…more on reading the Bible

Posted on Aug 3, 2015 in Theology blog | 0 comments

by Jack Irwin

It is touted by all points of view that  each’s  interpretation is based on “what the Bible Says.”  In the following I examine two points of view on how to interpret Scrhipture, which upon review turn out to be very contrary in the paradigm used, which depends upon two fundamental positions:  1. How One Interprets the Scripture and 2.  How One Regards Revelation by the Lord.

Besides asking what the Biblical authors meant when they wrote, we need to ask a second question:  How to interpret the meaning of the Bible for ourselves.  

It is one exercise to ask what the original author meant within his context.  The follow on task is to ask what it means for us today — of course, this leads to disputes within the context of our contemporary context.

Now one great dispute is this- the literalist says that What the Bible text meant to the original author also applies fully to us today.  Whereas, the opposing point of view says, “we are reformed AND REFORMING.”

The best example of REFORMING is Jesus himself and the early church, who both had to reform the meaning of the Old Testament in reflection on the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.  We see the early church of the first century, as exemplified through the Gospels and the Letters and Revelation, struggling to reform the Jewish understanding of God based on the Hebrew Scriptures, called the “Old Testament” in our Christian Bibles.

The best concept of revelation that I have found to support the “Reformed and Reforming” paradigm is “progressive revelation”  which preserves the integrity of the former revelations while allowing us and God to move on to new revelations.  

Let me make an example of Progressive Revelation.  The Law was good,  and it is still good,as Jesus reformed it.  The Law that came through Moses to the Israelites included three parts:  moral, religious (worship, priests, feasts, sacrifice, first Tabernacle and then Temple) and governmental (or judicial).  How I see the reforming is that the period for the religious and governmental laws was over with the new revelation in Jesus.  But the Moral Law of Moses was still applicable under the New Covenant.  The moral Law was supported by Jesus, as in the Sermon on the Mount, or elsewhere where he quoted to the greatest commandments (Love the Lord and Love you Neighbor). 

Some scholars and theologians say that the Law and the “Old Covenant” it represented was abrogated or replaced entirely by the revelation of the Christ.  In other words, the Law which was part of the “Old Covenant” was superseded by the teachings of Jesus.  This point of view tends to regard the Law and the Old Covenant as “bad,” needing to be junked and replaced by the “New Covenant.”  This would lead to the conclusion that Christians need not follow the Law of the Old Covenant at all.  This created a problem in the early church, and Paul, especially, wrote that Christians were not free of the Law and should not behave as libertarians (see Romans 6:1-2 where  St. Paul wrote, “Shall we go on sinning, that grace may more abound?  By no means!”)

Not only Paul supported the Moral Law, but Jesus supported the Moral aspects of the Law, and in fact, re-emphasized them.  The Ten commandments were prohibitions; Jesus took these prohibitions to a higher level (see Sermon on the Mount), and then made the Law’s requirements not just prohibitions but commands to perform good acts, not just avoid bad acts (see the parable of the Good Samaritan which contrasted prohibitions to avoid doing something “bad” against position actions for good). 

Both Paul and Jesus were reforming the Old Testament Law to adapt to the new and progressive revelation of God in Jesus the Christ.

Of course, the literalists reject progressive revelation, but they adjust their position by now saying that the reforming by Jesus and the early church is acceptable because it is in the Canon, but since then any reforming is NOT the revelation of God, wh is only contained in the Canon,a very simplistic approach, but touted by many evangelical and conservative scholars.  Hence, their interpretation of Scripture is based upon their concept of revelation.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth.  The Old Testament allowed slavery.  The New Testament writings did not decry slavery.  Therefore, should we not be against it.  However, is not It extra Biblical truth that slavery is evil!!  Has the Holy Spirit revealed this to humankind since the first century, since the closing of the canon?  So even the HS is a source of extra Biblical truth.  

But the conservatives say that “the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth” means that the HS will help us understand the “truths” in the Canon!!  And not invent “new truths.”  They have a closed system.  

We believe in an open system.  Theirs is static.  Ours is dynamic, which is what any healthy relationship sh be, even a rel with the Lord.



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