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Disagreeing With The Bible 4

Scriptures versus Love
“Scriptures Versus Love” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Read Disagreeing With The Bible Part 1
Disagreeing With The Bible Part 2
Disagreeing with The Bible Part 3
and The Bible Says.

It has come up before. It seems to me that the Bible is not some sort of homogenous text by one inspiring author, consistent from Genesis to Revelation. I discern development – be it in the understanding of God, or what happens when we die, or how we should live.

And it is to that trajectory that I pay attention. When, as just one example, I read of YHWH being the best god, that fits with a trajectory from animism, polytheism, henotheism (there are many gods – we follow this one as our “patron god”), to monotheism. Honesty with the biblical texts leads to seeing different beliefs expressed throughout its lengthy history.

And this is true for so much in the Bible.

Might we find God speaking to us in the trajectory more than (or as well as) in the individual texts?

Initially, the image at the top of this post was a cartoon of Jesus speaking to people in his day saying that he used love to interpret what the scriptures mean and they used the scriptures to interpret what love means. The cartoonist was criticised for antisemitic bias – a criticism levelled at Thesis 3: “the New Testament cannot be rightly understood apart from the Old, nor can the Old rightly be understood apart from the New”. The cartoonist, David Hayward, apologised and redrew the cartoon. He is even considering a third iteration.

Acknowledging the antisemitic and supersessionist issue, I would posit that within the First Testament a trajectory is able to be discerned. As a Christian, I posit that Jesus fits comfortably along that trajectory. As a Christian, I posit that Jesus is the lens through which we read the texts and discern the trajectory. I also suggest that the trajectory didn’t stop at the historical Jesus [ie. the situation for Christians is akin to that for Jews].

We all interpret some verses in the light of others, some texts in the light of others. I well remember a Jehovah Witness pair coming to my front door – older mentor, younger apprentice – and as they opened their Bible to prove that Jesus is not God from the left page, I spotted a verse that indicated he was which just happened to be on the adjoining right hand page. Said the older mentor: “We interpret (right hand page) verse in the light of this (left hand page) verse.” To which I responded: “Ah – but I interpret this (left hand page) verse in the light of this (right hand page) verse.”

To be continued…

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2 Responses to Disagreeing With The Bible 4

  1. Not much to disagree with there Bosco.

    Using Love to interpret the scriptures is essentially saying use the tools God, who is love, gave us to interpret the scriptures eg Jesus, the Church, experience, development in state law etc.

    OTOH, the history of scriptural interpretation, and human society, is replete with examples of how we didn’t understand love, so bringing our interpretation of love to the scriptures has its own limitations.

    I think that rabbinic Judaism has given us very helpful tools for understanding the Hebrew scriptures, which has been very helpfully developed in modern Judaism. But it’s an interesting question as to what influence Jesus and the early Church had on the development of that magnificent tradition.

    Many Blessings

  2. Well said ( as usual )

    My son just set me up a ‘Hulu’ network subscription, I’ve taken three months off work to get well ( G_d willing ) so I will look out for the West Wing series, I guess I missed that!

    Amusing when people of different denominations come to call, the LDS missionaries used to visit me, and could not help themselves: ‘so, have you taken Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?’…’Before you were born.’…’and are you willing to accept Christ into your heart?’ etc etc ( at least that’s how I remember it )

    I can’t imagine any of another faith tradition being so blatantly insensitive, well they haven’t to me.

    A religious teacher here in Houston, Dr Jill Carroll, referred to it as ‘the near other’ and it leads to some surreal conversations.

    ‘As a Christian, I posit that Jesus is the lens through which we read the texts’ ( Bosco )

    Amen to that, start with the words of Jesus and the Bible radiates out as a ‘living word’. And doesn’t merely deteriorate into an ‘excuses for my perspective/ situation/ behaviour’ type thing.

    Love and kindness are everything, if there’s only one self-discipline to be had it’s- always be kind.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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