February 4, 2007

Questions About the Bible

Posted in culture, literature, scripture at 12:02 pm by Jerry

I ended up with these questions during a conversation in this post:

  • How is a culture’s immoral acts justified through the process of aging for two to four thousand years?
  • And what proof do we have of an utterance of God demonstrated in our bible?
  • And if God was inspiring the biblical writers to adapt God’s truths to their immediate audience on a spiritual learning curve, can our current culture consider THE WHOLE BIBLICAL TEXT to be divine truths for us?
  • And if cherry picking for timeless truths in the bible is in fact the only realistic response to the biblical text (which everyone already does), how are those timeless truths any better than the timeless truths we cherry pick out of other ancient literature?
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18 Comments »

  1. Shuana said,

    I’m not sure I understand your first question.

    When I spoke of God’s utterance, I was referring to Jesus–the living word of God.

    How do you understand divine inspiration? I don’t think the authors able to ste themselves apart from their own cultural framework. I think we can consider the bible divinely inspired, but can we consider our understanding and application of these texts also divinely inspired?

    There is some speculation that the greek word kephale (head) was actuallly understood as source. And how do you explain wives submitting to husbands (which can have other meanings–as in voluntary cooperation–) in light of the passage that instructs us to submit to one another?We can’t both be under each other can we? I think we can. We can voluntarily choose to serve one another out of love for Christ, who set the example for servant leadership.

  2. Shuana said,

    Also, the utterance of God in the act of creation–according to Judaic myth.

    And who said one truth is better than another–either biblical or classical or any truth. Is not Truth, truth from any source?

  3. Shuana said,

    And I think that to say that though culturally embedded, scripture is “divinely inspirated” is a complexity, not necessarily a contradiction

  4. Shuana said,

    Oh, and I guess I should explain the speculation about the word “head” meaning “source” as in if you are decapitated, your life is gone, and therefore the head is the source of life in the body.

    What is interesting is if this word means “source’, this might be a considered a response to “the chicken or the egg” argument because of the female mythologies and their claim to the woman being the source of life. I read recently that religion was the domain of women in classical culture, and the letter to Ephesus might have been an attempt to ensure that Christianity was not confused with the female religions so much part of the culture of Ephesus, and would have been influencing Judaic women and religion.

    There may have been something cultural that was being addressed in this letter–and since it was a letter to someone, that would be our first consideration when interpreting it—what was the problem being addressed in the letter, and is this a problem for us today?

  5. Jerry said,

    Hey Shuana,

    You said, “I think we can consider the bible divinely inspired, but can we consider our understanding and application of these texts also divinely inspired?” If there is no true understanding and application of the bible, what’s the point in reading it?

    You said, “And who said one truth is better than another–either biblical or classical or any truth.” Those who say the canon is closed.

    You said, “And I think that to say that though culturally embedded, scripture is “divinely inspirated” is a complexity, not necessarily a contradiction” Based on what?

    You said, “I read recently that religion was the domain of women in classical culture, and the letter to Ephesus might have been an attempt to ensure that Christianity was not confused with the female religions so much part of the culture of Ephesus, and would have been influencing Judaic women and religion.” Then why didn’t God inspire the biblical writers to write down that both husband and wife can interchange as leader in their relationship, rather than inspire the biblical writers to make a compensation for the Ephesus culture by referring only to the husband as the “head” and comparing the husband’s leadership to the leadership of a Supreme Being who not only is our source of being, but must also NEVER be disobeyed? Why couldn’t God just communicate the simple truth instead of shifting the pendulum into an opposite falsehood?

  6. Shuana said,

    I don’t know Jerry 🙂 I can’t speak for God. I guess these are issues that one must personally come to terms with. I can see that we are working from different frameworks, you and I. Those who wrote, and those who determined the canon were people, finite and fallable, just as you and I are.

  7. Jerry said,

    “Those who wrote, and those who determined the canon were people, finite and fallable, just as you and I are.”

    Just as the bible, too? I say, “Yes.” The more and more I read anything intelligent outside of the bible, the more it is clear to me that the bible very much bears the image of its human writers — finite and fallable.

  8. Shuana said,

    Hi Jerry,
    Phew, I’m glad we agree on something ;0 I think, too, that it comes down to faith. All knowledge (truth) comes down to a leap of faith, even what we call “fact”. To what degree are we able to live with uncertainty. I think it would have been truly remarkable for writers of the NT time to come up with an equality statement about marriage considering that all they knew about women as that they were weaker eggs, that didn’t develop fully into men! That women didn’t have the power of generativity, that they were only the “soil” that grew the “seed” generated by man. So, like children, they were not viewed as fully developed human beings! To come up with something like you suggest, truly would be amazing.

    But there is so much about the bible that really is amazing. And truth is so much more than literal fact, or people able to step out of their culture and time period. There are universals, and themes, and there is a complete and comprehensive story, just as in other religions and mythology. Greek mythology with its personifications of abstract concepts, and not only personifications, but how abstract contracts interrelate and conflict. I love the truths of mythology. There is so much to be gained from the body of human existence, experience, and understanding. But we as humans must do more than gain knowledge. We must live by a set of values and beliefs that emphasize one thing over another. And, to do live with any degree of stability, and peace of mind, we must embrace things that are not certain, by faith.

  9. Shuana said,

    how abstract contracts interrelate –I mean concepts (I was at work drawing up a contract when I wrote this.:))

  10. Jerry said,

    Hey Shuana,

    I didn’t doubt there were at least some ideas we agreed on — like the truths found in mythologies. After all, we both have personalities that lie somewhere between INTP and INFP:-).

    However, again, there are other ideas we disagree on. You said, “All knowledge (truth) comes down to a leap of faith, even what we call “fact”… to do live with any degree of stability, and peace of mind, we must embrace things that are not certain, by faith.”

    I have seen similar writings like this elsewhere written by people who actually believe that faith is the highest intelligence. Which sounds ridiculous to me because people could claim, by faith, the floor beneath us has a personality.

    I don’t think everything comes down to faith. I think there are clear truths about quantities and qualities. For instance, everyone should be certain that 2+2=4 (a truth about quantities). And everyone should be certain that the raping of infants is evil (a truth about the quality of life).

  11. Shuana said,

    I think we are talking about the difference between the “actual” and how the “actual” is being perceived, and then re-presented. 2 +2=4 is an actuality, but then, we must wonder, did we leave something out of the calculation? Did we overlook something due to cultural values/beliefs? And, I do personally believe that there must be some overarching universals of human quality of life, however, anthropologists would say that in certain cultures things like fathers having sexual relations with their teenage son, as an initiation rite of passage, is considered right and moral by the culture and is therefore not considered damaging to the child. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but it is a counterpoint.

  12. Jerry said,

    “2 +2=4 is an actuality, but then, we must wonder, did we leave something out of the calculation? Did we overlook something due to cultural values/beliefs?”

    I would love to hear ANY intelligent examples of what could be left out of the calculation 2+2=4.

    And if you’re arguing that something could be left out of the calculation of this most simplest equation “due to cultural values/beliefs,” then you’re under the obligation to show me the existence of this probability — because I’m certain there are none.

  13. Shuana said,

    What are we counting, and what does the end result mean? That is what I’m talking about. Meaning.(How we perceive, understand, and represent to others.) So there are four what? And why did we count? The questions we ask of this world, questions of quantity or quality, are based on a system of belief about what is important. And, we are able to count because we have applied categories to things. Obviously we have two groups of something, and how did we determine these categories? Did we exclude something in the making of those categories. How did you come to think that there are only two of ? in each group? What is actual, is actual, but how do we come to meaning from this calculation? So, we are counting babies fingers…why? because we have come to expect there to be two groups of five. 5+5=10. Ten fingers. Now what does it mean that baby has ten fingers? Well, if baby has ten fingers, she won’t be picked on at school.(Values of culture?) If baby has ten fingers she will be able to function well in a society that expects all of her fingers. Oh, but are we calling thumbs fingers. Maybe she has 8 fingers and 2 thumbs, not 10 fingers. How do I tell this story? This would be based on how my society, my community tells this story. This is silly, but it makes a point, I hope.

  14. Jerry said,

    “This is silly, but it makes a point, I hope.”

    You’re right. It is silly. And this isn’t your first silly comment. Your comments make a point but they don’t address what I’m saying. You’ve been using my comments to make tangent points. I honestly don’t feel you’re respecting me in what I’ve been trying to tell you.

    I was simply talking about the mathematical equation of 2+2=4. It doesn’t have to be two-somethings to mean anything. It is meaningful to be able to count, using a reliable system of calculation. 2+2=4 is universal, uneffected by cultural values/beliefs. And you know this, but your just trying to complicate the conversation to avoid admitting that, in fact, everything DOESN’T come down to faith.

    I’m really disappointed in you, Shuana.

  15. Shuana said,

    Hey Jerry, that’s a personal attack–not fair.

    Frankly, I don’t think it all that silly. There are many intelligent people who understand what I am saying. (hidden subtle personal attack there :))
    I’d be disappointed in you –except–oh yah, you are the one challanging me, and asking all the questions–your job is easy.

    I’ve enjoyed this conversation though. Thanks for challenging me.

  16. becky said,

    Personal attack? If anything, Jerry has attacked your arguments and reasoning — which is separate from attacking you as a person. In fact, he’s shown remarkable patience in trying to decipher where you are coming from — admittedly something that has NOT been reciprocated from your end of the conversation.

    Shuana, you are artful in the skills of deflection. If anyone has an agenda here, it’s been you — you have yet to answer the questions asked of you, and have used your comments to distract readers away from any accountability in backing up what you say. I’ve learned a lot about you just from reading the different thought processes you’ve gone through in your “responses.” I doubt you’ve meant to reveal what you have about yourself.

  17. Shuana said,

    I am sorry. It seems I have offended you with my arguments. It seems you think I am off-base with what you are saying. It has not been my intention to deflect–and I certainly don’t have an agenda. I expressed my thoughts as they occurred to me, and in response to what I thought was being written. As Harold Bloom suggests, we all misread, according to our mental frameworks, and as others suggest our job is to compasstionately misread, not read more accurately.

    I think that though my arguments may be hard to decipher, from your point of view, that this does not mean they are silly or unintelligle. To say that you are disappointed with someone, usually is personal. It’s fine with me if you think my part in this conversation irresponsible, or indecipherable.

    It was my understanding that we were having a cold, sterile, impersonal discussion about some biblical passages, and an egalitarian point of view. It was my comment you, Jerry, were wanting to challenge and deconstruct, so I’ve been attempting to explain my point of view on the issue.

  18. Shuana said,

    So, now I am thinking about how I could have made it more clear how my points intersected with your arguments, and how I could have communicated that I understood your point, in this process. It could be our methods of argument are the “tangent lines” and not so much the content of our argument. I can clearly see the intersecting points in the content. Sorry to have frustrated you. This wasn’t my intention.


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