“aha” moments: biblical scholars tell their stories (1): me

Following on my last post, here is the first installment of a series–biblical scholars from evangelical backgrounds telling their stories about their “aha” moments that convinced them they needed to find different ways of handling the Bible than how they had been taught.

In the last day I’ve already gotten 10 scholars who want to participate and I expect more to come. My plan is to post their thoughts as they come in rather than all right after the other.

The purpose of this series, more than anything, is to encourage followers of Jesus who are on similar journeys–those who are finding that how they were taught to think about the Bible does not have adequate explanatory power for engaging the Bible as they now read it. You’re not alone. And it’s all good.

OK, I’ll go first.

Like most of those who will contribute to this series, there wasn’t just “one” moment that moved me from one place to another. It was more a culmination of many moments over many years–some feeling like a 2×4 over the head and others more a whisper.

Overall, as I continued to pay more and more attention to the details of the Bible, it became harder and harder to shake the feeling that Bible wasn’t behaving as I had always been told it most certainly does–needs to–behave.

What drove this home to me–one of these culminating “aha” moments– happened during my doctoral work and centered on just one verse: 1 Corinthians 10:4: “for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

I try to be brief here, since I touched on this quickly in The Bible and the Believer: How to Read the Bible Critically and Religiously, and will lay it all out in chapter 1 of my upcoming book The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read ItBut here’s the gist.

In this verse Paul refers to Christ as the “rock that accompanied” the Israelites through the desert. Paul is alluding to the episode–actually 2 episodes–in the Pentateuch, where the Israelites get water from a rock while wandering in the desert for 40 years.

For Paul to equate Christ with the rock is a typical example of his Christ-centered reading of his scripture (our Old Testament): the savior was present with God’s people then as he is now.

What threw me, though, was that word “accompanied.”

One day in class, my professor James Kugel was lecturing on the creative ways that Second Temple Jewish interpreters handled these episodes. He explained that water coming from the rock twice–once at the beginning of the wilderness period (Exodus 17) and again toward the end of the 40-year period (Numbers 20)–led some Jewish interpreters to conclude that the “two” rocks were actually one and the same, hence, one rock accompanied the Israelites on their 40-year journey.

There is a certain “ancient logic” at work here. After all, if the Israelites had manna given to them miraculously every morning, are we to think that the corresponding miraculous supply of water was only given twice, 40 years apart!? Of course not.

So, to solve this problem, the water supply became mobile. For some interpreters it was a stream through the desert, but for others the rock of Exodus 17 followed the Israelites for 40 years and was mentioned again in Numbers 20.

Evangelicals could write off this bit of biblical “interpretation” as entertaining or just plain silly, but 1 Corinthians 10:4 complicates things. When Paul refers to Jesus not just as the rock but the accompanying rock, he, as a Jewish interpreter, is showing his familiarity with and acceptance of this creative Jewish reading of the Old Testament.

Let me put a finer point on that: no rock moved in the Old Testament, but Paul said one did. Paul says something about the Old Testament that Old Testament doesn’t say. He wasn’t following the evangelical rule of  “grammatical-historical” contextual interpretation. He was doing something else–something weird, ancient, and Jewish.

My Bible was no longer protected under glass. It was out there, part of its very odd, ancient world that I really didn’t understand.

For Paul–an inspired apostle–to accept such a strange legend and treat it as fact is not something that can be easily brought into an evangelical framework. “But Paul is inspired by God! He would never say something like this!!”

But he did.

And it struck me that Paul probably couldn’t get a job teaching at the seminary that taught me about Paul.

Understand, as I said above, that this aha moment didn’t happen in isolation. It came in the context of years of pretty intense and in-depth doctoral work where my main area of focus was Second Temple biblical interpretation.

But here, at this moment, some tumblers clunked heavily into place. I was seeing a bigger picture, not just about this one verse but about the Bible as a whole. I was seeing right before my eyes that Paul and the other New Testament writers were part of this ancient world and they too handled their Bible in highly creative ways that were not anchored in the “original meaning” of the text but were transposed and altered in keeping with Jewish interpretive conventions of the day.

Evangelical attempts to make Paul sound more evangelical and less Jewish–to make him into a “sound” interpreter rather than a creative one–immediately rang hollow, and continue to. And I knew back then, as I do now, that the older model of biblical interpretation I had been taught was not going to cut it. I couldn’t deny what I was seeing. I knew I had some thinking to do.

That happened over 20 years ago, and the memory is still vivid. And it’s fair to say this aha moment, along with others before and since, have shaped my life’s work of trying to understand the Bible rather than defend it. And that is to me much more interesting, meaningful, and spiritually enriching.

 

 

 

 

open letter to the apostle Paul from a concerned reader
Who's up for a little New Testament quiz? (sure you are. do it.)
get to know me: my approach to interpreting the Bible, in 5 words
brief Bible thought: is there resurrection from the dead in the Old Testament?
  • Eric Weiss

    One day in class, my professor James Kugel…

    Well, there’s your problem right there. You studied under Kugel. That would be enough to challenge any “Bible believer’s” faith. :)

    (I got chastised by a friend re: The Bible As It Was. He ordered it per my recommendation and wrote me in a rebuking manner that he was surprised I would recommend it since it was obvious to him that Kugel was a liberal and an unbeliever – or similar words to that effect.)

    • peteenns

      Are and your friend Jewish?

      • Eric Weiss

        I am by birth (not by faith). My friend is not.

        • peteenns

          I only ask b/c Kugel has his own critics within Judaism. It’s a shame your friend would label him liberal and an unbeliever. He’s Jewish. There are other categories to put people in :-)

          • Eric Weiss

            I don’t remember the exact wording of his characterization of Kugel (or of me for recommending the book). But I think that was the gist of it. I.e., Kugel doubts the inspiration of the Scriptures and substitutes Jewish legends, etc. Re: Kugel: http://www.momentmag.com/james-kugel-professor-disbelief/

  • Rainbow

    I like this story. The first time I heard you tell it, you said the full impact hit you as you were riding your bike home from school. A minor detail perhaps, but it’s the image I always associate with this story in my mind. Maybe it’s the picture of the wheels turning under your feet at the same time as in your head. It resonated with me the first time I heard it, and I enjoyed reading it again. Thanks!

    • peteenns

      Thanks, Rainbow. Good memories.

  • Brian P.

    I can’t help but think of two things here. First and foremost, this is wonderfully vulnerable and authentic.

    Second, I can’t help but think of Psalm 95, the Venite, what has perhaps been the commonest call to worship in human history. Alas, the testing and strife of Massah and Meribah… Does it happen just once? Or is it on-going? Or is it mythically both in its timelessness.

    Will we harden our hearts?

    Did Paul treat as legend or fact? That seems to be a modernistic dilemma, a Westerner’s question and questioning. Or did he treat as something else–did he treat it theologically?

    Alas, the timeless rock that gives living water.

    Sometimes, it seems, Evangelical exegesis has headily divorced itself from the richness of the tradition that has been Christian and Jewish worship.

    Not only could Paul not get a job as a modern Evangelical theologian; he couldn’t get one as a modern Evangelical worship leader.

  • Derek

    Thanks for this Peter, it’s very interesting and enlightening. I am just curious if you have read: “Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament” by D. Carson & G. Beale? If so, did you find any of it challenging to your position?

    • peteenns

      I am all too familiar with Beale and Carson on these issues. I do not find their views challenging to the position I lay out (which isn’t “my” position, but the position you’ll find outside of evangelical apologetics).

      • Pete

        In fact that book adopts and somewhat extends the same view of 1 Cor 10.4 (with several references and a long quote from Enns).

        • peteenns

          You’re right, Pete. I was (over)reacting a bit here to how Beale and Carson have generally taken me to task–and rather aggressively so–for not coming to standard evangelical conclusions. I do recall that the author of the specific article (I don’t have the volume here, it is at school–remind me of the author), was generally on board with what I previously laid out (which is hardly unique to me), and many have remarked how odd it is that in a volume edited by Beale and Carson of all people, such a view was allowed to stand. I do not think it is b/c they changed their minds!

          Anyway, good catch and thanks for bringing it up

          • Andrew Talbert

            I find Seitz and Childs a bit more robust in their approach than Beale and Carson, particularly in their engagement with textual criticism and the hermeneutics of the NT authors and the Church Fathers with an overall eye toward enhancing contemporary Christian hermeneutics. “We are not prophets or apostles.”

      • Derek

        I don’t necessarily see evangelical conclusions as an inherently bad thing as long as they provide sound reasoning as to why they reach the conclusions they do.
        Indeed, many legitimate evangelical scholars are able to accomplish this and I don’t see why we would take issue with it.

        • peteenns

          I don’t see them as *inherently* bad either, but, in the case of the current topic, methodologically bad (driven by dogma), which leads to bad conclusions. And being a “legitimate” evangelical scholar doesn’t mean the conclusions are kept safe of scrutiny, and if their conclusions are ones that only work if their dogma-driven methodologies are accepted, than we should “take issue with it.” They don’t get a free pass because some like their conclusions.

  • http://www.tillhecomes.org/ Jeremy Myers

    I am looking forward to your book. Over the past two years, I feel that the rabbit hole has opened beneath me and I am tumbling down into the darkness, hoping there is something to catch me at the bottom. Inspiration and inerrancy are the most recent questions I am facing.

    • peteenns

      I hear you, Jeremy. I appreciate the contemplative perspective you bring in your own work

    • Brian P.

      If I understand it properly, there’s nothing to catch you. There’s only a cross, death. Resurrection can only come after that. Otherwise, it’s not a resurrection and is something else.

      • http://www.tillhecomes.org/ Jeremy Myers

        Good insight. And absolutely true. Death precedes resurrection!

        • Brian P.

          The type of faith we are lamenting in these posts is often the kind that postulates Jesus as substitutionary means to bypass death, not as first fruits, not as the first pains of childbirth, after such death. How foolish! What one sows does not come to life unless it dies. I’d even go so far to assert that much of popular Evangelical Christianity denies the resurrection through its denial of the death.

          One of the authors of Isaiah once said: He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.

          • http://www.tillhecomes.org/ Jeremy Myers

            Brian,

            I love the way you think and write. Please tell me you have a blog somewhere?

          • Brian P.

            Thank you for the kind words. “Brian P.” is a pseudonym. I just friended you on FB. I’m a layman with no credentials and don’t have a blog of any sorts. I usually have little to say on my own. I often have something to say in response.

    • Sean H.

      To respond briefly, try the Dogmatics of Brunner and Barth. They show how it is Christ who is the foundation of our faith, the rock at the bottom that will catch. It is not Scripture, which, in Luther’s words, is the manger in which Christ is laid. Evangelicalism is suffering a lot now from not heeding the warnings they gave.

      • http://www.tillhecomes.org/ Jeremy Myers

        Thanks, Sean. I have both and will begin reading! Any suggestions on where to start with Barth?

        • Sean H.

          Brunner’s is far more succinct and covers a lot of the important things within the first 100 pages of vol. 1 of his dogmatics. Barth is less clear and goes all over the place but has a lot of valuable thoughts that are worth it if you catch them. The first two volumes of the Church Dogmatics, CDI.1 & I.2, cover the Doctrine of the Word of God, so you can start right at the beginning with him too.

          I’m really grateful for having read them after I was exposed to biblical criticism in my postgraduate studies, when I discovered that those evil liberals weren’t really so evil and did have reasons for believing some of the things they believed. Neo-orthodoxy has been a faith-saver.

  • Eric Hatfield

    I am not a scholar, but I had my aha moment more than 40 years ago. I was converted in a somewhat reformed Presbyterian church not long after Billy Graham held a successful crusade in Sydney. So we young evangelical bucks debated evangelism and the gospel. I was keen so I started making a list of good evangelistic Bible verses.

    After a little while, I noticed very few of the verses were from the mouth of Jesus. I looked some more, and they weren’t there. Then I had the thought: “Jesus wasn’t a very good evangelist.”

    Immediately I thought it, I knew it must by definition be wrong. But it started me on a journey to understand Jesus in his context rather than as 20th century evangelicals saw him. And so I discovered AM Hunter, later John Dickson, NT Wright, Maurice Casey, Richard Bauckham, etc, and my faith is much enriched – and better informed.

    • peteenns

      That’s a great story, Eric. I am thinking I should expand this others in addition to scholars who study scripture seriously.

  • scottcanion

    My concern for equating Paul’s use of “ancient logic” as a justification for our use of “contemporary logic” today, is the weight that we give “contemporary logic”. There’s a tendency to think of our knowledge as empirical, when I’m not certain that it’s more empirical than what Paul was relying on. I think we may be just as culture bound as Paul was in the “rolling stone” story you mention above. Somehow I should get extra points for all the quotation marks used in this paragraph.

  • John

    I’m a pastor with an MA in New Testament studies from a conservative seminary that basically doubled-down on the Chicago Statement….that was the air I breathed that was what I taught and believed, though I was beginning to have some misgivings.

    For me the aha moment that accelerated my move away from the Chicago Statement was sitting across from a new couple to our church as they asked me about women in leadership from a fairly traditional perspective. At that time I was egalitarian – yet pretty much still aligned with the way of thinking about the Bible that flows from the Chicago Statement. The couple was friendly but persistent. As I was repeatedly hit with 1 Timothy 2:12, I could feel anxiety rising up within in me.

    I felt two distinct things: 1. All levels of leadership should absolutely be open to women and; 2. Though I had read Slaves, Women and Homosexuals and quite bit else on the question – I still felt in my gut that the way of viewing the Bible set up by the Chicago Statement – really points more towards a traditional understanding of women’s roles. (I could be wrong, but I would guess that those who are the most ardent defenders of the Chicago Statement or similar frameworks will tend like the SBC towards traditional understandings of women’s roles).

    In that moment, I knew I wasn’t going to go back to a traditional view of women in leadership, and I also knew that how I thought about the Bible had changed and was changing- so my journey away from the Chicago Statement greatly accelerated.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/apocalypticwisdom/ Alan Fuller

    I guess Jesus is indeed the stumbling stone (1 Pet 2:8).

  • David

    Pete very useful and thought provoking post. Looking forward to this series. To make it even more interesting/useful perhaps at the end of the series you could have a liberal and a conservative scholar/s review the series and comment on it form their perspectives. Just a suggestion . Even as a layman and Christian I have also had my aha moments when I knew that what I had learnt at church, Sunday school etc had to be rethought, reassessed, reviewed, and even (some of it) discarded. This included Geneses 1, inerrancy, authorship of the books, slavery … I could go on and on. I am still in learning mode. And still a Christian. And I still go “aha” ever so often. More humble. Less pretentious. And much better for it

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Absolutely love the concept of this series. I remember my “process” well and look forward to hearing other stories.

  • CT

    I’m still a bit confused. Paul, by his own admission, read the scriptures as allegorical.

    If the stone was Jesus, why would they have to _keep_ drinking from it for 40 years? If it was necessary then clearly the water was not sustaining.

    So while it’s nice to think that this rock was somehow Christ, it is more likely the rock was a rock that provided actual water and that Paul is seeing something in the text that isn’t necessary.

    Of course, Jewish interpretation has often read both the literal and the figurative into the text.

    So my question is this: Couldn’t the rock have been just a rock that miraculously provided water, and if so, couldn’t Paul have been reading too much into what the OT writers were testifying about?

  • Darryl

    For me, it was during an undergrad course in Paul’s letters. We got to Gal 4, and I saw Paul breaking all the rules I was learning.

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    I’m not in the group of biblical or theological scholars in the professional sense. But my two seminary periods (M.Div. and 2 yrs. FTE toward PhD) and much personal study led me through a similar paradigm shift (of view of Scripture, interpretive method and understanding of God, broadly). I have no doubt that my grasp of its dynamic, and of reality (partial and distorted as I know it still is) has become much more accurate. And with it is not the angst or “lostness” that many Christians imagine in others or fear for themselves (and some DO experience, I realize) sliding down the “slippery slope”. Like you, I find my current posture toward the Bible interesting and my trust in the ultimate graciousness of God is as strong as ever, with much less confusion.

  • toddh

    Great, great post. I have been a Christian for a long, long time, been through years of graduate theological education, heard thousands of sermons, and that is the first time I have ever heard anything really said about that verse. Fascinating insight into ancient interpretation.

  • James

    Re: Kugel: http://www.momentmag.com/james… This article is really quite fascinating (thanks Eric, first comment) with respect to the project at hand. Interesting to compare and contrast Jews out of Orthodoxy with Christians out of Fundamentalism in the face of modern criticism. There is, we believe, a coherent hermeneutical grid through which we can mix sound scholarship (though Kugel calls it “Biblical Criticism Lite”) with classic text and come out with strengthened faith.

    • Daniel Merriman

      Have you read the essay from which it appears that Kugel first used the phrase Biblical Criticism Lite? http://www.jameskugel.com/apologetics.pdf

      I would be interested in your reaction and explanation of your last sentence if we can do it without hijacking the thread.

      • James

        Kugel himself points the way in the conclusion of his paper. “The Bible was from the beginning understood to mean something quite different from the apparent meaning of its various parts.” Enter the “interpreters” who became themselves important voices in the biblical story. So, let’s join with them and seek in the words of Scripture a message (that extends, after all) beyond that seen by the modern critical eye.” We may conclude therefore that the agendas of historian and theologian are not to be pursued so independently as first insisted. It’s just that their combination results all to often in unabashed apologetics and Biblical Criticism Lite.

        • Daniel Merriman

          Thanks. My mobile device does not play well with Dr Kugel’s web page, and I have not been able to read the whole article again since I first read it a few years back. I’m just not sure how we get from where we are to where we ought to be, which is in my mind an appreciation that scripture is, for lack of a better word, divine,even though humans wrote it. I have read “How to Read the Bible” and I don’t see much of a way forward that doesn’t frankly acknowledge that Spinoza’s children (text critics) have no role in interpreting Scripture for a faith community. Scripture must be proclaimed, not apologized for.

          I am not questioning the right of text criticism to exist. I’m just a layman, but I’ve read a fair amount of it over the last 40 years plus, up to and including folks like Ehrman. It has never caused me any faith problems, but maybe I’m just wired differently. The felt need to “reconcile” the Bible of the Curch with the Bible of the academy starts the faithful down a wrong path.

          • James

            But that sounds like saying faith and science have no connection. In the big picture, nature/history, along with any revelation of God through science/critical study, must concord somehow with the reality of the divine-human relation in Christ. We talk now of “critical realism” as a viable way forward–a route Rugal doesn’t seem all that excited about.

          • Daniel Merriman

            I have never been clear as to how critical realism differs from Scottish Common Sense Realism, if it does at all, but I would agree that Kugel doesn’t seem to think it is the answer. As much as I would like for it to be, I think it takes too much of the awe and mystery out of Christianity by changing the focus from things that are miraculous such as the Incarnation and Resurrection to the mundane– studying texts with the grammatical historical method or debating ANE archaeology.

            With due sensitivity to Dr Enns gracious allowance of conversations like this to take place, let me add that we tend to be products of the battles we have fought. At least I do. Back in the 1970′s, I was distraught when so many of my fellow “moderate” Southern Baptists tap danced around the question/challenge: “Don’t you believe the Bible?” We had a very good statement of faith on this issue, the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, but it was labeled as “Barthian” by the fundies (most of whom couldn’t correctly pronounce Barth’s name on a bet), so folks were afraid to rely on it or really even take the trouble to fully understand what it meant. I guess what I’ve come to over the years is repeating what an old pastor of mine said back when I was a teenager– Scripture points to Jesus and when we look to Jesus, He points back to Scripture and says one word: Mine.

            Please forgive me if I sound too close minded and dogmatic. You are quite obviously thinking through these issues, and if you have read Kugel at all, then you are more willing than most to seriously engage them.

          • James

            Fair enough, a battle between order and chaos. I’m glad Jesus writes Mine over it all. Yes, thanks for gracious allowance.

          • Daniel Merriman

            Not so sure about chaos. We got the early creeds from folks who made interpretive moves with Scripture that would cause them to be flunked at modern seminaries. But then again, I am a traditional Baptist, and my inclination is that,whenever I see order, I look to find out who imposed it and what their motives were. :)

          • Andrew Dowling

            “We got the early creeds from folks who made interpretive moves with
            Scripture that would cause them to be flunked at modern seminaries.”

            Ha, great line.

  • John

    I’m not sure I ever had an “aha” moment, it was more gradual, and was directly connected to actually reading what the Bible actually has to say. I have to admit, though, that I have a background in Liberal Arts and never took the Chicago Statement seriously. In fact, I find it hard to believe that anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the history of philosophy could take the document seriously.

  • MaryMD

    Some scholars seem more intent on “understanding IT” rather than “knowing HIM.” On the road to Emmaus Jesus opened the disciples’ minds and’ understanding, showing them all the places in the Torah where they could find HIM. Later the disciples spoke of how their hearts “burned” within them while Jesus was speaking, i.e. they were illuminated by the witness of the Master Teacher, Holy Spirit. However, they did not recognize or “know Him” until they sat down to eat with Him and He broke bread. Then their eyes were opened to see HIM. Talk about an “aha” moment!

  • http://www.rebeltheology.com/ Rebel Theology

    Coming out of a conservative/reformed/calvinists method of thinking I am still in my “aha” moment. Looking forward to reading other peoples’ journeys. Thanks for this series!

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    I think the distinction is between the physical rocks from which water came forth and the spiritual “rock” that followed them. What followed them? The column of fire/smoke.

    • peteenns

      Nice midrash, Donald. :-)

      • Pixie5

        Dr. Enns: So many Christians believe that Paul was intentionally writing “scripture” instead of writing guidelines for the new Church. The fact is that Paul, along with most of the early Christians, thought Jesus was returning within their lifetime. When he said to read the scriptures, he meant the Torah as even the gospels were not written yet!
        And as you point out, he drew from his Jewish understandings and prejudices and projected them onto his new religion. I think it is fair to say that if you want to understand the OT, you should take it on its own terms without Christian interpretations and even Jewish interpretations if it conflicts with the original intent of the author.
        Of course the fact that I am not a scholar means that is a little difficult for me to handle on my own so I am so glad I found this blog!

        • Guest

          If we assume that Paul wrote all the 13 letters that bear his Name (i know, not academic consensus), then Paul quoted Luke 10:7 as “scripture” in 1 Tim. 5.18. If we are to assume Peter wrote 2 Peter (i know, i know), then Peter called Paul’s letters scripture (2 Pet. 3:15-16).

          If we are to assume the entire NT is an accurate account of Christ’s Words, then the words of the Apostles are God’s words and therefore scripture (Matthew 10:40, Luke 10:16, John 13:20, 14:23+26, 17:20, 20:21).

          imho Paul was aware that he is writing scripture (see passages such as Romans 1:1-3; 16:25–26; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 11:1; 14:37; 2 Corinthians 1:1-2; 3:6; chs. 10-13; Galatians 1:8; Ephesians 2:19-20; 3:3+5; Philippians 3:17; 4:9; Colossians 1:25; 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 4:2; 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:14; 1 Timothy 4:11+13; 2 Timothy 1:13; 3:16; 4:1-2; Titus 2:15; Philemon 8; Hebrews 2:3-4; 13:7+22).

  • C Watson

    Dr. Enns,

    At what point did you realize that your positions concerning 1 Cor 10:4 stood in contradiction to inerrancy as it has been historically understood at Westminster?

    • peteenns

      I was taught in the 80s by Longman, Waltke, Silva, and McCartney–not to mention an earlier, less “patrolling” Gaffin. Within that context, my view was seen not as a contradiction to the tradition but as a development of a biblical theological trajectory. I am not sure what you mean by “historically understood at Westminster” but if you mean the current iteration, many of us from that time feel it is a regrettable abandonment of a vibrant hermeneutic.

  • ScottBailey

    I have an MA in biblical studies from TWU. I studied the DSS with Abegg and Flint, et al. My MA thesis was titled “Reading Genesis 1-35 in Persian Yehud.” I am well versed in biblical criticism, and by the way I LOVE Kugel. But for me the really defining moment where I started thinking critically about the Bible was a parallel reading of Kings and Chronicles. Trying to understand the differences, and the polemic of Chronicles in a certain historic-socio period really began my development as a critical thinker about the HB.

    • peteenns

      Scott, the Chronicler is my go-to text when inerrantists ask me why in the world I would “assume”that the Bible has errors and can I show them any. But rather than a “problem” I see CHR as a window into an ancient world with ancient conventions about historiography. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Zapphead

    I’m a layperson. Some 25-30 years ago I began a more critical look into scriptures. I grew up mainline Presbyterian with a father who was a pastor. Thankfully, I wasn’t raised under any kind of fundamentalism or evangelicalism. But I was curious. And when I began to read from theologians and talking with many pastors, including my own dad, my thoughts and assumptions of scripture began a redirection. I found deeper meaning with proper context. I began to understand more the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith. That journey continues today and these kinds of blogs are so helpful.

  • Phil Cary

    Interesting how Paul shakes up a literalist hermeneutic, even when he’s clearly not speaking literally. He’s saying Christ accompanied Israel in the desert as their spiritual rock, source of living water. Not a literal rock, and not literal water, but literally Christ. No doubt he’s riffing on the rabbinic exegesis, but he’s not taking a stand on whether it’s true that a literal rock followed them around. What’s true is that Christ was with them. Evangelicals who could see that wouldn’t have to make such a huge adjustment to their reading of the Bible. Or would they?

  • noel

    A friend responded with the following
    “PeterEnns has got to be kidding! There is no reason to say that Paul was
    referring to the rock that Moses struck as Christ, and that this stone
    was bouncing around the desert after Israel. The rockiness of Christ is a
    metaphor with several different appearances in the old and new
    testament. For example, ‘the rock that the builders rejected was to
    become the chief corner stone’ [‘Jewish’ references here: http://www.openbible.info/labs/cross-references/search?q=Isaiah+28%3A16
    ]. It is quite clear from the context of 1 Cor 10 that Paul was talking
    of those who rejected that ‘rock’ (Matthew 16:18), the Christ who was
    with Israel. Israel was in the privileged position of being given the
    word of God, the temple services (which were to teach them that God
    forgives sinners on the death of a suitable substitute – pointing to
    Christ who was following them (coming after them in time, too, perhaps).
    The reference to spiritual food and spiritual drink might well be a
    reference to communion with God (Eucharist/Lord supper-like language)
    that was offered Israel but Israel rejected the spiritual benefit while
    (often unthankfully) eating the food and water God supplied.”

  • Jennifer Ellen

    It was fundamentalist who gave me the tools to walk beyond fundamentalists, and a fundamentalist who taught me (pounded into me) that “truth never fears a challenge!” In service after service I was told to be sure I brought my Bible so I could read for myself and make sure the preacher wasn’t preaching something that was not in there. But there is such real fear for me when, in following as faithfully as I know how, I went outside the walls.


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