In Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know about Them), Bart D. Ehrman writes about one of his ‘favourite apparent discrepancies’ in John’s Gospel:-
It ‘comes in Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse,” the last address that Jesus delivers to his disciples, at his last meal with them, which takes up all of chapters 13 to 17 in the Gospel according to John. In John 13:36, Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” A few verses later Thomas says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going” (John 14:5).…
Mark Ward comments on the (otherwise excellent) conference speaker who, referring to Titus 2:4, said that because phileo is ‘friendship love’, it’s important for husbands and wives, and parents and children, to be friends. Although there may well be some truth in this (Ward remarks), as far as the text in Titus is concerned, it is reading too much into the word; it is ‘overspecifying’ the text. Husbands and wives are to be lovers, and not just friends. …
Having compiled a couple of sets relating to texts in the New Testament, I thought I’d take a look at some commonly-misunderstood texts from the Old Testament. These are discussed more fully in the Bible Study Notes.
Here’s a start:-
Genesis 18 – Abraham’s three visitors. Christian piety, both old and new, has often seen in the story of Abraham’s three visitors a picture of the three persons of the Trinity. This conjecture has been fueled by the celebrated icon of Rublev, which plays a key role in Richard Rohr’s recent (2016) book The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation. …
Women who interpret the Bible find three challenges regarding language and gender.
First, there is the problem of the generic use of words such as ‘man’, ‘mankind’, ‘he’, ‘him’, and so on. It is argued that the continued use of such vocabulary, in contexts in which both men and women are in view, obscures the participation of women in the stories which the text relates. Some modern translations of the Bible strive to minimise this problem by using expressions such as ‘brothers and sisters’, ‘person’, ‘human being’, ‘humankind’, where both men and women are being referred to, or where the gender is not specified.…
Alison Lo notes that the Minor Prophets resonate strongly with our contemporary church and society, with their themes of ‘social justice, religious corruption, financial impropriety and social and political unrest’.
They offer rich material for the preacher, then, and the following principles will help. I summarise:-
Consider the historical and cultural context. Each prophet spoke into a specific situation: sometimes this is indicated by the heading of the book (Hos 1:1; Amos 1:1; Mic 1:1, etc.).
If people don’t like what the Bible teaches, they may try one of a number of strategies designed to blunt its impact.
Applied to the thorny issue of same-sex behaviour, it can work like this:-
‘The Bible has been misinterpreted’. Sodom is not about homosexuality, but about inhospitality. Romans 1 is not about committed, loving same-sex relationships but about exotic and exploitative sexual behaviour.
‘The Bible is wrong’. The Scriptures do indeed teach that homosexual behaviour is sinful, but we must work with the Bible’s underlying principles and values, re-applying them to changing times and situations.
Many people try to close down any discussion about the meaning of a Bible passage by saying, “Well, that’s just your interpretation.” It’s as if ‘interpretation’ of the text is entirely personal and subjective. You have your interpretation, and I have mine. End of.
But, often, the meaning (interpretation) of a fact is just as important as the fact itself.
Consider the ‘fact’ of a driver flashing his headlights. What does that mean? Well, in the UK it usually means, “You go first” (and yes, I know that the Highway Code says something different). …
When we read a narrative from the Old Testament, we want to honour it as God’s word written, and yet we may be unsure how to do so. So we end up – all too often – mistreating and misapplying it in one or more of the following ways:-
Allegorizing. We neglect the shape of the story itself, and discover (or rather, invent) meanings that seem more relevant and more spiritual. Graeme Goldsworthy writes of the way in which the five stones that David used to kill Goliath are identified as ‘obedience’, ‘service’, ‘Bible reading’, prayer’, and ‘fellowship’ (Gospel and Kingdom, p10)!
No, this isn’t advice for parents reading The Chronicles of Narnia to their children at bedtime.
It is, rather, a set of tips to help the preacher get inside a piece of biblical narrative in order to find out how it is put together and how it works as a story. This is the preliminary work that a preacher needs to do in order to preach from the story in question. It is specific to narratives: letters, poems, proverbs, and parables required other approaches.…