Just how clueless were the biblical writers?

Apostle PualThe title to this post reflects a question that’s been growing in my mind as I read what many are writing about the Bible these days. Seemingly, the biblical writers were pretty clueless.

You know, like when the Pentateuch talks about God wanting people to offer sacrifice for sin. Fortunately, later writers (the prophets) corrected this misconception. There’s no sin between people and God. Just bad feelings and frustration. God didn’t want sacrifice. He just wants people to feel better.

And that talk about God being angry? That’s just ancient writers projecting their feelings into the text. God is love. God is forgiveness.

Hints that salvation is a privilege and not a right? Merely a reflection of the views of ancient people living near God’s people. God wants everyone to be happy and plans to save everyone. The apostles risked their lives preaching the gospel to let people know that they would be saved no matter what they did or believed.

And as clueless as the biblical writers were, I must be even more so. Because I just can’t wrap my mind around the rewrites of the Bible progressive Christianity offers. And I’m silly enough to think that inspiration counts for something. Go figure.

How the Bible’s format affects us

scrollsI’ve been sharing some thoughts and musings about the format of the Bible, the fact that we have it as one volume when it is in fact many books put together. Some of my thinking on this came from a conversation I had in Cuba.

A man who was visiting Cuba from another Latin American country shared with me some thoughts on sin. As he laid out his arguments, he pulled together passages from several different New Testament books. No regard for context. No regard for differing authorship. Sentences and phrases cut and pasted together to make an unusual point.

As you can probably tell, I was quite dismayed at this man’s approach. (He was there to do training) Later I got to thinking that people might be less inclined to build unbiblical arguments using biblical texts if the different biblical books were bound separately. Maybe we would have a better grasp of context, literary style, authorial intent, etc. if each book were a separate volume on our shelf.

Maybe, maybe not. As we ponder such things, we also have to think about the nature of inspiration… but that’s a discussion for another post.

Anyway, I’m back to the question I raised a few posts ago:

We talk about “Scripture,” viewing the writings as a singular work. One book. The Bible talks about scriptures, the holy writings, a group of books.

Doesn’t it seem like that affects how we view the contents?

Hebrew scriptures

scrollsLike many in churches of Christ, I grew up with an understanding that the Bible basically had two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament contained an old law that we were no longer under; the New Testament contained the law that replaced that old one.

Jews have never seen their scriptures as a single unit, the Old Testament that I grew up with. And they certainly never considered it all to be law.

There is the Torah. This is Scripture, with a capital S. This is God’s Law. This is The Law.

The other writings are exactly that… other writings. The Prophets are a Word from God for his people and are treated as such. (Some books which we consider to be “history” are considered prophetic books by the Jews, such as the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings) Then there are the poetic books: Psalms, Proverbs, and Job. There are the Five Scrolls, the five books that are read on the different Jewish feast days. And there are the other books. But none of them compares with the Torah in terms of weight and authority.

There’s a vast gulf between that view of Hebrew (and Aramaic) scriptures and the flat view I grew up with. Again, I have to wonder how the different ways of viewing God’s Word affect our understanding.

The format of the Bible

scrollsI’ve been thinking some about the format of the Bible. That is, the idea of the Bible as a book.

Obviously it wasn’t originally a book. It was a group of books (scrolls actually).

The Jews didn’t have their scriptures in a book. Or I guess their “Good Book” was the Torah; other writings were grouped into separate scrolls.

We talk about “Scripture,” viewing the writings as a singular work. One book. The Bible talks about scriptures, the holy writings, a group of books.

Doesn’t it seem like that affects how we view the contents?

Scrolls” by Clarence is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

The Bible condemns…

kidsBiblesI was thinking about a phrase we hear sometimes: “The Bible condemns…” Can you give me some insights into this phrase?

Can you think of a place where the Bible talks about Scripture condemning something?

What do we mean when we say that? Is it “the Bible says this is wrong”? Or is it “the Bible says you will be condemned if you do it”?

How do you understand it when someone says “the Bible condemns _____”?