A Plea for an Exegesis Guest Post

My thanks to the many people who are commenting on yesterday’s post listing common mistakes atheists make about Catholics.  I hope it helps lead people to more productive arguments.  The item that seems to be drawing the most comment is mistake number two – thinking that Catholics are biblical literalists.  Now that we established they’re not, most of the atheist commenters on the site, including me, are at a loss as to how exactly Catholics do make sense of the Bible.

JoAnna posted two helpful resources in the comments thread (plus a bonus link to a piece on papal authority), but I’d love to be able to post some details here and spark a conversation.  I’d like to invite Catholics (or other non-literalist Christans) to write a guest blog or two on exegesis for the site.

JoAnna has already linked to a pretty clear overview, and I don’t want to put anyone on the spot to defend an entire exegetical method in one blog post (though you’re welcome to try).  One approach would be picking a verse you were confused by and walking us through how you investigated and resolved your question.  Another idea would be to contrast two verses that are read in two different senses and walk us through how people realized which style matched.

Look back through the comments thread of yesterday’s post, and you can find more open questions.  I’m interested in whether any Christians think some parts of the Bible are just not particularly relevant today (land allocations come to mind) and how you came to that conclusion.

Email me at leah (DOT) libresco (AT) gmail (DOT) com if you’d like to write a post or comment below with contact info and/or questions.  Forward this post to Christian blogger friends who you think would be good at explaining this.  It’s fine to rerun something you wrote at your own blog here.  And if you’re writing a guest post, be sure to tell me what denomination you are, so I don’t accidentally create more confusion in an attempt to clarify.

Finally, thanks again for the patience both sides are showing in the comment threads.  There’s a lot of confusion about what people believe on both sides, and it’s great to clarify in a non-debate format where people are reading for understanding, not just for ammunition.  It’s a privilege having you all.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    "Charles" wrote in another thread, Anyway what my original post went on to say after all the usual disclaimers about not being an expert, or really claiming to know anything is that there are probably only a few actual literal events required for one to believe in to be 'Catholic' – I would say the fall of Adam and Eve (but not the actual narrative in genesis, just the event that man turned away from God by conscious choice)….This seems to be rather contradictory, since it asserts that in order to be Catholic one must believe that the fall of Adam and Eve is a "literal event" — "but not the actual narrative in Genesis."So how about one of our Catholic friends doing an exegesis of Genesis 3?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15459485877620127826 hjg

    "101 Questions and Answers on the Bible" by Raymond E. Brown is nice material.By a renowned catholic biblical scholar, well balanced IMHO.http://books.google.com/books?id=b8ubeFP6JUYC

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  • Judy

    Welcome to the Kingdom of God !!! You are beginning an extremely exciting journey. May God bless you richly as you grow to know Him better. I was not raised with any church experience. My grandfather gave me Thomas Paine’s book, “The Age of Reason” and I became an atheist and remained that way until an event changed me in the blink of an eye. There were many, many things I didn’t understand, but I knew that Jesus had told me, ” Before Abraham was, I Am.” Even today, I find comfort in the quote, ” Show me a worm that understands Man, and I will show you a Man who understands God.” I believe it came from C.S. Lewis. His book, “Mere Christianity” has answered many of my endless questions. I have had many struggles and tears during my journey and you will, as well. My heart and prayers are with you. Worthwhile things don’t come easy. Hang in there. : )

  • http://unifiedserenity.wordpress.com/ Christina

    I was raised Roman Catholic and always believed in and loved God. A month before I graduated from college in 1988 a friend invited me to their “spirit” filled Lutheran church. I loved the fold mass and the immense amount of love and caring the people showed. I was given an NIV bible and I read it cover to cover in about two weeks. I loved the way you could take one word in a passage and follow a “chain” through the bible linking it to other areas that showed more illumination. Later, I followed the roots of Christianity to how it all started when Jesus left and put James in charge, I know people think it’s Peter, but read a bit more carefully. James was the leader, and the brother of Jesus. I studies with Messianic Rabbis for years and then got into studying in the original languages with the use of a Strong’s Concordance, JP Green’s Interlinear Lexicon and that opened up a whole new world! It’s amazing to learn what the bible really says in it’s original languages. It’s equally amazing to understand idioms as they were meant in that time period. My favorite bible to study from now is the Companion bible which include EW Bullinger’s studies as well. I hold controversial views. The one thing that separates believers is dogma and tradition. Only two churches were approved of ultimately in Revelation 2:10 and 3: 10 and they understood and taught one particular truth, who the Kenites were. Jesus revealed who they were and they killed him for it. They are guilty of killing the prophets from Abel to Zacharias on Solomon’s portico, and who killed Abel? Cain killed Abel and his children do the negative works that fulfill prophecy and they give Jews a bad name. They claim to be Jews and are not, but they are of the house of Satan, and they do the work of their father. Good luck with your searches, and I can be reached at my own blog.

  • Ken

    Leah, you talked about your moral beliefs and Catholicism as a moral compass and you are right. Religion provides a pretty decent moral compass or guide. But, all I have seen so far is that you accepted a set of religion based rules. What has changed, if anything, for your spiritual being. Not once have I seen Jesus mentioned or salvation, the core and whole reason for Christianity. If you take on the cloak of religion without Salvation then you might as well leave religion at the door because secular law is a society compass that is easier to follow and not hypocritical or misleading.

    Morality without Spirituality is just a yoke. Morality with Salvation is a joy, even in the burdens! I am always interested when I see an atheist claim to have “converted”, I love to see what they have to say. Sometimes I see “I found God” or “I have been saved” but nearly always there is some mention of a spiritual change or revelation. In what I see here I just see a change in the acknowledged rules and then an immediate disagreement with the rules you just claimed to have accepted.

    If you are struggling with your moral compass then do not hug “religion” because it was made by Man and will only confuse you. If you put a magnet next to your compass then the arrow points there and not at the North pole. If you need your compass to work then read Matthew – Mark – Luke – John and leave the rest. There you will find the Way, Truth and Light without “religion! There you will find Jesus and Salvation but you just have to Believe and Accept.

  • Dick Mueller

    2012 June 28. I read the Bible in the context of its interpretation by the Apostles and their successors. If the message of God is coherent, it should fit His whole plan of salvation for me, not my particular (possibly humanly erroneous) understanding. So I read a single passage as one part of God’s Word, praying for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as I apply it to my life.

    Approach the Bible from the perspective:
    — Truth is a Person.
    — Understand that person by what He said and by what His friends said about Him.

    • Dick Mueller

      Sorry, I just read your above. I’m a “practicing” Catholic who is loyal to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.

  • Charles

    I reflected quite a lot,regarding Adam and Eve.
    While Adam was created and given a soul,and also dominion over the garden, Eve was rather inferior since she was only a mere piece of a bone and was also built, something which gives an indication also to inferiority since being built is always subject both to fall down ,and also of being modified in the future.
    Through this reflection, I concluded that Eve was purposely and temporarely souless, in order to be tested rather then to be tempted,the fact that she was so! Eve, the way I see it, represented MOTHER EARTH,Satan’s property, the MOTHER OF ALL THE LIVING IN FLESH ONLY. So symbolically Adam and Eve were the human body SOUL and FLESH, still to be established in order to procreate accordingly.

    Satan had every right to test Eve, and through Eve tests also Adam.This to establish the human body structure, through Adam’s own free will.
    Adam, although with a soul, deu to the sin enticed by Eve, was of no use since Satan’s spirit occupied it exactly on commiting the sin.
    Eve, and all the women up to Holy Virgin Mary were souless deu to Eve’s fall.
    Through Mary ,who received the first ever soul direct from the Father,and also the first firstborn female child to be born from David’s line, and also as the spiritual Mother earth, revealed by Jesus from the cross, therefore THE CHURCH ,ALL CHRISTIAN WOMEN WOULD ACQUIRE THE SOUL

    So the way I believe the Holy Spirit is enlightening me regarding GENESIS 2:27 hereunder :

    It is definitely a reference to Jesus born as MAN.
    to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.
    Is a reference to the SOUL created in Adam through Jesus’ Spirit,by the Holy Spirit, and a refernce to the IMMACULATE FLESH of Virgin Mary also through Jesus’ Spirit by the Holy Spirit.
    So God through Jesus’ Spirit, He both created the first soul in Adam, then also the first immaculate flesh body of Virgin Mary THROUGH Eve, notwithstanding the fact THAT EVE WAS SOULESS, and became Satan’s representative through sin.

    Genesis 2: 27 And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.

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