Most of my blogs contain a verse or two. I believe, support, and promote reading the bible on our own in community. Let me explain: We should read the Bible on our own, then bring our insights into a loving and welcoming community either through friendship with fellow believers or a bible study group.
Someone recently challenged me on how I see the bible. They wrote:
Can the Bible really be authoritative for our faith if we can pick and choose what to denote as real and what to treat as myth? Human nature being what it is, won’t the majority of people be tempted to accept as “real” what accords with their desires or predispositions, while applying the myth label to that which is uncomfortable for them. In other words, can the Bible truly be authoritative if we can decide which parts of it to treat as authoritative?
many others, starting from the same premises, have ended up placing the Resurrection in the same category as the one you assign to the Genesis creation account – a useful religious myth but not history. Since, according to Paul, the whole of the Christian faith stands or falls with the historical truth of the Resurrection, I’m wondering how, in your approach, you can distinguish between these two stories, both of which are, in scientific terms, equally impossible?
Some hard questions.
First, some definitions than I will respond to those questions.
Myth: “A myth is not a lie. A whole mythology is an organization of symbolic images and narratives, metaphorical of the possibilities of human experience and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time.” (Joseph Campbell)
Literal: In a literal manner or sense; exactly: “the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the traffic circle”. Used to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling. (Google)
Seriously: Deeply interested or involved, concerned with important rather than trivial matters. (thefreedictionary.com)
Myth is not a lie. I call the Adam and Eve a myth, Noah’s flood story, and other stories in bible a myth because they more than likely did not happen and they point to something beyond the story itself. The Adam and Eve story for instance tells us that we were created to be in relationship with God and others. For me that is far more important than whether it is a factual story. I have called the Adam and Eve story a myth before and each time someone has a problem with it. I don’t understand why its so very important for some to see the Adam and Eve story as an event in history. Its almost like I was saying that their grandparents were a figment of their imagination.
At no time has anyone of the Jewish faith called it anything but a story. Jewish people do not accept original sin as biblical truth. Its not in the bible. A Literal reading of the bible is just the wrong way to read the bible. Its small and doesn’t correspond to the greatness of the bible and the wisdom it teaches. The book of Job is not factual but a book length parable that teaches us truths than mere words could never adequately do. The book of Ruth also has been called a book length parable by at least one bible scholar.
I engage the bible on an honest and intelligent level and don’t settle for a literalized surface reading.
Here are some “Sins of Scripture”:
Leviticus 20:13–If a man lies with another man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood is on their own heads.
Leviticus 20:27–A man or woman who is a medium spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.
Deuteronomy 17:12–The man who shows contempt for the judges or the priest… must be put to death
Deuteronomy 21:18-21–If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey… his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders… then all the men of his town shall stone him to death.
1 Corinthians 14:34–women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must remain in submission, as the Law says.
1 Timothy 2:11-12–A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
I do not think that the God of Jesus, the God of love and wonders sanctions murder and sexism. A literalist reading of the bible sanctions murder, sexism, rape, genocide, and tribal thinking. Also, a literalist reading of the bible does violence to both the bible and God. I don’t think these or other verses like them align with Jesus or the true living God. Those verses were applicable at one time, not anymore. As a Rabbi said in a documentary that I saw said, “We just don’t do that anymore.”
There are at least two pastors who are preaching that the goverment should kill homosexuals. I think that is wrong and goes against everything Jesus lived and taught. That it goes against the gospel. If My pastor were to preach or say that I would leave the church not to return. I would try to find another community. I know my pastor would not even think about saying that. I don’t think anyone who truly is a Jesus follower would say it either.
I believe the resurrection is an event in history. It happened. I cannot say it any simpler. Anyone who knows me or has read the majority of my blogs knows I affirm Jesus as Lord and Savior of all, the love of God, and the resurrection. I am not a traditional Christian. I am that purple marble in the bag of black and whites. Yet, I am committed to really following Jesus and pointing others to the love and grace of God found int Jesus Christ.
If I must affirm Adam and Eve as factual and science as wrong to be a Christian than I will drop that label and continue to follow my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know that a Christian to affirm the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ need not see Adam and Eve as factual or science wrong, so I am fine. I follow Jesus not the Bible. I follow Jesus not a religion or theology.
Taking the bible means knowing God loves you, Jesus died for your sins and shaping your life by these facts.
I can only speak from my personal experience, what I have read (the Bible and other books), and the conversations I have had with my pastor and others. I do not claim to have all the answers. I am still seeking and following Jesus and always will.
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