Wednesday, April 25, 2012

On biblical interpretation

As a former believer one of the things I find most disturbing about the bible is that it is never clear on certain matters. Sometimes when things don't quite make sense then people go about scrambling to find texts throughout the scriptures to try and tie it all together. Although, most of the time all they end up doing is quoting text out of context and mixing and matching verses of scripture that have absolutely nothing to do with each other or even the same subject matter.

One of the biggest issues of contention and I will use this misinterpretation as an example of what I mean, is the matter of the age of the Earth. Scientists believe based on various dating methods utilized on some of Earths oldest rocks, meteorites, etc and  their rate of decay that the Earth is 4.5 to 4.6 billion years old. You can find some great information about this in this article at right here. Also, in that article the subject of creationism and their guesses as to the age of the Earth are discussed.

When I was an evangelist from 1990' to 94' this was one of those topics I pretty much stayed away from. I was busy preaching about salvation and working on saving everyone I could possibly convince to give their lives to Jesus. But it often came up in private conversations and sometimes I was forced to address the issue. Unlike many literalist at the time, I was not convinced that the Earth was as some young Earth proponents said about 7,000 to even 10,000 years old. They also tried to make scientific claims that supported their beliefs but let's just say that there was something very wrong with their idea of science.

There was at the time a theory referred to as the gap theory that we used to try to make the age of the Earth as interpreted by scientists to fit with what the scriptures taught about the matter. Basically, what the theory taught was that in between Genesis verses 1 and 2 there was an indeterminate period of time that could have spanned into millions or even billions of years. But that was nothing more than assumptions that were being interpreted into the reading of the scriptures.

Genesis actually said that God created the Earth and everything in it in six days and that he rested on the seventh. The debate was on between theists of all sorts regarding this seven days. Were they literal seven days or was this just an allegory not meant to be taken literally? The next solution that Christians made was to not take the seven days as literal but rather interpret them according to 2 Peter 3:8 ' But there is one thing, my dear friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.' Now using this verse as a reference the seven days in Genesis was now seven thousand years!

But when you read 2 Peter 3:8 out of context it appears to be saying literally that one day is like a thousand years to God. But what was the author really talking about in chapter 3? If you took a moment to read chapter 3 in its entirety, you would see that he was trying to console the faithful regarding the coming of the Lord. He is responding to the scoffers (such as myself) who mock those believers who are still awaiting the coming of the Lord. He states that the Lord's coming is delayed because he is patient and doesn't want anyone to be lost but that all should come to salvation.

I once read somewhere that any and all bible translations are by default someones interpretation as to what the text is truly saying. Anyone who can speak, read, and write more than one language can attest to this. Depending on the language two people can hear the same phrase and translate (interpret) it differently. A good place to see this in black and white is to go to this site. The site is an online parallel bible where you can read a text or verses of scripture in various available translations.

The fact that we don't have any original texts of any of the books of the bible, the difficulty involved in making copies of those texts by hand and the high margin for human error, interpretation, and translation errors, makes me believe that the bible is not and simply cannot be the word of any god. Even the most careful interpretation that takes into consideration the time the text is written and what was going on at that time, the culture from which the tales and the texts were produced etc. Does not make the bible error free or inerrant and infallible as some bone headed literalist like to state.


  1. @Robert Hagedorn,I've actually read this before and I simply don't buy it. Besides what does that have to do with this post? Besides that fact that it is just another ludicrous interpretation of the sin of Adam and Eve supposedly according to Saint Augustine's Exegesis spoiler alert everyone! They had anal sex! The two trees represent the sexual organ and the anus one for procreation and one for pleasure which was strictly forbidden. Contrary to your initial post this is a perfect example of reading into the text what is simply not there. Thank you for your cooperation lol.