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Principles of Studying the Bible

Discussion in 'Bibliology & Hermeneutics' started by Josephus, May 22, 2002.

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  1. Matthew

    Matthew Member

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    Two issues appeared in Josephus' post that I would like to deal with. One of them is the use of the KJV (Strongs) and the other is the use of interlinear Bibles. As we are probably all aware (from KJVO debates), the language in the KJV and Strongs is different from ours today. (For example, "refill" meant fill completely.) If one is not aware of these changes, you can be lead to false conclusions.

    As for interlinear Bibles, the fact that scholars put them together does not mean that non-scholars can use them reliably. Maybe you have, I cannot say more without more evidence. (As an example, the Hebrew preposition be' is usually defined as "in, with", however, when it is combined with yom it means "when".) These examples are clear to those who know some Hebrew, but others can make false inferences. All I am saying is that an interlinear Bible is best used by those who know a Biblical language, while others should use translations.
     
  2. Aikido7

    Aikido7 New Member

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    Although taking the Bible literally (the first principle) would make the rest of the prinicples listed unnecessary, it does have its limitations. Atheists and some unbelievers are often fond of saying "If Jesus was the Lamb of God, does that mean Mary had a little lamb?" Sarcastic, yes, but it points to a major difficulty in literalistic interpretations of the Bible.

    Barriers to understanding the Bible include seeing the gospels as inerrant and infallible, popular images of Jesus, ignornance, spirituality as self-indulgence, a self-serving church and clergy and foibles of biblical scholarship which does not distinguish history from theology.

    Most Christian inquisitors I have met do not care about academic credentials, whether one can read Greek or have firsthand knowledge of Palestinian archeology. They don't care if one has submitted his or her work to peer review in journals or books or what fields of specialization one is acquainted with.

    Unfortunately, the acquisition of skills and knowledge in scholarship are irrelevant to the subject of religion in the eyes of these believers. What really counts for them is whether one can give assent to orthodox propositions and dogma.

    To say the Bible is inerrant is actually an effective strategy, because it instantly puts the gospels out of reach and thus beyond critical review. When literalists claim that certain biblical stories are descriptively true, they make claims that are an affront to common sense. At times literal readers take "literal" to mean the conventional reality that everyone takes for granted, yet other times the literal means "non-literal," such as "sewing wild oats." There are no wild oats in "sewing wild oats," yet this popular expression is understood to literally refer to youthful indescretions.

    Our preoccupation with the literal and with the physical sciences has killed off our sense of the imagination, which can help us grasp the metaphoric sense of parable and myth--the speech that Jesus used. I don't want to give up modern medicine or my automobile, but science and literalism do not cover all the yearnings of the spirit.
     
  3. Josephus

    Josephus <b>Co-Founder Christian Forums</b> Supporter

    +115
    Messianic
    In my bible it reads, "Be careful not to do your merciful deeds before men in order to be seen by them." That is the englished version in the left column. Under the greek words, however, word for word it reads: "Take care | the merciful deeds | of you | not | to do | before | men, |"

    "merciful deeds" is the greek word "eliomosune", and it is referenced to the Strongs Concordance as number 1654 in the Greek dictionary.

    In my Strong's concordance, it reads: "1654: el-eh-ay-mos-oo-nay; from 1656; compassionateness, i.e (as exercised toward the poor) beneficence, or a benefaction: - alms."

    So regardless of the translation "merciful deeds," the text includes the Strongs number so as to look it up yourself and see the exact meaning. In today's term's, 'merciful deeds' implies a deed done to those whom one has the ability to show mercy on. In short, that is what alms are.&nbsp; And if you don't agree with Strongs, then at the very least you still have the bare Greek word before you with which to research with in further study.
     
  4. Josephus

    Josephus <b>Co-Founder Christian Forums</b> Supporter

    +115
    Messianic
    In regards to interpreting the bible literally:

    Let's be sure you're not disagreeing with something we already agree on about. I don't like the way this conversation is going simply because we are both saying the same thing, but in different ways.

    I've agreed with everyone here about their hermaneutic. This is one kind of hermaneutic; the one I posted; and other people have theirs; but the principles and ideas are the same throughout; since truth is truth, no matter who says it or how it is said. So, fundamentally, we are thinking we disagree when in fact we agree, and I pray the Spirit can help you see this. I believe in common sense too, and therefore, the posts in here using common sense are ones I agree with (which is all of them).

    I am just content to provide to basic readers a simple and understandable hermaneutic that does not require a college degree to abide by or use - though it is always helpful to have more knowledge, and I don't debate that in the least.

    Let's agree that we agree, shall we?
     
  5. Matthew

    Matthew Member

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    Only if the Bible is not inerrant and infallible. Since the Bible is inerrant and infallible (using the definitions of these words found in the dictionary), that belief is not a barrier.

    These believers tend to think that one cannot have both scholarly knowledge and orthodox faith (assent to orthodox propositions and "dogma"). Your criticism is the kind that reinforces that belief.

    If "critical review" means "finding errors" then you are correct. But if it means "discovering the history, author, and other information" then it most certainly does not.

    Do you mean that the Bible does not say that Jesus rose from the dead in an historical sense, and that Jesus was not born of a virgin (literally and in a historical sense)? If not, what is your point!

    Jesus did not use myth, and some things that he said referred to historical realities.
     
  6. slightlypuzzled

    slightlypuzzled New Member

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    Christian
    I read the greek and struggle with the Hebrew. I find the interlinears help me to piece together original syntax for a good word study. The problem I have with word studies is how far back do you go to use a definition of the word. For instance, in New Testament Studies, do you use only the koine? Do you check the approved Hellenistic or Classical definitions? Do you peruse the Septuagint and listen for its Hebrew echoes? I am not discounting word studies, they are valuable additions to a contextual study--but they hold pitfalls for even the most well trained specialist, depending on what presuppositions he brings to the table.
     
  7. Matthew

    Matthew Member

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    Lexical studies should only use the language of the time. Consider what would happen if someone were to use modern English to determine the range of meanings of some Early Modern English words.
     
  8. filosofer

    filosofer Senior Veteran

    +285
    Lutheran
    That was the major contention of James Barr when he wrote, Semantics of Biblical Literature. Basically he critiqued the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Kittel - (ten volumes in English). Word studies by themselves can be misleading, even scholarly work like TDNT. This does not negate TDNT, but rather puts it into proper perspective and more importantly into proper use.

    There are two excellent works that help in this regard, one is introductory by Moises Silva, God, Language, and Scripture and the other at a more advanced level is Biblical Words and Their Meanings: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics.

    Actually, the first work has been incorporated into a six part volume entitled: Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation - each part had been a separate book.
    1. Has the church Misread the Bible
    2. Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation
    3. God, Language, and Scripture
    4. The Art of Biblical History
    5. Science and Hermeneutics
    6. The Study of Theology

    This book should be mandatory reading (680 pp) for anyone seriously interested in interpreting the Bible. Each of the authors interact with historical issues as well the contemporary scene.
     
  9. Jeffer

    Jeffer New Member

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    &nbsp;

    Good post, thanks, Jeffer
     
  10. computerjunkie

    computerjunkie New Member

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    Baptist


    Excellent point!&nbsp; This year, I am trying to simply "read through" the Bible, cover to cover,&nbsp;to refresh my heart and mind with God's overall plan from Genesis to Revelation.&nbsp; I was going through it at a pretty good clip...until I got Anchor Bible Dictionary on CD-ROM for Christmas!&nbsp;&nbsp;My "reading&nbsp;straight through the Bible" has slowed considerably because now I have to stop and look up a lot of things!!

    I have&nbsp;read and studied the Bible most of my life, but sometimes it is great to sit back and just READ it!&nbsp;
     
  11. Aikido7

    Aikido7 New Member

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    If the Bible is seen as inerrant, does that then&nbsp;mean that your understanding of it is also innerant?

    Jesus is a man.&nbsp; That is a statement of knowledge.&nbsp; Jesus is the Son of God.&nbsp; That is a statement of faith.&nbsp; Christianity is seeing the man, Jesus, as an embodiment of the divine on earth.&nbsp; Does that make sense to you?

    Critical review includes recognizing context and error, for the Bible is a history of man's relationship with God.

    Paul believes in a resurrection, but this is clearly not a resuscitation but instead a form of glorification.&nbsp; To Paul, Jesus was "the first fruits" of a general resurrection which would occur in his lifetime.&nbsp; And Jesus proclaimed being "born of a virgin" is intended to make a statement about the importance of Jesus, not the biology of Mary!

    Jesus did use myth--in the same sense that anthropologists and mythologists use the term today: the closest thing we can come to absolute truth.




    &nbsp;
     
  12. Reader Nilus

    Reader Nilus SISU

    +230
    Eastern Orthodox
    "For the Fathers, authority is not only the Bible, but the Bible plus those glorified or divinized as the prophets and apostles. The Bible is not in itself either inspired or infallible. It becomes inspired and infallible within the communion of saints because they have the experience of divine glory described in the Bible." ​

    Professor John Romanides of the University of Thessaloniki ​

    St Vincent of Lerins gives us a good way of reading the text in his COMMONITORY The main thing is to read the text in how it has been read from the start. How does the Church use the text in Liturgy, and what do the Fathers say about it?
    Jeff the Finn
     
  13. Aikido7

    Aikido7 New Member

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    The Bible is often erroneously thought of as "a book"--and taken that way literally. Actually, it is a collection of many books, written by many authors, over much time. Because these books are now gathered under one cover (or canon), they become "a book" in the popular imagination of the average believer.

    Since society changes--but some things never change--we need to ask, "This is what the texts meant then,--what do we think of it now?"

    The rules and holiness code of Leviticus can then give way to the inclusiveness of Jesus.
     
  14. Blackhawk

    Blackhawk Monkey Boy

    +71
    Eastern Orthodox
    Married
    US-Republican
    Well I bleieve that the Bible is a book and many books. It is many books written by many different authors at different time periods. But I see that they agree and that they all go towards a goal. That goal is Jesus. That is what the OT looks forward to. The Gospels record His life. And the rest of the NT looks back upon and then looks forward to his 2nd coming. But the whole point to the Bible is Jesus and the cross. So in a way it is many books but also one book.
     
  15. Aikido7

    Aikido7 New Member

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    --How could they "agree" if they were written at different time periods by different people? The Bible is full of textual contradictions which certainly do not detract from belief (yours, for instance), but in matters of fact and history we must conclude that the Bible presents people's relationship to the divine across many centuries and in many different--sometimes contradictory--ways.

    --Devout Jews would certainly disagree with your point that the Old Testament (the Hebrew bible) merely exists as a precursor for Jesus. Matthew's gospel is concerned with going back over Jewish scripture to find "clues" and/or "prophecy" which pointed to Jesus as the prefigured Messiah. Not only did Jesus himself deny the term, most scholars of the Bible see Matthew's gospel particularly as definite "spin doctoring" Jesus' life to make a theological point.

    --The gospels record remembered oral sayings and teachings and frame them in the context of the early communities' concerns four to nine decades after Calvary.

    --Declaring that Jesus and the cross as being "the whole point of the Bible" is a statement of belief, not a statement of fact or history.
     
  16. Blackhawk

    Blackhawk Monkey Boy

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    Eastern Orthodox
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    First I do not come to the conclusion you did after reading the Bible. i do not see it as contradictory. Not simple yes. But I do not see it as contradictory. One thing I think many people do not really look at when announicing supposed contradictions is context. I know it is what most christians say to this claim but it is so true. Also is it impossible for twoworls by different authors who live in different times and by different people to agree? I did not know that was an impossiblility.

    WEll first I would say that I do not agree with devout jews. If I did I would be a jew. But I never said it was just a precursor for Jesus and the cross. Although in a very simple way that is true. Since all of history is either looking forward or backward from that event. But the OT is about God having a relationship with his creation. Basically without going into many more details it is much more than just a precursor.

    When did Jesus deny that he was the Messiah? But the real question is how many times did he claim that he was the Messiah? Too many times to count. At least by me. And about Matthew being a definite Spin doctoring of Jesus' life, I woiuld ask you to prove that. I am sure some critical scholars would say that is so but I see no evidence to point to that fact and to say that they are true.

    To an extent I think this is true. The goispels were written by men (inspired by God) and were written for people atleast after the time Jesus lived. I do think that 9 decades might too long after Calvary but that is not so important. But basically the message was the same as right after Calvary and throughout Jesus life. It was just framed in the context of slightly later Jewish life.

    Well it is a fact. You can believe that it is true or not. but I am submiting it as my opinion. It is a statement of belief though. But isn't that one of te main points of Christianity? Belief. Faith. Rational and possibly some irrational faith in something larger than myself. Something that has proven to me that it is true and that it or rahter He is God. If knowing God and having faith/ belief in God is not a main part of Christianity then I do not kow what is.

    Oh and no matter how one slices it the Calvary is very important historically. It is the most important act in history. If it occurred then it is obvious why. If it did not then still it is because of Christianity's influence on the world.
     
  17. Aikido7

    Aikido7 New Member

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    "When did Jesus deny that he was the Messiah? But the real question is how many times did he claim that he was the Messiah? Too many times to count. At least by me."

    Few believers read Scriptrue carefully. They are technically literate, but they read with inattention and to confirm their own ideas and prejudices. One thing deep study of the Bible forces one to do is to actually pay attention to what is really THERE in the text.


    "Well it is a fact. You can believe that it is true or not. but I am submiting it as my opinion. It is a statement of belief though."

    Jesus was a man--that is a statement of FACT. Jesus is the Messiah is a statement of belief. Jesus is a threat is a statement of belief--a belief in the power of Ceasar. Jesus is boring is a statement of belief as well. In the first century this was the case; in the 21st century it is also the case. I disagree with your above quote--I see "opinion" and "fact" as totally different."
     
  18. Blackhawk

    Blackhawk Monkey Boy

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    Eastern Orthodox
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    Okay what do you say is there? That was what I wanted. This does not tell me much.


    Acutally Jesus was a man and Jesus is God are both facts. Jesus is boring is an opinion. Jesus is a threat I believe is an opinion also. A fact does not have to be proven logically. But whatever. I believe in Jesus 100% and think that others should also. It has been proven to me through reason and faith.

    But anyways yes I beleive Jesus is God. Do I have empirical evidence to back it up? Not any that would be conclusive so one must take it on mostly reasonable faith. I say mostly because I think that some of Christianity's doctrines are almost to wonderful to be true. It almost seems imposible that God wants to have a relationship and frindship with me. But he does.
     
  19. Aikido7

    Aikido7 New Member

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    Blackhawk--I do not want to attack your faith or personal relationship with Jesus. I just wanted to point out that faith and history are two different spheres of reality. Faith makes a meaning out of the historical reality. Faith is personal, and has to do with belief, opinion and theology. History is objective and verifiable and involves facts, evidence and data.

    Scholars have long seen a differecnce between the Jesus of history (the man who walked the dusty roads of Palestine) and the Christ of faith (the presence enshrined in ritual and religious hope).
     
  20. Aikido7

    Aikido7 New Member

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    Okay what do you say is there? That was what I wanted. This does not tell me much.

     
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