This blog post started out as being about the old canard that non-Christians supposedly cannot understand the Bible. That claim is often justified by appeal to a passage that the Christians who make the claim, rather ironically, have misunderstood. By the end of the process of putting the post together, I found myself thinking that the relevant question is whether fundamentalists can understand the Bible. And it soon became clear that that question applies equally to Christian and anti-Christian fundamentalists.
When atheists read the Christian Bible. Randal Rauser wrote on that topic: “Sadly, when it comes to the way atheists read the Bible, Shermer’s attitude seems to be more the rule than the exception. The Skeptic’s Annotated Study Bible claims to offer a reasonable and skeptical analysis of the biblical text. But in fact, all it demonstrates is that we should be skeptical of the skeptics.”
Modern ways of looking at ancient texts require a degree of facility in understanding how God’s scribes of yesteryear went about their work. While early experiments in binding books may go back close to the time when the latter parts of the Bible were being written, the scroll—without chapter and verse—contained only the words of the text. Most ancient manuscripts in Greek, anyway, didn’t even bother to put spaces between the words. That leaves some room for ambiguity in among all those letters. The Bible is a complex book with a complex history. We do it a disservice as modern readers treating it as a modern book.
Also related to biblical interpretation:
Ironically, Atheist Rev reposted something about how fundamentalists are right, and illustrated precisely the problem. Fundamentalist Christians and the atheists who used to be them and are now in many instances fundamentalist atheists do agree fundamentally, pun intended. The idea that no interpretation is needed when dealing with an ancient text written in another language in a very different time and place is something that no one but a fundamentalist, whether religious or anti-religious, could contemplate saying and expect it to be taken seriously. Indeed, without some sort of fundamentalist ideological framework, the patent absurdity would likely be readily apparent.