There Is No Such Thing as a Plain Reading of the Bible

There Is No Such Thing as a Plain Reading of the Bible March 25, 2019
Courtesy of Pixabay

Last week, I published an article for the new NRSV website entitled “Reading the Bible Through the Lens of the Forgiving Victim.” And while I was happy to do so—it’s not often folks like me get to write for historically conservative outfits like Zondervan—I knew that once they shared it on social media, you-know-what was going to hit the fan.

And it did. It certainly did.

Besides all the troll-status comments—and there were many—one reply that really stuck out to me went a little something like this:

“There is no ‘interpret the Bible,’ there is only the plain reading of the text by honest men who have a good conscience towards God. The motive for anything else is ALWAYS cowardice.”

Now, besides the blatant ad hominem, namely that anyone who “interprets” the Bible is really just a coward, there is even a bigger problem with a statement like this. And it becomes even more problematic when you realize that a large portion of Christianity actually believes it.

The problem, of course, is that this statement and ones like it are meaningless. Why? Because there is no such thing as a “plain reading of the text.”

First off, no one approaches the Bible tabula rasa, that is, with a blank slate. Everyone, including myself of course, approaches the text with presuppositions. Everyone reads the text through the lens of their own culture, theology, philosophy, and phenomenological experiences. And while we can do our best to transport ourselves into the various cultures the Bible comes from—the Bronze Age, Second Temple Judaism, and so on—we can never fully grasp what it would have been like to actually live in these time periods.

What’s more, everyone I know is reading their Bibles in English. Why is this important? News flash: English isn’t a language spoken by any of the characters or writers of the Bible, nor any of the earliest Christian theologians. Torah was written in Hebrew. Jesus spoke Aramaic. Paul wrote in Koine Greek. Augustine’s Greek sucked so he wrote in Latin. English wasn’t on the scene until 1066, and even that variety looks nothing like it does today (if you don’t believe me, just try reading Beowulf in its original form).

Let me offer an example of what I mean.

Take the doctrine of hell, for instance. In a handful of places throughout the Gospels, the term “hell” is used. Jesus warns people that they will end up in “hell” if they don’t change their ways. But what did he really mean? Well, that is where we would have to do our best to transport ourselves back into the first century and attempt to discern his words through the eyes of a Second Temple Jew.

With this as our lens, upon hearing the term “hell,” we would automatically know that Jesus is, first and foremost, talking about a literal valley just to the south of Jerusalem. How do we know this? Because Jesus used the Aramaic term that translates to “Gehenna,” which, in Hebrew, best translates to “the valley of Hinnom.” This is the place where, in 586 BCE, the Babylonians burned the bodies of the dead Jews after they sacked the city of Jerusalem. And it is also the place where, only a few decades after the death of Jesus, the Romans would do the same thing.

At the same time, however, some Jews indeed believed that Gehenna represented a place of punishment in the afterlife for those who turned their backs on God and lived wicked lives. So, it theoretically could be the context from which Jesus was speaking to. Will we ever know for sure? I don’t know. I have my ideas and loose conclusions, but that isn’t really the point of this piece. The point is that we can not read things “plainly” for the sole reason that the meaning we draw from texts is never plain. There are always layers of meaning, especially when it comes to Jesus. I mean, not for nothing, but that dude spoke in complex parables and used a healthy dose of rhetoric in his teachings, so to my mind, to reduce him down to “plain readings” is an offense to the way in which he operated.

Furthermore, having a “plain reading” is an offense to Judaism in general. How so? That’s not how the Jews rolled. Sure, some of the more fundamentalist types wanted to use Torah to “plainly” argue for their own personal theologies—as well as inflict all sorts of punishments on so-called sinners (see John 8:1–11)—but Judaism is nothing if it is not an ongoing dialogue about God, the nature of God, and how we can relate to God in the present. This is fairly clear if you read the Hebrew Scriptures.

Don’t believe me? Read the book of Job. We all know the story. Job is initially blessed by God for being a totally righteous dude, one of the best around. But then in a cruel twist of fate, his life completely goes down the crapper and he is faced with strife, disease, and the deaths of his loved ones. His so-called friends then show up and, given their theological assumption that God always punishes the wicked (I mean, Deuteronomy 28 is fairly clear), spend the next 36 chapters asking him what the hell he did to deserve this. Job’s response: Nothing. “Nothing? Bullshit!” say the friends. “Yeah, nothing.” Over and over, this goes on. And then, in chapter 42, the clincher. God shows up to set the record straight. But he doesn’t quote Deuteronomy 28—you know, all those passages about how those who are righteous are blessed with riches and abundance while those who are wicked are sent dust and malady. No! He turns to one of the friends and says: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

This must have confounded the friends. After all, they were only doing what’s right according to a “plain reading of the text.” They were only going by what was plainly written in places like Deuteronomy 28. But they were wrong. And Job was right. God isn’t the blessing and cursing God like was plainly understood. It was much more complicated and nuanced than that.

And that is the point. What the Bible teaches us is that our experiences in life matter when it comes to how we read the text. The text is important, sure. But our experiences are always the subjective lens through which we view the text. Job knew this. And Job was right.

Of course, this only problematizes things. What we must remember, however, is that that is okay. In fact, it’s healthy. It’s healthy to live in the tension of the mystery. Not only does it help us grow, but it compels us to read texts like the Bible in community. It compels us to wrestle with the text, with one another, even with God.

So, let us not be cowards and hide behind the supposed “plain reading of the text.” Let us take a step out from that nonsense, like Job, and put our foot down when we know something’s not quite right. Let us hear the voice of God today, and ask “How can I draw meaning from the Bible in a world that looks nothing like it does when it was written?” Let us be a little more like Job and a little less like his friends.



*If you enjoy the work I’m doing here, please support me on Patreon. If you do, you’ll get a crap-ton more content, including books, videos, and more!

Matthew J. Distefano is the author of 4 books, as well as a co-host of the wildly popular Heretic Happy Hour podcast. He lives in Chico, California with his wife and daughter. You can read more about the author here.
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  • pen44

    Matthew, I totally agree! I’m somewhat conservative, but I have enjoyed Bible studies for decades. Once, in a varied denominational group, we took 3, almost 4, years to study Revelation. Believe me, when you delve deeply into that book, it is not scary at all. We used 5 versions of the Bible and many study guides…it was thrilling and insightful. Now, each Wednesday, some parishioners and I study the passages that will be used in each Sunday’s service…we help our pastor ferret out points he can use…different angles. And we learn about the Bible for ourselves also. The Bible is God’s Word, and He wants us to truly understand what He is telling us. You are correct, we read and study an ancient text through modern eyes, it behooves us to try to understand what God and Jesus are telling us about Themselves, and about ourselves. I received my first Bible when I was 11, it was a requested gift…my favorite version now, after 64 years, is the NKJV, but I have other versions as well. My first Bible was the NRSV. And I use 3 devotionals each morning. Thank you, Matthew!!

  • Armed Citizen

    just wondering, Friend – if you are a Bible student (as i believe you to be) why is it that you don’t keep the 7th day Holy as Jesus Christ does and desires you to do?

    thanks in advance for your reply =)

  • The Bible is God’s Word? It seems the Johinnine community would disagree with you there 😉

  • I’ll let pen44 answer, but aren’t all things made holy? Didn’t the Gospel blow open the idea that there is some sort of sacred/secular divide?

  • Armed Citizen

    ‘…aren’t all things made holy?’

    so then, by your definition, i could eat swine and drink vodka and they too would be ‘holy’?

    sorry – not at all True Sir.
    see Ezekiel 22:26 and then Exodus 20:8-11 for starters.

  • Anyone can quote bible verses at each other. I’m not interested in your Old MacDonald hermeneutic (here a verse, there a verse, everywhere a verse verse)

  • Armed Citizen

    Isaiah 28:10 ~ ‘For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
    Line upon line, line upon line,
    Here a little, there a little.’

    i’m sorry you don’t like Scripture.

  • Lol

  • Armed Citizen

    tell me Matthew – since you’re not interested in the way the Bible shows us – tell me, what gives you the right to ignore what is written?
    tell me all about your method of hermeneutics.

  • anon

    @disqus_9QoXkIRlz3:disqus you know the devil is winning when Christians treat each other so disrespectfully.

  • Armed Citizen

    my Friend – the Bible encourages us to be ready to discuss and defend the Word of God at all times. if you can’t sharpen your knowledge with other Christians, what happens when your faith is tested by those seeking to tear Christianity apart?

    have a little backbone and a lot of faith, Sir – His Word will stand forever=)

  • Um, I’ve said nothing about this person. No ad hominem of any kind.

  • Armed Citizen

    i agree.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    😉 Allow me to help with that one. Yes, you can buy a swine (even eat it) and a bottle of vodka to go with that (and even drink). As long as you do not get drink, and do not gorge yourself on the pig.

    As far as the vodka goes, an interesting passage in Deuteronomy speaks of tithing – unless you live too far away. Sell what you were going to tithe, go to the place God appointed, and by “whatever your heart desires, wine, strong drink, food… But invite the priests, the widows and the orphans while you feast.

  • Dont ask loaded questions and I would answer

  • Armed Citizen

    i am headed out in 4 minutes, Rudy – but the swine thingy i can’t agree on.
    see – God never said that this was a ‘food’ – and even called it an ‘abomination’.

  • Armed Citizen

    would love to discuss the swine thing tomorrow, God willing and keep us safe!

    have a good night.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    WOW! I strongly disagree with the author of the above article on some thoughts he expressed (Hell, “so called sinners…”), but I agree completely with his thoughts on coming to a better understanding of the Biblical texts. And realising context and backgrounds, AND language are important ways to help us understand the text better.
    As far as backbone is concerned, whether I agree with the author or not, to place an article like that out in the world with the definite risk of being addressed in the way YOU do, surely, that show backbone? He seems not to be afraid to share his thoughts with “us”…
    So if you want to disagree, build a case, be respectful and argue…

    For example – “so called sinners…” in the John 8 context – Jesus does send the woman on her way with the exhortation to go “and sin no more…” seems a pretty clear recognition that the behavior in which she “was caught,” was indeed seen as sin by Jesus. The hypocritical part of the story? If she was CAUGHT in adultery, doesn’t that mean the man should be there, as well?? Unless, of course, there were polaroids… 😉

  • Rudy Schellekens

    Acts 10 – what I call clean…
    Ephesians 2 – Law/Commandments cancelled
    Deuteronomy 14 – Go sell, have party

  • Yep. Disagree all you want but what people do in these comments is pretty ridiculous. So many assumptions and personal attacks.

  • pen44

    Because I’m an Evangelical Lutheran, not a 7th Day Adventist, Armed!

    However, I do attend my church every Sunday for worship… various other days in the year for special/holiday services, Bible studies and such! My religious tradition has always been “Sunday is the holy day, but Easter Sunday is the High Holy Day!

  • pen44

    Thank you, Rudy!!!

  • Dan Dupree

    I was taught as a child that the kjv bible was the pure word of god I read the old and new testaments twice at the age of twelve without interpretation I immediately understood I wanted nothing to do with that malevolent creation of a violent primitive tribe.
    Reading the bible without interpretation has freed me from it’s dark dogma and allowed me to become an ethical, compassionate human secularist

  • BertB

    The whole idea of “a plain reading” is nonsense. It implies that in any given context, a word means the same thing to everyone…or in this case everyone who is not a “coward.” People have been arguing about meanings of words since words were invented. Biblical experts argue about the meanings of various passages all the time. To suggest that only one interpretation is the “correct” one is ridiculous.

  • douglas kraeger

    Matthew, you make a good point that there are many ways to “interpret” the Bible. Add to this that many translators might have their own ax to grind as they supposedly translate accurately, and maybe they do not even know of their own bias, combined makes understanding the whole thing the way God wants us to understand it rather difficult. That is why I am aiming for an “E” for effort. Also, maybe the most important part of this search is the possession of the essential attributes, actions, of a truly living faith that God uses to judge between a dead faith, a dying faith , or a living faith.
    My own thinking is that if someone is honestly 1. praying for the graces to pray ever more perfectly. 2. the graces to want to know and believe all the truths that God wants everyone to want to know and believe. 3. praying for the graces to know and desire to share all the verifiable evidence and questions that God wants everyone to know and desire to share. My opinion is that if someone is doing all that, God will count them in His kingdom even if they are in honest error as to the details of faith they believe because they have not yet found the evidence, questions, or grace to see their error. If I am correct, and God counts all who are honestly doing those actions in His kingdom, maybe that is where we should all spend our energy and stop arguing over those details that are important, but that we can get to heaven without knowing, if God says we have a truly living faith.
    Does anyone know of any other “essential attributes” of a truly living faith that I should add to my list? Thank you

  • billwald

    Agree with the essay. I don’t trust anyone who claims they understand the Bible. I take it as koan.

  • Dhammarato

    And then there is the part where the big dude and his side kick Satan play poker with job and co as chips. We can read that part too, it takes only a “plain reading” to see that life is a poker game in the sky and humans are just chips. Very plain. Also don’t forget Ch 28 where wisdom is mentioned. Where did Job find wisdom, in the loss or the recovery? Poker is like that, you win a few and then you loose it all and have to quit the game.

  • Dhammarato

    Maybe one reading works and all the others don’t. Maybe Christianity is now a failure is because all the readings nowadays are wrong.. Maybe Job and Paul are not the right parts to find wisdom, and a return to JC (Mark and Luke and maybe Mathew is all that needed. ) Modern Christianity and the love fest with Trump and politics is like the high priest, and Rome. Jesus would laugh at what Christianity has fallen into. Let the Political party parts die and withdrawal to silent prayer is in order. Time to stay out of politics.

  • Dhammarato

    And so do the facts. Archaeology and scientific investigation trump old wives tails. At best there are many authors. And there are open fights about who wrote what, but they all know it was not the hand of one who has no hands.

  • Dhammarato

    most of the “essential attributes” are completely ignored by modern Christianity, almost unknown. Attributes like joy are to be developed. Happiness is a skill to be developed. Mindfulness (sati) is essential, to remember to watch the mind, to stay out of danger and stay happy and at peace. In short the “attributes” of the Buddha (and JC) are wanting in Trump voters. These are essential, with out joy and happiness, Christianity will die. Right now Christianity is most unhappy with no way out but the toilet named trump.

  • Alexandra

    You do, realize, don’t you, that no one was following Jesus with a recording device of any kind, so that none of the words that are ascribed to Him are actual quotes?

  • Dhammarato

    Christianity is falling apart all on its own. It is the so called Christian trump voters and rightolifers who will tare it apart. Greed, stupidity and hatred in the minds of Christians are doing all the tearing. We who have escaped now turn to watch to show. We have all payed tickets and we sit with out popcorn to watch the show. Please never mind us in the peanut gallery, just keep tearing away while we cheer like in the Colosseum in Rome. Christians , have at each other.

  • John Purssey

    A bible student should know that St Paul in Romans had the view that keeping the seventh day was a matter of opinion Viz. in Romans 14

    “Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honour of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honour of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honour of the Lord and give thanks to God. ”

    The chapter emphasises the futility, wrongheadedness even, of quarrelling over opinions or passing judgement on Christians with different opinions from your own. It seems that many Christians here disagree with St Paul.

  • John Purssey

    We all live in a hermeneutical sea. No such thing as no interpretation. As a Christian I equally reject the dark dogma that some interpretations create. You are probably being more Christian by being a compassionate human secularist.

  • John Purssey

    That misinterprets what Matthew was saying. But, what the hell!

  • Robert LIMB


  • John Purssey

    There is both unity and diversity in the various canons that the different branches of Christianity have selected.
    There is a progression of thought.
    It is more narratives to dwell on than the limited ability of propositional theological statements can give us, which themselves are the attempt to summarise a person’s experience of the divine.
    They are written in a culturally distant setting and we have to recontextualise for our own cultures to make them live.
    There are relatively few timeless/eternal statements

  • I keep running into this silliness, too. “No, no, I don’t interpret the bible, I just let it speak for itself.” Yeah. Right.

    But I love what you say about embracing the mystery and wrestling with each other – and even with God. It seems to me that when we actually do that, we always come away the richer for it. (Maybe even God does, too!)

  • douglas kraeger

    What is the true source of joy and happiness being objectively right and good other than an infinitely good, infinitely all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful creator who has established His moral law and revealed it to us? If there is no such creator, if all existence is by mere chance and there is no purpose to all of existence, how can joy or happiness be absolutely right and good?

  • Armed Citizen

    ‘There are relatively few timeless/eternal statements’

    wow – so you’re not a Bible believing Christian is what i gather from that statement.

    i’ve read statements very similar to that on pages posted by atheists.

    the God of the Bible has spoken and His listen and follow.

  • Armed Citizen

    ‘A bible student should know that St Paul in Romans had the view that keeping the seventh day was a matter of opinion…’

    actually Sir – you’re looking at the wrong sabbaths – Paul neither had authority nor desire to override the Commands from our Creator – least he be stoned for being an apostate.

    notice – Paul would have to be in direct contradiction with the Infinite and Eternal Almighty in Ex 20:8-11.

    Paul would have to be in direct contradiction with Paul – who encourages us to ‘Imitate me, as I imitate Him’ (1 Cor 11:1) and tells us all to keep the Commandments of God (1 Cor 7:19) without making exception.

    Paul would have to be in direct contradiction to Jesus Christ who assures us something special about even the ‘least command’ – in Matt 5:19.
    and after all – doesn’t a Christian (by very definition alone) imitate Christ?

    ‘The chapter emphasises the futility….different opinions from your own.’

    if you feel that it’s ‘futile’ – over whether or not to imitate Christ and quit offending the Holy LORDS day – so be it – but as for me and my house ~ Joshua 24:15.

  • Armed Citizen

    do you understand, Friend – why the Reformation was lost by Luther?
    allow me to give a bit of history in 2 very important/short links:

    however – if you aren’t one who cares for opening them – which i do totally understand – then allow me to share, please:

    during the Council of Trent – after over 20 yrs of intense study and debate (1540’s – 1560’s), the Reformation was based upon ‘Sola Scriptura’ vs Rome’s stance (tradition and scripture: with tradition {their traditions} being more authoritative than scripture).

    in the end, Archbishop of Reggio stood and asked one simple question (the same one i posed to you) – ‘Which day do you keep?’
    when the Protestant side answered ‘Sunday, the 1st day’ – their fate was sealed (prophetically speaking – for us) as it was explained to them that there is zero in Scripture supporting the change of the Holy 4th Command to the 1st day.

    indeed, this ‘change’ is a bowing to the papacy – who goes contradictory the Bible and says to pretend that the 1st day is ‘Holy’, when Scripture is clear that only the 7th day is and always has been and always will be Holy.

    there is zero Holy about the 1st day, and it is just as pagan and catholic as is ‘christmas’ and ‘easter’ (see ‘festival of Ishtar’).

    our Creator prays and Commands you honor and keep Holy the Sabbath. Jesus keeps the Sabbath and those who will be in Heaven will (still) be keeping Holy the Sabbath.

    please ask if you have any rebuttals or questions my Friend – as i pray His will becomes yours =)

  • Armed Citizen

    do you really believe this person has a Bible view of all?

  • Armed Citizen

    ‘Christianity is falling apart all on its own.’

    oh Sir – you couldn’t be further from the Truth!

    Christians have zero to do with this country – as we are only strangers passing through and our world isn’t from here, but Heaven!

  • Armed Citizen

    sorry Sir – this doesn’t support what you think it does.
    care to re-read this chapter or would you like me to give ya a little lesson on it?

  • Rudy Schellekens

    What Acts 10 teaches clearly is that there is no longer an “unclean” vs “clean” concept. Paul discusses more on this in 1 Corinthians.

    Acts 10
    9 On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the [f]sixth hour to pray. 10 But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11 and he *saw the [g]sky opened up, and an [h]object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12 and there were in it all kinds of >>>>>>four-footed animals and [i]crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the [j]air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, [k]kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything [l]unholy and unclean.” 15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider [m]unholy.<<<<>>>>Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, [i]excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off [j]have been brought near [k]by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the [l]barrier of the dividing wall, 15 [m]by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances<<<<>>>You may spend the money for whatever your [t]heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your [u]heart [v]desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household<<<<.

    27 Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your [w]town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you"

    And feel free to show me where I am wrong. I have no issues with that… As long as we stay away from personal attacks and name-calling, that is…

  • Rudy Schellekens

    Not sure if you meant to say, “of all,” rather than “at all…”

    But if you read my reply, you noticed that there is an obvious point of difference:

    “For example – “so called sinners…” in the John 8 context – Jesus does send the woman on her way with the exhortation to go “and sin no more…” seems a pretty clear recognition that the behavior in which she “was caught,” was indeed seen as sin by Jesus. The hypocritical part of the story? If she was CAUGHT in adultery, doesn’t that mean the man should be there, as well?? Unless, of course, there were polaroids… “

  • Armed Citizen

    let’s start with Acts 10 – as this vision is commonly used to justify the deletion of dietary laws from Lev 11 and Deut 14 – but this NT chapter doesn’t do this at all.

    notice above how you conveniently left off at :16, when verse :17 explains that Peter ‘wondered’ what the visions meant – as he knew that these laws aren’t discarded by a mere vision.

    then notice in verse :28 – the answer comes to Peter – as he explains:

    Acts 10:28 ~ ‘ Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.’

    then further read into the next chapter Acts 11:1-18 and Peter not only retells this same story, but Peter than explains what i have shown you above – these chapters are all about Cornelious – not food.

    shall i proceed?

  • Armed Citizen

    1 Corinthians ~ ‘…eat food….’

    lacking – any Scripture showing that swine is now declared as ‘food’.

  • Armed Citizen

    i agree with the part about the man, however, since we can’t control that part – let’s focus on the part you have correctly clarified:
    ‘Go and sin no more’

    since we know that sin = transgression of His law
    why would you follow a ‘church’ which doesn’t teach His Commands and in Fact, teaches contrary to Them?

  • Rudy Schellekens

    I have no idea about the personal life of the author. All I know about him is what he wrote – to which I responded. And just because I might disagree with someone, that does not give me the right to become less than courteous. Which, BTW, is the reason I use my real name on ANYTHING I write on the internet or any other public forum. Keeps me honest and polite.

  • Armed Citizen

    there are several reasons i have to have my identity covered but the content of my heart is all in the open as my posts aren’t on ‘private’.

    ‘And just because I might disagree with someone, that does not give me the right to become less than courteous.’

    Amen! – well said.

    having my name published doesn’t keep me honest nor polite – my Christian beliefs do that.

  • Armed Citizen

    for the record – i am wondering why so many avatars have the same picture of ‘Matthew’ or of ‘Rudy’ – i am not sure of who , but even my avatar has a picture which isn’t of me.

    wonder why???

  • Rudy Schellekens

    The “uncleanness” of the non-Jew was part of the Law. If ONE part of the law is nullified, the WHOLE law is nullified. It really is that simple.

    As I shared, Paul describes the WHEN and HOW the nullifying of the law was done: The cross. It really is that simple.

    As I also shared, “…food will not commend us to God…” Food no longer is important. It really is that simple.

    Let me add a conversation which took place in Jerusalem. The question of the day, “What part(s) of the law should we bind on the Gentiles?” The answer/ Abstain from blood and sexual immorality. Would have been a great place to state the dietary laws etc. It really is that simple.

    When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”

    For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; [p]if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

    The Law was written for the nation of Israel. Not for anyone who was NOT a part of that nation. Immigrants were not subject to the laws of Israel (here is a link to an interesting commentary

  • Fran Mayes

    There are layers of interpretation in any reading of the Bible. 1. The writers had to interpret their own experiences. What is important? How can I communicate this idea? 2. Everything is written from the point of view of a culturally bound, linguistically limited, psychologically imperfect person. 3. Every level of translation involves choosing to interpret a language not your own. 4. A translator has to choose among the many ancient versions of the text. 5. There is no such thing as an infallible reading of any text. That’s one of the reasons we need each other. We each see through different “windows.” Anyone who thinks they understand everything about God is limiting God. A literal reading of an English Bible is not fair to the rich genres and languages of the Bible or the reader. I respect the Bible too much to read it “plainly.”

  • Armed Citizen

    now where in Scripture is swine shown to be a food??

  • Armed Citizen

    also – are you implying that the other 9 are ok to break now?

  • Armed Citizen

    i agree with a lot of what you wrote – good post!

  • Rudy Schellekens

    Allow me to use the Cambridge Dictionary, please…
    swine noun (ANIMAL)
    ​[ C usually pl ] a pig, esp. when raised for food

    Unless you prefer the second part of the definition, but I am sure you don’t

    swine noun (PERSON)
    [ C ] a person whom you consider to be extremely unpleasant and unkind:

  • Armed Citizen

    can’t do it with the Bible can ya.
    i can show ya where it (swine) is shown in the Bible during the last days – (*our soon future)
    care for me to post that?

  • Rudy Schellekens

    I do not “imply” anything. I flat out SAY: The Law of Moses, which ARE the ten commandments (and their explanation), is no longer valid. made null and void. We are no longer amenable to the Law of Moses. As non-Jews, we NEVER were amenable to the Law of Moses. It was NEVER intended to be kept by non-Jews.
    The dietary laws, the clothing laws, the sacrificial laws, the tithing laws – none of those are applicable to today’s believers.

    We have a new (and better) covenant, agreement, with God. It no longer includes statements on diet, tithing, clothing, sacrifices etc.

    Again, Ephesians 2 (And, for that matter, much of Hebrews) deals with that. The Law brought us to Christ. Afdter the resurrection, something new and better was put in place.

    Now, if you WANT to live by the dietary laws, tithing, clothing and sacricial, go for it. However, that is a personal decision, based on your application of the Biblical text. I believe you have no obligation to do so, nor will it bring you any closer to God. But as a personal preference, go for it. It does mean, however, that it is YOUR personal preference, and that has absolutely no binding authority with it.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    Feel free to post what you want…

  • Bill Klemm

    RE: Interpreting the Bible
    The author’s points seem well-stated. Readers who appreciate that article may want to know about my new book on neuroscience and religion (“Triune Brain, Triune Mind, Triune Worldview). Available in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Paperback coming soon.

  • Armed Citizen

    ‘I flat our SAY: The Law of Moses, which ARE the ten commandments….is no longer valid.’

    i can approach this in a couple of ways, Sir.

    would you like the see the many differences in these 2 laws?


    would you just like to call Jesus (Luke 16:17) a Liar?

  • Rudy Schellekens

    Simple question: Was Jesus alive when he spoke those words? If he was alive, of course the law was applicable – to HIM, and to all Jews – but still not to non-Jews.

    The differences make no, well, difference. It is the cross that makes the difference.

    Or, Sir, are you calling Paul a liar??
    Or the writer of the letter to the Hebrews?
    Or Luke, when he writes of the conversation in Jerusalem, where the very question was debated?

    There is a clear chronology.
    1. Jesus is born into a Jewish family – that’s why they went to the temple in jerusalem on a regular basis, even if it meant a long journey
    2. Jesus LIVES under the Jewish Law, just like all other Jews, be they in Palestine or elsewhere in the Roman Empire.
    3. NO Jews lived under the Jewish law at any time, not even those who HAD the books of the law – like the Samaritans.
    4. Jesus dies.
    5. The law is abolished, nailed to the cross
    6. Jesus is resurrected
    7. The law is null and void, the new testament, or covenant is now valid
    8. I now live in the U.S. I am neither now, nor ever was I a Jew.
    9. I now live in the U.S., and I am a Christian, baptised in to the death of Christ, born again by the same Spirit through which Jesus was resurrected.
    10. In that process of baptism, immersion, burial the blood of Christ cleansed me from my sin.

    It really, really is as simple as that!

  • Rudy Schellekens

    Actually, there is always one, and ONLY one interpretation which is correct – the one the author intended. There might be many APPLICATIONS, but in reality, only ONE interpretation is the correct one.

    And yes, in any LIVING language, words change meanings, sometimes after a long time, sometimes within a decade. And sometimes a word goes back to its original meaning.

    The context will always help us with determining correct interpretation. It is when we start looking through our personal lenses of background, education persuasion where trouble starts.

    Good example? Beasly-Murray’s book on the meaning of baptism. All the way through 2/3 of the book, he keeps things straight on meaning, method and purpose. And then he takes an amazing turn: “But in my faith persuasion…”
    He is honest. He makes it clear that the meaning of the process of baptism as practiced in his community of faith, is not what he has been describing from an historical and linguistic perspective.

  • Armed Citizen

    ‘Was Jesus alive when he spoke those words?’

    yes He was and He still is.

    ‘….but still not to non-Jews.’

    so it’s ok for the gentiles – you and i – to have different standards as if we aren’t in His family?
    it’s ok for you and i to rape, murder and steal?

    ‘…are you calling Paul a Liar?’

    ‘…the writer of the letter to the Hebrews?’

    same person – Sir.
    and Paul my question is – was Paul contradicting Paul in 1 Cor 7:19?

    Jesus Words stand forever – and Yes, He is still alive.
    if one claims to be Christian – then they imitate Him – no question about that. if one claims to be Christian – they love Him –
    if you don’t keep His Commands – you don’t love Him –
    His Words – not mine –
    ‘If you love Me, keep My Commandments

  • Rudy Schellekens

    So, noticing you left Ephesians 2 out of the conversation, let’s look at your question re. Paul vs Paul. The actually statement is much clearer: “Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.”

    Notice the, “Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? HE SHOULD NOT BE CIRCUMCISED.
    Notice the, “Keeping God’s commandments is what counts.” You DO realize that God’s commandments are not LIMITED to the Old Law, right? Hopefully, you are familiar with the construction of imperatives? When writers after the resurrection write about “Do…” and “Be…” those are imperatives, as in DO this, and BE that. Like the stop sign at intersections – those are not friendly suggestions, for you to ignore at will.
    I would think you accept the apostles as not making things up as they write, but are speaking with “command authority?” So when Paul, Peter, James, John, Jude write things like, “Be imitators of God” and such statements, we have no wiggle room!

    There are commandments interwoven throughout the writings of the apostles (and I am not sure how YOU can be sure that Paul wrote Hebrews). So, when speaking of “Keeping commandments,” there is quarrel with that concept.

    Not sure when you read through Hebrews from start to finish, but there are 13 “Betters” found, comparing the Old with the New. Jewish Christians were persecuted, and seemed to have the desire to go back to the Old, where it was safe. But the writer dissuades them by pointing out the “Betters,” comparing the Old with the New. Promise. Covenant. Hope. Rest. High Priest. Mediator to name but a few.

  • Armed Citizen

    you aren’t comprehending a couple of basic – Sir.
    1 – our Creator didn’t lie – His Commands are ‘Forever’.
    2 – Paul wasn’t talking about these, but about Moses law – 2 totally different laws!

    you’ll never advance in knowledge unless you’re capable of these Truths.
    you haven’t answered any of my questions and instead post questions.
    i am tiring of your evading – this isn’t communication.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    God Himself made clear that the commandments in the Old Testament were for HIS people only. The writers in the New testament make clear that the Cross changed things, changed relationships between God and creature.

    Which questions have I not answered??

    and Paul my question is – was Paul contradicting Paul in 1 Cor 7:19? – answered No, He makes my point eloquently
    so it’s ok for the gentiles – you and i – to have different standards as if we aren’t in His family?
    it’s ok for you and i to rape, murder and steal? – Answered. The LAW did not apply to Gentiles (Non-Jews)
    would you just like to call Jesus (Luke 16:17) a Liar? – Answered. No. The CONTEXT makes it clear what Jesus was speaking about
    would you like the see the many differences in these 2 laws? – Answered
    shall i proceed? – Answered (by the fact that I continued the conversation)
    also – are you implying that the other 9 are ok to break now? – Answered
    care to re-read this chapter or would you like me to give ya a little lesson on it?- Answered. Re-read the chapter, shared conclusions

  • Armed Citizen

    Commands of the ‘Old Testament’? there is no difference!
    His Commands are ‘Forever’!

    Jesus says that it’s easier for Heaven and earth to pass – than one of His Commands to fail – but this is ignored?

    those who love Jesus – keep His Commands (John 14:15)
    those who keep Them – will be in Heaven (Rev 22;14).

    this is clear.

  • In your articulate and thought out arguments, having read through a few, i think your summation, at it’s heart, is not accurate. Now, these are just my thoughts, so no need to write a collegiate level thesis in reply.
    My argument is rather simple: from what i surmise from most of your replies, is that you always attribute the author as human. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to a particular audience, but God had EVERYONE in mind. Paul, Peter, etc. Could NOT have seen nor understood how the Holy Spirit, who is the actual author, the BIG picture, as HE uses and unites it ALL. His word that is now compiled in our Bible can ONLY be understood by being a born again child of God, and ONLY through His discernment. It is only when we see and acknowledge the one author, does the 66 become 1.
    God’s grace levels the playing field, so to speak, so as to have ALL who are believers understand HIS word. Having a degree and a string of letters behind your name is ONLY optional, but not a prerequisite. The Holy Spirit opened up and gave the early Apostles and disciples understanding. He can do the same for ALL, if we humble ourselves and allow Him to.
    Phi 3:7-10
    7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
    1Co 1:27-29
    27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

  • BertB

    Actually, there is always one, and ONLY one interpretation which is correct – the one the author intended. There might be many APPLICATIONS, but in reality, only ONE interpretation is the correct one.

    That’s fine, if you can walk up to the author and ask him, and he answers you in language you understand without going through one or more interpreters. It would be pretty hard to ask Mark Twain what he meant by a statement he made a hundred and twenty years ago. But his culture and language were similar enough to our own that his meaning would probably be pretty clear. That is not true for people who lived two thousand years ago, in cultures far different from our own, spoke in different languages, and their writings have been translated and re-translated.

  • I don’t know why that happens. I will reach out to Disqus to see why that occurs. It’s confusing.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    I NEVER assume the author is human – except for Psalms, partially.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    So, you look at the language at “face value.” And unless there is a reason to change the meaning of the words as found in the DEAD language, we are good to go. As my example word – it means immersion. It “dramatizes” the death, burial, resurrection.

    Assuming that Paul’s writing on the role of males and females are “culturally” motivated creates a problem.
    Assuming that words should be interpreted by the secondary meaning rather than primary – such as “head” in 1 Corinthians 11
    Assuming that Jesus came to restore the kingdom to Israel when He was on earth (And thereby ignoring both the gospels and the later writings)

    The idea that “your interpretation may work for you, but my interpretation works better for me” is a bad way to deal with the Biblical text. Or,. for that matter, ANY text. Since we are dealing with a translation, the problem becomes even more complicated. Having done a lot of translation work through the years, I have gained an ever growing fondness of a text where words no longer change…

  • Armed Citizen

    i have no idea – but even my personal profile has your picture on it now.

  • John Purssey

    When a person starts addressing as “My Friend” it usually means they consider the person in an unfriendly and are just using it in an attempt to inveigle themselves into a judgemental position. And they often are not even aware of their base motives as they are spending all their time trying to get the speck out of another’s eye.

  • Armed Citizen

    you can consider it what ya want – i was simply inviting him to discuss what his issues with the discussion are.
    perhaps over analyze less and take posts for what they plainly state, John.

  • John Purssey

    The Bible is a guide and a spiritual text which you are ignoring. It’s witness tells us that Jesus said that we should believe in Him and believe in God. You are denigrating God and Jesus by having this low view of scripture that you place above God and Jesus to suit your own judgmental purposes. Jesus did not say to his disciples that when he left them they would not be bereft because they had the Bible. He said he would send the Spirit, which you choose to ignore, or perhaps the Holy Spirit is not within you.

    Now we were to expect this to happen. As Jesus said, not all would be given the understanding of his parables. And we are to expect there will be the blind, but unfortunately you are blind guides and I feel sorry for those you guide into the pit with you.

    St Paul is recorded as saying that many preach Christ for the wrong motive, but nevertheless he is happy that Christ is being preached. So perhaps you can at least take solace in that.

  • John Purssey

    You don’t understand context and the use of language.

    Try keeping his commands to love. I know it’s a big ask.

  • Armed Citizen

    ‘You don’t understand context and the use of language.’

    thankfully my Bible is in english and my Creator is fluent in such!

    ‘Try keeping his commands to love.’

    i do!
    Jesus says if we love Him – we do Them – John 14:15
    to love God and love neighbors is to keep Them – 1 John 5:2-3

    ‘I know it’s a big ask.’

    ‘not burdensome’ – wrong again! =)

    logging off – have a great day and safe night =)

  • John Purssey

    “can’t do it with the Bible can ya.”
    Now you’re being silly!

  • MorningDew Reynolds


  • ollie

    >Let us hear the voice of God today, and ask “How can I draw meaning from the Bible in a world that looks nothing like it does when it was written?”<

    I would disagree that the world today looks nothing like it did as when the Bible was written. Mankind is still full of hatred, of greed, of generousness and of love. Only the lenses of who, what, when, where and how has changed as cultures and languages have changed.

    Short of the Holy Spirit grabbing most of us by our ears and shaking us up heartily we won't get a plain reading of the Bible because quite truthfully we can not see anything farther then our culture and personality will allow us.

    Simply if one wants to understand Jesus all one has to do is to look at his human ancestors. And the often despicable people who are are called his faithful in the Old Testaments.

    If we are to believe the Testimonies the only plain reading of the Bible is the two great commandments in New Testaments. And if your interpretation of the rest of the words don't draw you to a closer relationship and love of God and your fellow sojourners. Then you are not getting a plain reading of the Bible (this sentence is somewhat in jest, because I believe interpretation is a better word).

  • ollie

    Quite a good point. Two Capitalists or two Socialists might spend weeks coming to an understanding of what the same word means to each of them. Even maybe months!

  • BertB

    So, you look at the language at “face value.”

    I don’t know what strawman you are trying to flog here. What I said was quite the opposite.

    Having done a lot of translation work through the years, I have gained an ever growing fondness of a text where words no longer change…

    And you are claiming that this is true of the Bible? How do you know that? What evidence do you have?

  • Armed Citizen

    it’s a picture that has trailed me since i was on a catholic site yesterday.
    it pops up once in a bit – but inconsistently now =/

    could have at least made me a studly – muscular – tall – tan man and all.

  • Armed Citizen

    well It is the Authority that i listen to Sir.

  • fuzzi

    Thank you. Too many “I think this word means…” going on in these circles. Those of us who have been born again and received the gift of the Holy Spirit have our interpreter.

  • John Purssey

    The Bible does not speak with a single voice on important subjects. What you are doing is selecting particular interpretations that suit you and then saying the “Authority” you like or created is the Authority of the Bible. It’s better not to be simplistic about the Bible’s authority or you will mislead others just as you have been mislead yourself.

  • Armed Citizen

    undermining the Bible makes you sound so catholic.

  • soter phile

    The real work of interpretation is to hear the text. We must consider how to read and teach scripture in a way that opens up its message and both models and fosters trust in God. So much of the ideological critique that currently dominates the academy fails to foster these qualities. Scripture is critiqued but never interpreted. The critic exposes but never exposits. Thus the word itself recedes into the background, and we are left talking only about the politics of interpretation, having lost the capacity to perform interpretations.

    – Richard Hays

  • John Purssey

    It is a pity that the German term was translated as “criticism” as many, without being discerning, jump to the assumption that the various methods used to discern the meanings of scripture are actually being used to criticise the scripture they love. I have come to see that it would have been better to use the term analysis, and the results are to allow us to hear the text through better interpretation. They have certainly given me a richer understanding of scripture and avoid mistakes that the assumption of “plain reading” and ideas such as “scripture interprets scripture” produce.

    E.g. “biblical criticism, the study and investigation of biblical writings that seeks to make discerning and discriminating judgments about these writings. The term ‘criticism’ is derived from the Greek word krino, which means ‘to judge,’ ‘to discern,’ or to be discriminating in making an evaluation or forming a judgment. It has come to refer to a form of inquiry whose purpose is to make discriminating judgments about literary and artistic productions.”

    Taken from

  • John Purssey

    Not self aware, are you, then.

  • John Purssey

    You just love going off onto tangents instead of replying.

  • John Purssey


  • Armed Citizen

    my apologies – i will quit using the Bible for explaining thing to you.
    it’s obvious that the Words of our Creator and Redeemer mean little to nothing to you.

  • Honesty is the best policy when interpreting the Bible. Honesty requires that we see the text as the author intended – original intent. That’s how every one of us want our writings interpreted. We have to become immersed in the culture of the author. The best works that follow honest interpretation on the Gospels are Edersheim’s “Life and Times of Jesus Messiah” and “Yeshua: The Life of Messiah from a Messianic Jewish Perspective” by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum

  • soter phile

    So why give greater benefit of the doubt to German than the original Greek & Hebrew?

    No, the problem does not reside in the authorial intent, but in the critic placing himself above the Scriptures. Do I judge the Word of God or does it judge me?

    Related: krino is also a root word in hupokrinohypocrisy: being ‘less critical’ of self than of others.
    Likewise, the historical-critical method has little confidence in the text yet supreme confidence in the self. As such, ‘analysis’ is not as honest a term as ‘criticism’.

    As Jesus said, let him who has ears hear.

  • John Purssey

    It is not a matter of giving a benefit of the doubt. The tools to aid interpretation have been misunderstood as criticising the Bible. People are often set in their ways of thinking, and are resistant to change when they find that some of their previous interpretations were incorrect or incomplete. The interpreter does not place themselves above the scriptures, but is trying faithfully to better understand the scriptures.

    I think it is God who is the judge, and He may be understood as the Word of God, but the Word of God is not to be confused with the witness to the Word of God provided by the scriptures. I find that rather denigrating to God.

  • John Purssey

    I would add that we also have to translate from the culture of the author to our cultures.

  • John Purssey

    I think they mean more to me than than do to you.

    So. Apology accepted. It’s about time you quit perverting what is found in scripture.

  • Ldon

    “Everyone, including myself of course, approaches the text with presuppositions. Everyone reads the text through the lens of their own culture, theology, philosophy, and phenomenological experiences. “ While this maybe true , it is our challenge to enter the interpretation process with a clean slate. Or else, we would be subverting and twisting the scriptures to conform to our experiences, feelings and culture, which is the beginning of heresy.
    God’s words does not change because our experiences and culture changes. He transcends our experiences, culture and intellect…but do we believe it?
    Paul admonished Timothy and us to Study the Word to rightly interpret and apply the word. And that takes work and humility.

  • soter phile

    And I find it rather denigrating to God when a modern interpretive lens is invoked in order to dodge central themes of the text in favor of one’s own self-projections – as has become common place in historical-critical circles. That is better labeled “tools to obfuscate.”

    Read again Richard Hays’ quote.
    NB: He’s an NT professor at Duke levying this criticism – not someone outside the field.

  • Rev. Dr. Harvey Carr

    As a retired pastor, I often had people confront me if I used anything other than the “Holy King James” Bible in the pulpit. One man came into my office very angry after a service in which I used the NIV. I personally knew, from [previous comments he had made to me and others, that his understanding of scripture was very confused (“I believe money is the 666 of Revelation” although he worked for Social Security Administration, and on another occasion “The 666 of Revelation is already here and it is that barcode on products you buy.”). Without saying a word when he began to literally scream at me in my office about not using “the BIBLE” (KJV) I reached to the shelf above my desk and pulled down my personal copy of the 1066 version, opened it to Matthew, handed it to him and told him to read it to me. He threw it on my desk and demanded to know what translation that was. I politely showed him the “cover page” and explained this was the original language of King James Version and the one he believed to be the words Jesus spoke and apostles wrote was at least the 4th or 5th revision that was not a translation but a transliteration of the original 1066 KJV that was a transliteration of the Latin Vulgate. Never again did he approach me about my use of the NIV.

  • soter phile

    1066 was the battle of Hastings, well before the 1611 King Jimmy. FYI. Doubt he knew Middle English.
    But your point holds. Never understood the preoccupation with KJV instead of original Greek & Hebrew.

  • Steven Waling

    The most honest policy would be to admit that we can only guess at the original intent of the author, because they are long dead.

  • Jon Xavier

    I like your point. But, your argument is really weak. You seem to suggest that everything is subjective. And that it’s impossible to know anything for certain. However, there has always been an interpretive community, begun by Jesus himself. Secondly, scripture is a spiritual and theological expression of a faith community. Thus, if you interpret without these very basic principles in mind, one is certainly in the dark. It’s like trying to read a mathematics text allegorically. You may like the result, but you can only earn a failing grade.

  • Dan Hunter

    How can you plainly read something that is many books instead of one. Job was written in a different time for different purposes than Genesis or Kings were. Maybe the biggest problemm for bible readers is a failure to understand the bible is a collection of different books by different authors who had little in common.

  • Peter Bateman Mockridge

    Your comments here are so refreshing to one who has abandoned orthodox Christianity because of just such “reasoning”. [I do consider myself a Jesusian, since I find it difficult to reject anything that Jesus taught, and far easier to reject much of what is taught about him. Even in those Scriptures and even when plainly read (in English, of course, since I do not read any of the various languages from which the best translations of the Christian Scriptures are derived)!] It is difficult enough to KNOW the intent and context of almost any text, even when the author is contemporary with the readers and writing in a shared language, and whose views are largely coincidental with those of her audience. One wants to ask the commentator: in which language is the plain reading carried out? Thank you for your courage and integrity.

  • Robert Conner

    Try this as a “plain reading” exercise:

    “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:23, NIV)

    If you had heard Jesus say this nearly 2000 years ago, when would you have expected the Son of Man to arrive? Centuries later or pretty damn soon? How about 19 centuries (and counting) later? So if you thought “soon,” either you should have played this record backwards or Jesus–excuse me, Jeeezzzus–didn’t know what he was talking about. Not that true believers are worried. When I googled it, I only got 11,700,000 hits where Christians are Jesusplaining it to themselves.

    BTW, it’s April 1, 2019 and Jesus still hasn’t Come Back yet. April Fools! (For about the 1970th time.)

  • Nicholas Alsop

    So I am shocked by the author’s website and the extreme use of vulgar language:
    Matthew, how do you justify using such language?

  • soter phile

    you said: I don’t trust anyone who claims they understand the Bible. I take it as koan.
    Did you mean this to be overtly self-refuting?

  • Robert LIMB

    It’s just a pity articles like this are still necessary. So I just have an ancillary question. I can understand why it takes courage to leave the comfort zone of “It’s in black and white in the Bible”. But can anyone explain how or why questioning the “plain reading of the text” can be described as cowardice. It it just an insult? I would have thought from the ultra-conservative standpoint “hubris” would have been closer to the mark. Just curious.

  • soter phile

    Jesus openly acknowledged human authorship (e.g. Moses) yet simultaneously called it the “Word of God” (Mk.7:10-13). A lot of ink has been spilled on this Chalcedonian echo that the Written Word bears from the Living Word. You seem unaware of the history of thought on it.

    You might reject that view, but if one follows Christ, why not share his view of the Scriptures?

  • soter phile

    John 5:37-40 has a much more robust understanding of the OT Scriptures than you are intimating.

    Jesus not only says the whole OT points to Him, but he also calls the Scriptures his Father’s word.

  • soter phile

    “plain reading” is meant to invoke a caricature. even most ultra-conservatives don’t match the straw man.

    the main problem: Jesus explodes both the liberal & conservative narrative here.

    he surprises conservatives with how he reads the OT.
    but explodes the liberal narrative with how much authority he gives it everywhere.

  • Not true. Just follow hermeneutics principles.

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    “There is no ‘interpret the Bible,’ there is only the plain reading of the text by honest men who have a good conscience towards God. The motive for anything else is ALWAYS cowardice.”

    After reading this I am balling my eyes out, just thinking of the people who still believe this,and have the balls to say it out loud. At the very least it should be something that one keeps in the closet.

    Jesus, and the New Testament is so much more than “plain text.” Why, oh why, can’t we all be so… so much more?

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    What the heck do you mean by this?

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    I’ve got to say – how about you just grow up for a change?

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    Thank you for your comment!

  • Nicholas Alsop

    What is so progressive about flaunting the Scriptures? Ephesians 4:29

  • soter phile

    Precisely what I said.

    Conservatives have trouble with how Christ applies the OT (Isa.61 comes to mind). Love for the foreigner, poor, outsiders, etc.

    Liberals have trouble with how high a view of the Scriptures Jesus has. Every single word has authority, and he incessantly quotes it – claiming it all points to him.

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    From Ancient Greek ὑπο- (hupo-), combining form of ὑπό (hupó, “under”). Compare sub-.

    Sure, when you add a prefix or suffix, the meaning of any word can change.

    The Greek word KRINO is used approximately 100 times (depending on what version you use.

    The greek word HYUPOKRINO appears never.

    It’s like the words hypoglycemic, and glycemic, they have completely different meanings.

    Do you even care that you go halfway with an idea, and don’t see it to its completion?

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    Thank you so much for your comment! I wish I could have said it so well!

  • soter phile

    Check Mt.7:5. Hypocrites = hupokrita (noun form).
    But to be clear, I was pointing at the etymology of the word:

    NB: as the source says, ‘under-decide/sift’ (i.e., less critical) – hence: discriminate.
    Or do you think they’ve “under-decided” about those they are ‘sifting/judging’?
    Do you deny that etymology?

    (Similarly & directly contrary to your above claim, glycemia & hypoglycemic do have the same relationship etymologically: an ‘under/less’ amount of glucose in blood)

    The point holds: hypocrites are ‘less critical’ of themselves than of others.
    In the same way, the problem remains for the skeptic’s self-refuting confidence in the self.

  • Chari McCauley

    You can also see who runs a church by the pride that comes out of it.

  • Chari McCauley

    Did He write their names in the sand? You know, for future reference? I bet the guilty ones were in the crowd……..
    They got off, but they will have to admit their sin, one day.

    Father and His Son would like for us to admit our wrong and try to fix them. Only the young think a magic wand will fix the thing wrong with their own character. However, if we don’t do it, here, we will do it later. I think on each person’s judgement day, all evidence will be at the ready. The physical damage is EASY for Them to repair. It’s the mental damage that will need rehabilitation. THAT takes our willingness. Like a drug addict has to be willing to heal.

  • Tim Miller

    The problem with the men that originally attempted to interpret the Bible, is that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew and at the time. No one was correctly educated on how to read, let alone interpret it. It wasn’t until years later, that it was interpreted correctly. Then you get into all the different religions and such making their own interpretations and or adding stuff as they see fit. So lies the problem.

  • Dhammarato

    maybe the “word of god” is not some old smelly book of bad behavior. Rear John 1:1 in Greek to see there is no “word” in there. and you are right, why would I spend even 5 min on the history of fools saying words. you can not follow him you cant even find him let alone dig him up and set bones on an ass to follow, those days are over now. But one thing is clear JC did not read the new testament, he only had the old house shit to sling into the air.

  • Dhammarato

    This whole article is about interpretation of old dead smelly books. But, what the hell. to each his own reading, hope you hold your nose.

  • Dhammarato

    Every day’s a holiday when the mind is right.

  • Dhammarato

    got that right, nothing. nada, zip, zilch, nine, nope, no way, outta here. And put down those arms, you look down right dangerous, as dangerous as any christian domestic terrorist can be.

  • John Purssey

    Holding your nose is a necessity on all social media. So much BO you can miss the roses.

  • John Purssey

    Or a holy day.

  • John Purssey

    It’s part of human nature and authority. The NT writers for the most part preferred the LXX as OT source rather than the Hebrew, though Jesus likely spoke Aramaic and used the Hebrew Tanakh.

  • John Purssey

    You don’t have to be so delicate. A less delicate reading shows that at the end of his life Moses could still “get it up” – a better translation than “full of vigour”. And Paul wished the circumcision party members would go and castrate themselves. And the Cherubim used a couple of wings to cover their genitals – feet was a euphemism.

  • John Purssey

    It’s not cowardice, it’s simply not being aware that what is misunderstood as plain reading is actually reading on the basis of your own unexamined assumptions.
    Questioning these assumptions can be understood as what Jesus’s ministry was as interpreted by the NT writers.

    He questioned his hearer’s “plain reading” of the Tanakh.

  • John Purssey

    Though that applies to all literature, constitutions, US declaration of independence, legislation, rock music. My choir is singing After The Goldfish, and American Pie and Hotel California have similar interpretation fascination

  • Robert LIMB

    So why “cowardice”?

  • Robert LIMB

    So,why cowardice ?

  • Robert LIMB

    Doesn’t answer my question, though.

  • Dhammarato

    same thing, look at the words. Or are you trying to make a point?

  • John Purssey

    Just a poor attempt at being lighthearted.

  • John Purssey

    I did not use the term. I was also critical of its use. We seem to be in violent agreement here.

  • Robert LIMB

    My point was not in the least polemical. I am interested in what people actually say, so I apologise if I appeared “violent” (and your oxymoron made me smile). In this case, I am coming to the conclusion that it was just a gratuitous insult. Thanks for replying.

  • Dhammarato

    your turn.

  • John Purssey

    Hi Robert.

    You did not appear violent, so no apology necessary. And the oxymoron may have served its purpose.

    But just to set the situation out as I understand it:-

    Matthew quoted a comment on something he published, and it was this comment from a person who thought that there is such a thing as a plain reading of the Bible. This plain reading proponent asserted that it was cowardice not to accept only a plain reading, viz.
    “There is no ‘interpret the Bible,’ there is only the plain reading of
    the text by honest men who have a good conscience towards God. The
    motive for anything else is ALWAYS cowardice.”

    So we cannot ask Matthew why it is cowardice, but he and any of us can speculate why the statement was made. ISTM to be a passive-aggressive response of those who think their reading/interpretation is the one and only correct reading and who wish to denigrate people proposing something different. It also reveals judgmental and controlling attitudes to others who like to use guilt-tripping against others. At least, this has been my experience in situations where suchlike statements have been made. YMMV.

  • soter phile

    If your question is (what you wrote above) “how or why questioning the ‘plain reading of the text’ can be described as cowardice?”

    Not to speak for the blog author’s intent, or the commenter to whom he is responding…
    but I’d guess the logical inference is that by cowardice he means something like: the fear of looking in the mirror & admitting to yourself that you are wrong & the Bible is correct… and all that must change if that is the case.

  • soter phile

    a) on the contrary, John 1:1 does explicitly have the word “Logos” (Grk. word)
    b) and the nature of Koine Greek grammar also entails that antecedent through the rest of the sentence phrases (where that same ‘word’ is inferred)

    “the history of fools saying words” is an incredibly apt saying for any internet comment section, but not the most influential book in history.

    and yes, Christians agree you can’t dig him up. we are celebrating his resurrection this Sunday (and every Sunday, for that matter).

    no, Jesus didn’t read the NT. it was written after his ascension.
    but he did read the OT & quote it incessantly. he said it was all about him.

  • soter phile

    some would say an education is nothing but reading old dead smelly books.
    are you eschewing education in general?
    or just objecting to the Bible’s self-characterization as “living and active”?

  • Robert LIMB

    OK, thanks. I sometimes have trouble getting inside that mindset, but your suggestion makes sense.

  • Dhammarato

    Books on Math can be old and smelly, but useful, Computer science books not old yet can stink if over ones had. But to really stink the book has to be really old. If the book makes you smart by study, then that is education. If the books make you racist, bigoted and religious, then you might do something really stupid, like vote for trumP. If that is living and active. then please stop the activity and sit to watch Fox until death comes ,

  • Dhammarato

    “we are celebrating his resurrection this Sunday:… Did he show up? bet he was not there Sunday. Bet the church pews are getting empty of folks cause they know he’s a no show.

  • soter phile

    1) yes, he did show up. but not in the Doubting Thomas way you intend; but rather more like he did in Acts.
    2) additionally to that point (and contrary to yours), by God’s grace, our church is growing.

  • soter phile

    1) didn’t vote for Trump. can’t stand him or most of his positions.
    ironically for you, that’s precisely because I believe what the Bible says.

    2) the fact that you grouped “racist, bigoted & religious” says more about your tendency to drink the current cultural Kool-aid than thoughtfully reflect on reality.

    NB: the Bible is the most read, most influential book in history – with over 2 billion current self-described adherents, almost equally distributed across 5 continents with varying cultures.
    even if only for that reason alone, to dismiss it lightly is not very thoughtful.

  • BertB

    Regarding those two billion people who identify themselves as Christians:
    Here are some highlights:

    Of over 2 billion Christians in the world, less than 30% will ever read through the entire Bible. The fact is over 82% of Christian Americans only read their Bibles on Sundays while in church.
    One of the main reasons why American Christians don’t read their bibles is, only 22% of them believe the Bible is fully inspired by God Himself, and written by men who were divinely appointed by the Lord almighty. Over 1 in 4 American Christians believe the bible to be a book written by mere men, not at all the word of God.

  • soter phile

    Here’s Barna’s 2017 “State of the Bible” (last 5 years stats) article.
    It’s a lot more thorough than your linked article above, including more categories:

  • BertB

    I am not gonna sign up for 10% off at the Bible store.
    The fastest growing social group in the US is the ‘nones.’
    People who don’t want anything to do with organized religion.
    Be as thorough as you like. That is the future you face.

  • soter phile

    So… you’re ignoring that virtually all of the first Christians were Jews?

    If you’re going to fabricate arguments, it helps if you actually make up something tenable.