How to Interpret the Bible

Some of the biggest arguments and misunderstandings about crossdressing stem from different views of the Bible and how to interpret some specific Bible passages that may or may not bear on the issue.   In my opinion, much of the problem is that the people making arguments, (either for or against crossdressing with different Bible passages), usually have no clear method for how to interpret the Bible.  I firmly believe that there is a correct method for interpreting the Bible, but at the very least each person should have a consistent method for how to interpret it.  Sadly, most people don’t think about this.  If you are going to use the Bible at all in your views of crossdressing, please first try to think about what you think the Bible is, and how to properly interpret it.

Since I plan on writing about Deuteronomy 22:5 and other significant Bible passages, I thought it best to first explain how “I” interpret the Bible.  You may disagree with me, but I think my method is the correct way to interpret the Bible and it is shared by many other Christians and churches and traditions throughout church history.  I do not have the time to give you every detail and rule of interpretation that I adhere to, nor is it necessary for the purpose of this blog.  But I will lay out a general framework and some basic guidelines for how to interpret Scripture.  If you have any more detailed questions you of course may ask me.  I’m going to try to be thorough and when I am purposely skipping over something in my explanation of my method, I’ll try to point it out.

 

 

1.  View of the Bible

I believe that the Bible is a collection of writings that are 100% inspired by God.  They were written by humans, but the Holy Spirit worked in the people who were writing so that the words they wrote were exactly what God wanted them to write.  Therefore, since God is the author of Scripture, all Scripture has to make sense together.  It will not contradict itself.  Also, since God is the author, Scripture is 100% true.  It is without error and won’t lead us astray.

I also believe that the writings of the Bible are 100% written by humans.  The Bible is the word of God and words of men at the same time.  God in his sovereignty allowed the writers to use their own writing styles, vocabulary, education, experiences, and personality.  They had freedom in writing, but under God’s sovereignty and the working of the Holy Spirit, the outcome of what they wrote was still exactly what God wanted them to write.   (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Hebrews 1:1)

I believe that the original writings (which we no longer have) were the texts that were inspired, but that God also preserved the Scriptures through the process of copying them over history, so that we can still today call the Bible, “the Word of God.”  I believe that the Bible is necessary for us in order to understand who God is and how to be rescued from our sins.  Studying this world also teaches us true things, and also reveals God to us, but that is not enough.  We also need Scripture.

The Bible is the rule for my faith and life.  It is my highest authority besides God himself.  The purpose of the Bible is to reveal God to us.  It teaches us about God, ourselves, and the relationship between God and ourselves.  It does not tell us everything we want to know, and there are many subjects it does not teach about at all.

The Bible is perspicuous, meaning that it is clear enough for anyone to read and understand.  This means that we can read it without being an expert and still come to know about God through it and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ.  However, this does not mean that everything in the Bible is easy to understand.  Many things are hard and complicated to understand.  Even the apostle Peter admitted this.  (2 Peter 3:16).  Therefore we need guidelines and rules to help us properly interpret the Bible.

I accept all of these things ultimately on faith.  I could write pages of arguments for why we should believe the Bible is true.  But ultimately it still comes down to faith.  If you want to know good reasons for believing the Bible is inspired by God, there are good books out there on that subject. If you don’t accept these things by faith, then in my opinion, you can pretty much just ignore whatever the Bible says about crossdressing or related themes and do what you want.  Not until you believe these things about the Bible do you really need to examine and understand passages about crossdressing or transgender issues.

 

2. Difficulties in interpretation

We all come to Scripture with our own biases from our past experiences, education, background, etc.  We also come with our own biases about what we really hope Scripture is saying or not saying.

We are also limited in our understanding of the Bible because of the distance of the writings.  They were written about 2000 years ago or more.  They were written in other cultures, and in other places than where we live.  They were written in other languages – Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.

Because of this we need to try very hard to do exegesis (to lead out the meaning of the text) rather than eisegesis (to lead meaning into the text).  We must figure out the intended meaning of each passage, rather than leading into it the meanings we want to find there.  And doing exegesis rather than eisegesis is difficult work.  But we can get some help with the guidelines below.

 

 

3.  Interpretive Guidelines

A.  God’s guidance

If we approach the Bible with the standpoint of faith, then we can also trust that God will help us to understand Scripture through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and his people.  We should always pray and ask God to help us understand his word.  We should assume that even though people without faith can still sometimes interpret Scripture correctly, they will be at a severe disadvantage.  Scripture was written by people of faith for people of faith.

We also must remember to go to Scripture in humility and reverence.  We must respect it as it is God’s Word.  Further, we need to be willing to put in the time to study it.  We can’t rely on the Holy Spirit to give us a miracle of understanding.  The Holy Spirit also works through our diligent study of the Bible to help us understand.

 

 

B.  Historical background of the Bible

We must look at biblical passages in their historical and cultural context.  This is always tricky to do since we don’t have encyclopedias from back then to look these things up.  But we must do the best that we can, and sometime we must make educated guesses.

The main important guideline to remember is that ALL of the Bible is God’s word and applies to our lives.  But not every verse applies to us in exactly the same way.  We must discern the principle that a passage teaches us, but then figure out what the relevant cultural application is to our own time.  Every passage of scripture teaches us a principle that God wants us to learn, but sometimes the cultural application will be different and sometimes it will be the same.

For example, when it says to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength,” (Deuteronomy 6:5) we can understand that pretty easily without having to figure out much historical or cultural stuff.  The principle and application are the same both for us and the Israelites who first heard it.

But there are other passages more tricky like the verse –  “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (1 Corinthians 16:30).  With passages like these we first need to figure out the intended principle.  Why did Paul say this?  Well, the Corinthian church was going through many divisions and bad feelings towards each other.  In that culture, a kiss was a way to show friendship and reconciliation.  So Paul concludes his letter with telling them to greet one another with a holy kiss.  It’s a sign of forgiveness and reconciliation in the midst of their church divisions.  The principle would still apply to us today, but the cultural application would be different.  In our culture, a kiss does not mean that, and you probably would get slapped for trying to kiss someone in church.  In our culture, maybe the better application of this verse is to greet each other with a holy handshake for reconciliation and friendship.  Every scripture is applicable to our lives, but in different ways.

 

 

C.  Grammar of the Bible

The Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  It was inspired in these original languages.  To really understand what passages mean we must go back to the original languages.

No translation anywhere of anything is ever perfect.  There is always some interpretation involved in the translation.  So when we read out of, say the New International Version, there has already been much interpretation put into the English text that we read.  To really understand the original meanings of the text, we must try as hard as we can to read the Bible in its original languages.  We have to understand what words originally meant, not just what they mean now in our usage.  We need to understand the idioms of that time as well.

Certainly we can still read the Bible fairly accurately without knowing the original languages.  We can read the Bible in English and it is still the Word of God for us and we can still get much out of it since the translations are quite good.  We should just know that when we are doing so we are somewhat handicapped.  Thankfully though, it is not too serious of a handicap, since in our time good commentaries and lexicons are so readily available to help us.

We also need to pay attention to the issue of Textual criticism, of examining all the oldest manuscripts that we have, to put together the best and most accurate writings of the Bible in the original languages, but that is a huge different topic that I won’t get into.

 

 

D.  The Bible as literature

We must remember that the Bible was written as literature just like all of our writing today.  The authors were gifted.  They wrote in different ways and styles and genres.

When reading a passage of Scripture we must always look to see what kind of literary genre it was written in.  Just as today we read a newspaper differently than we read a novel than we read a dictionary than we read a poem.  Also in the Bible, we need to read Letters different from prophecy which are different than the poetic psalms.  There are many different literary genres in Scripture.  We need to interpret those genres as they were intended to be interpreted rather than treating all the Bible as the same type of literature.

There are different rules for interpreting prophecy than from interpreting law.  I could fill up another 10 pages talking about the different rules and guidelines for each of these types of biblical genres.  I won’t do so now.  I may bring up some of these guidelines later on whenI look at specific passages in later postings.

Furthermore, we also need to pay attention to the literary devices authors use.  Again we can’t read every passage the same.  Writers were gifted and used literary techniques like hyperboles, repetition, chiasm, parallelism, alliteration, euphemism, irony, metaphors, personification, and many more.  We must pay attention to these to interpret passages as they were intended to be interpreted.

Last, we must appreciate the beautiful form of the finished books of the Bible.  We must recognize the intention of an author through a whole book.  We must appreciate not just what they said, but why they said it.

 

Notes on reading biblical Letters:

I’d like to make a few notes about how to interpret the genre of “letter” correctly within the Bible. To interpret consistently a person should also be aware of the hermeneutical principles that he or she holds to when it comes to interpreting letters. These are mine below, and I think they are agreed upon by most Christians and biblical scholars, and I think they are the most helpful and most true to how God wants us to interpret and apply biblical letters. Some of these principles apply to all the different genres of writing that we come across in Scripture, but some are specific to letters. If you disagree with my hermeneutical principles then we probably won’t agree on the meaning of the text for today.

1. I believe that the Bible is fully inspired by God and so fully his word and without error. And yet at the very same time it is fully the words of the human authors. Therefore, in Paul’s letters, such as 1 Corinthians, we will see Paul’s own personality come out. It is his words, his personality, his church he is writing to, his vocabulary, his emotions coming out, etc. At the very same time, this is a letter that is inspired by God and applicable to the lives of all believers of all times and places. The epistles in the Bible are intended for our instruction and edification. Biblical letters can be fully written by humans and fully God’s Word at the same time, because God in his providence can make sure that what is written is what he wants written, and also we trust that God inspired Paul what to write through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and this inspiration happened even if Paul was not fully aware of it.

2. Before exegeting a biblical letter verse by verse, the whole book should be read in one sitting to be able to grasp the overall flow and literary meaning of the entire letter.

3. The reader should pay attention to the structure of the letter and the literary devices the authors use. Just like in our letters today, in the ancient world letters generally had a common structure, such as a greeting, thanksgiving, body of the letter, closing section, etc. Paul also utilized common “literary devices” or “formulas” in his letters as transitions or for other uses such as the “appeal formula” or “disclosure formula.” We could look at pages of material here just on the forms and functions and literary devices in biblical and ancient letters. But I am going to refrain from putting down more here because I don’t think they will have much bearing on differing interpretations of this particular passage.

4. The modern reader should think not only in terms of individual verses, but also should study the logical development of the arguments the author is making, from paragraph to paragraph.

5. The letters should be read in light of their historical context. To figure out this historical context, we look at the rest of Scripture, we look at historical sources (writings and archaeology), and we “read between the lines.” For example, in the book of 1 Corinthians, we pay attention to the specific words and phrases Paul uses, we look at the issues he was addressing, and in this way we can deduce what was going on in the Corinthian church. When Paul spends so much of the book talking about the need for unity in the church and the problems of division, we can easily deduce that the historical context was that there were many divisions in this church. This is an obvious example, and sometimes it can get more tricky. However, biblical scholars have spent a great amount of time and research on these things for us so that we can be fairly confident of the specific historical context regarding most passages. In the end, it is true that they are “guessing” but the guesses are based on careful research and reasoned arguments. It is NOT a subjective free-for-all.

6. The biblical epistles have an “occasional nature.” That means that in a specific time and place a specific author wrote these letters to specific churches who were dealing with specific issues. This means that some of the commands and instructions a biblical letter makes, we will NOT apply in a concrete literal exact way as the author wrote. For example, in Romans 16:3 Paul tells the Roman church to greet Priscilla and Aquila. We should not believe that God is telling us, through the book of Romans, that we need to greet Priscilla and Aquila today.

7. However, even though the letters have an occasional nature, still every single word is inspired by God, and everything in the book applies to us in some fashion today. In other words, God wants to speak to us today through everything in the book of 1 Corinthians, whether for conviction, instruction, edification, inspiration, etc. The proper way to think about this is that although we don’t literally obey every command or passage in the letters, we still obey and apply all of the principles that these passages and commands teach. This is not to say that there aren’t certain passages we are to literally obey.

8. In order to apply these biblical letters to our lives we need to first read and study the passage by learning its context and history. Second, we must use this knowledge to determine the abiding universal principle(s) that the passage teaches us today. Third, we wrestle with how to apply that principle to our lives in our own specific cultural context, our specific time and place and community.   Here are some clear examples that will help demonstrate the point.

In 1 Corinthians 2:9 Paul says – However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Briefly, the context behind this verse is that Paul was saying that Christians, including the Corinthians Christians, whom God chooses, tend to be foolish and inglorious according to the world’s standards. This would have been particularly fitting for the Corinthian Christians who were slaves. But then Paul is talking about the glory that God will give believers in Heaven. The principle this teaches would be that even though we might not live in glory right now, or appear wise to the world, that God will give glory and wonderful things to believers in Heaven that we cannot even imagine right now. When applying this to our culture, our specific cultural context doesn’t matter quite so much. No matter what we are going through, no matter how foolish we might appear to unbelievers, God has great things in store for us in Heaven and we can have hope. This hope is for any believer of any culture, man or woman, slave or free, adult or child, American or Chinese. It is as literally true for us as it was for the Corinthians. The specific life application for us is the same as it was for the Corinthians.

But let’s look at a more difficult example.  We read in 1 Corinthians 16:30 that Paul instructs the church to – “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” With a little bit of thought, we should be able to agree what principle this verse is getting at. Keep in mind that the biblical authors do not always tell us what the principle is. They give us the application in the cultural context of the people they were writing to. From that specific application of a holy kiss, we work back to the universal principle that is being taught, and then we apply the principle to our cultural context instead of the context of the letter’s recipient. In other words we move backwards to the more general, so that we can then move forwards to the more specific.

The context was that the church of Corinth was full of divisions and infighting. We know from historical sources that the act of kissing in that culture was a physical expression of greeting. More specifically, this particular form of greeting carried the connotations of forgiveness and reconciliation. We may safely conclude, therefore, that Paul is addressing the problem of division through this particular command, and reminding the Corinthians of the importance of unity; as such the command clearly fits with the theme of the letter. He wants them to physically display to one another their reconciliation and forgiveness, so that they can live in unity with one another. This interpretation is further reinforced by the fact that Paul also commands these kisses in letters to other churches which were suffering from division problems.

With this in mind, the abiding universal principle that God is teaching us here is that we should show forgiveness and reconciliation toward each other, and further, that we should express these notions through an outward physical act. However, the modern application of this principle will be different in each culture. In Corinth, this meaning was shown through a kiss on the cheek (because that’s what made sense in that culture). In some cultures it might be shown through foot washing. In others it might be a hug. In American culture, perhaps it is as simple as giving someone a handshake or a warm and sincere greeting. Indeed, many Churches in the United States integrate a time for greeting one another (with a handshake or a verbal blessing) into the worship service itself, for this exact reason. It is our culture’s equivalent of a “holy kiss.” Therefore, although Christians today do not believe we are supposed to literally obey this biblical command, we do believe we are supposed to obey the command in accordance with the author’s real intention that lies behind it. We have taken a specific command, we have moved backwards to the general principle, and only then did we move forward to apply the principle in specific ways that make sense in own context.

This example hopefully has shown that everything we read in these letters applies to us today. We just have to figure out together how they apply. So as we look at 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, we will attempt to figure out the historical context, then move backwards to figure out the abiding universal principle that the passage teaches, and then finally move forward to apply that principle to our specific culture today (in my case, the mainstream culture of the United States).

 

 

E.  God as the main author of Scripture

Since God is the main author of Scripture, Scripture all works and fits together.  Because of this one of most important interpretive tools is to interpret Scripture with Scripture.  We can compare and contrast and this helps us to figure out what passages really mean.

We also see that God worked in Scripture through “progressive revelation.”  Over time God revealed more and more to his people.  The Israelites did not have the understanding of God as Trinity that we do today.  But God progressively reveals more and more about himself and his plan of salvation throughout Scripture.  We interpret the New Testament in light of the Old Testament and the Old Testament in light of the new.  I also believe that the whole Bible is ultimately about Jesus, which he himself said on a few occasions.  When we read the Old Testament, we should look for Jesus there.

Because God is the author of Scripture, and God is almighty and knows the future, sometimes scripture passages have multiple meanings and multiple fulfillments.  For example in the prophets we see some prophecies which were fulfilled immediately during the time they were spoken, and then fulfilled later on when Jesus came as well (Isaiah 7:1-25, virgin will be with child).

 

 

F.  Don’t interpret alone

We should all have the humility to realize we can’t interpret the Bible correctly on our own.  We need the people of God, the community of faith to dialogue with and work together with in order to understand Scripture correctly.  We can’t be a church unto ourselves.

When we interpret Scripture we shouldn’t be a lone ranger, but should be in a church body to study with, preferably with a whole collection of churches.  If you come up with some new view in Scripture and you are the only one who believes it, chances are you are wrong.  We need to be held accountable to our view of Scripture by other Christians.

Further on individual passages of Scripture that we are trying to figure out we should look at how they have been interpreted throughout church history.  Some of the smartest leaders in the church are no longer living, people that had a better grasp of the original languages than we do today, and people that had a better grasp of the biblical culture than we do today.  People that studied like crazy.  We can read their writings from the last 2000 years of church history and learn from their wisdom, and humbly realize they have something to teach us.  If we come up with a new teaching that is different from what The Church has always said for the last 2000 years it should give us great pause to proceed with caution.   There is great wealth in church tradition.  In light of this, creeds and confessions written throughout church history are a great tool to keep us guided to proper biblical interpretation.

Conclusion:  I could say a lot more, but this is really long already.  I hope this helps some of you grow deeper in the knowledge of God’s Word.  I will use this post as the starting point for all other posts I do that touch on Scripture, so if you don’t understand something in it, please feel free to ask many any questions you want.

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13 comments on “How to Interpret the Bible

  1. We got into an interesting discussion about interpretation at church a few weeks ago when we hit on some of Paul’s more controversial statements regarding women. You know the ones I mean, where he basically tells women to shut up and don’t even think about teaching men.

    Does this still apply today? Do women sin when they speak out in church, even to ask questions for further enlightenment on a subject (rather than waiting until they are home and asking their husbands about it)? Should women not prophesy or pray in church?

    Or was that a cultural thing, applicable to a time when women were little more than chattel? Or perhaps you could argue that this was just Paul’s opinion, and while divinely inspired was just a suggestion and not an order.

    Our discussion didn’t get ugly, but you could tell the men were uncomfortable; none of them would come right out and say that we should indeed still be interpreting Paul’s instructions exactly as he stated them, and assume that he was telling us exactly what God wanted us to hear. So instead we joked around the subject lightly and settled on a rather vague “each to his own interpretation and let God deal with you if you’re wrong” approach. If you think that the passage doesn’t apply anymore or was just Paul’s personal preference, that’s great for you but you can’t judge others who take it literally; likewise if you do take it literally you can’t judge others for a different interpretation — especially if you don’t also follow every single command given from the first “Thou shalt not”, right down to not wearing garments made of mixed fabrics or planting mixed crops or being required to have tassles on your garmets and a scroll of scripture attached to your body. The pastor found it particularly amusing that one family who took him to task most harshly for allowing women to teach adults in Sunday School had a mother who consistently wore jeans and heavy makeup to church. So they also pick and choose which passages to take literally and which ones don’t apply, but they drew their line at a different point.

    The problem with this, of course, is it’s a very slippery slope. Where *do* you draw the line? Is it OK to allow women to teach and wear jeans but not OK to allow men to wear dresses or marry one another? Can we also decide that prohibitions against adultery and theft are just cultural oddities from a different time? As soon as you stray from a literal reading and into interpretation, you might as well just write your own Bible.

    I don’t know the right answer, and neither did my brothers and sisters. One way, and you become a legalistic pharisee; the other way, and you become a hedonist. Stay in the middle and you are “neither warm nor cold”. For me, the only sure thing is to do my best to obey the two commandments Christ said sum up the entire law: Love the Lord my God, and love my neighbor as I love myself. Do I succeed? Not always… but all I can do is the best I can do.

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  2. thorin25 says:

    Hi Ralph, thanks for the post. You have some interesting thoughts there for sure, and I don’t want to take time to explain how I would answer all of those questions. I simply don’t have the time for it and I think you’d be the only one to read the 20 pages they might end up being 🙂

    But your ideas there about people interpreting the Bible make me want to re-emphasize the point that we need to do exegesis, not eisegesis. People should take some time to think about why they ignore certain passages. We should never just pick and choose what Scriptures we apply. Why do we follow certain ones and ignore others? Your little Bible study should be a wake up call for them to think about these issues. We can’t just leave the issue there unsettled like that. Those people now have realized they are being inconsistent. Rather than being okay with that they should go back and examine those scriptures that they follow, and those that they ignore, and get some more detailed help with biblical interpretation. Maybe they were taught those interpretations, and maybe those interpretations are true, but now they need to learn WHY those are the correct interpretations.

    One great book they could read is: “How to read the Bible for all its worth” a fairly easy but very helpful read about interpreting the Bible and the different genres in it. It can be found on amazon here – http://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Bible-All-Worth/dp/0310246040/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316974514&sr=8-1

    The job of interpretation and application is super tough at times, like those passages about women in church leadership. But that should only make us discuss more and do an even better job of studying and pray for help even more, rather than giving up and letting it become a free for all of whatever feels best to each of us.

    Last, I appreciate your comment about what is most important. Loving the Lord and each other. (I do not think that is the only sure thing as you said, there are plenty of other sure things in Scripture we can agree about). But I agree that that truly is the most important. It is good for us to remember that our interpretations will never be perfect, but that even so, we are under grace through the Lord Jesus and what he did for us. So in the end it is good to remain united on those most important things.

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  3. Jared says:

    I try to approach the Bible in a very similar fashion. I actually purchased a workbook that helped me understand it better. I try to take principles and concepts that the Bible teaches and apply them to my life currently. I certainly don’t understand all of it, but I don’t feel that I have to. You read it and try to relate it to your life as best as you can. Sometimes you need to go through certain experiences before you can truly grasp what the Bible is teaching also.

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  4. Dramaking55 says:

    Thorin
    Have you ever considered that the bible was written primarily to the Jews? That the concept of grace that Paul talks about is not the same as the grace of the Jewish covenant. I have been listening to Les Feldick http://www.lesfeldick.org and though it might seem controversial I think that it makes sense. Nowhere that I can see does Peter speak of the Gospel of grace as we know it i.e. saved by the blood of Christ until 2 peter. As the grafted in ones we know of Jesus and His saving Grace but the Jews were told to believe in God and follow His laws and have faith. Abraham had faith and it was counted for him. I don’t think it is that big a deal as a gentile but it has just been on my mind so I toss it to you as a pastor. If it is then it makes sense to me that the Jews are His chosen people and though I pray for them and we have many great Messianic Jews perhaps all Jews will be saved. Thoughts?

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  5. thorin25 says:

    I think that the Church is the New Israel, or rather the true Israel of God, (Gal. 6:16 as an example).

    I believe that the Old Testament points to Jesus in every bit. Meaning that Jews who reject Jesus have understood the OT wrongly, and Christians have understood it rightly, thus meaning the OT is a Christian testament, and not a Jewish testament. Jesus said it was all about him, on multiple occasions.

    I also believe that the Old Testament was all about grace, not about works. The works of the law of course function differently now for those of us in Christ, but it was not simply works of the law in OT versus grace now in NT. The pharisees interpreted the law falsely that way, but it was always intended to be about grace, the law was always a response to grace.

    Abraham was chosen by God’s grace. Israel was made a people by God’s grace. God rescued Israel from Egypt. God made them a nation. The 10 commandments were given AFTER God rescued them. It wasn’t – “do this so I will give you salvation.” It was – “I just saved you, now do this out of gratitude.” The OT says over and over that God is a God of love and compassion slow to anger. It was in response to God’s love, in response to God choosing them as a people even though they didn’t deserve and weren’t special, that they were to follow the law as a response to that grace. Yes, there were also aspects of blessings and cursings, and it was a covenant, with punishment if they failed, and so on. But still fundamentally the OT is about grace. And frankly, the OT HAS to be about grace, since Jesus said it was all about him.

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  6. WPDP says:

    How can you say scripture is clear enough for anyone to understand and then point out that we need to understand it in its historical context, its correct grammar, understand its form of literature, in its original language, and have to humility to admit that we cannot understand it on our own. Aren’t you contradicting your original premise??? Of course you are just reciting what you were taught in seminary.

    When experts cannot agree on the interpretation of scripture then how can you claim that it is perspicuous? Why do we have over 5,000 Christian denominations if scripture is perspicuous? Simple fact is: Scripture is NOT perspicuous.

    This leads me to Deuteronomy 22:5. Should we condemn all women who wear pants, or just women in the military who wear combat gear? And don’t kilts create a conundrum? When I was in Britain I saw men wear kilts, but I also saw more women wearing kilts than men. So which gender was the abomination unto the Lord? We have a person in my office who wears a kilt to work (no, he is not Scotish, he is just a cross-dresser). I have to say his pink kilt does look like women’s wear. I believe that is a sin. However if he wears his kilts in Scotland then God is cool with it… seems God’s morals are dependent upon geography.

    Honestly there is no way you can interpret Deuteronomy 22:5 in our modern understanding of cross-dressing. If you interpret this verse in its historical context then you have to see it in the light of the Hebrew culture 3000 years ago. At that time the Mosaic Law was introduced to identify and separate the Jewish people from their neighbors. One important practice was the segregation of the genders. Men and women did not socialize together. Families did not sit together in the synagogues. They believed that if the genders mingled together it would lead to sexual misconduct. Remember, much of Deuteronomy 22 was written about sexual misconduct – like if a man raped a young women, then his punishment would be, he had to marry her! So Deuteronomy 22:5 was written to help enforce the segregation of genders, and preserve themselves from sexual immorality.

    Cross-dressing may lead to sexual immorality, especially if one has a cross-dressing fetish and he sexually stimulates himself to the point of masturbation. However only about 3-5% of males have a cross-dressing fetish. So for the other 95% of the male population, they can cross-dress and feel no sexual stimulation, nothing but embarrassment. If they were to cross-dress to make us laugh, or as part of a dare, or for raising money for a charity, there is no sin. These guys can’t even imagine why any healthy heterosexual male would want to wear women’s clothing.

    Okay, but for the 3-5% that have a cross-dressing fetish it IS A SIN. However, it is not the cut of the cloth that makes it a sin. It is a sin because for these men it is an addiction. They make themselves slaves to their passion. It makes them feel shame and guilt. They must keep their cross-dressing under control, or it takes control over them. They create a female alter-ego and fall in love with “her”. They harm their physical bodies to enhance their imaginary feminine side. They sacrifice their family to cater to the “needs” of their imaginary alter-ego. When they marry their wives feel rejected. They complain that they feel like their husband’s second love, and consider their fetish activity as adultery..Yes, it is a sin, but not because of Deuteronomy 22:5. It is a sin because they are not practicing self-control, but allowing themselves to harm themselves and their families by becoming a slave to their own twisted passions.

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  7. thorin25 says:

    Hello WPDP. As I stated, the Bible is clear enough that we can come to know God through it and the way to salvation. But parts of it are difficult to understand. Clear enough to know what is most important, but parts of it still tricky. It is perspicuous, or clear, in those matters, but that does not mean I believe that everything in it is clear. This is not an inconsistency.

    Please go back and actually read my Deut. 22:5 post before criticizing me about it. In the post, I have addressed the issue of cultural change, and women wearing pants. I don’t need to waste my time dialoguing with someone who criticizes before reading and listening. Maybe I’m reading into this, and you didn’t know I even had such a post. If so, I apologize. Here it is – https://healingcd.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/deuteronomy-225/
    And I don’t think your understanding of Deut. 22:5 is logical. There is not even a hint in the verse about trying to keep the mingling of genders separate. And anyway, if that was the worry, it would be far easier to tell them to keep separate when sitting together, rather than prohibiting crossdressing. It seems pretty far fetched to me to think that the law was given so that they didn’t crossdress as a disguise in order to sit in the synagogue with women, in order to be close to them in order to sexually mistreat them. I mean come on. That seems ridiculous. I think my argument is far more logically persuasive.

    Otherwise I agree with most of what you say about why crossdressing is sexual immorality and addiction. As far as other reasons for crossdressing, I personally don’t like crossdressing at all, for any reason. But I could see it being justified in certain cases, such as disguise to save someone’s life. And I could see it as innocent in certain cases, such as if a child did it for fun. Though I’d still probably have a talk with my child afterwards about the differences between boys and girls, and the cultural norms about clothing for the different sexes.

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  8. Wosret says:

    I feel that you take an extreme position on the bible… firstly, to be inspired by someone is not for them to dictate anything to me. If I read a few poetry books in order to get inspiration, this doesn’t mean that the book, or the authors dictated anything to me, or that I copied anything verbatim from the works themselves.

    For much of the bible there is no original works, the old testament comes from Judaism, and was written down when the Hebrew written language become popularized around the forth century,B.C.E. the written language having been invented around the eighth century. However the time of Moses is said to have been around the twelfth century B.C.E. That is nearly eight hundred years of oral history. That isn’t nearly how far it comes to go back though, as the often quoted “six thousand years” for the age of the earth come from adding up the genealogies given in the old testament, and find that they go back four thousand years (which was written down two thousand years ago). The new testament was written down, but then of course the original copies had to be copied by scribes, which were copied by scribes, which were copied by other scribes. When a bible was to be compiled for the printing press in the 14th century C.E. they accumulated over six thousand different copies, which had more than four hundred thousand differences between them. Thirty thousand differences are noted, as being considered significant, rather than simply spelling, and grammar differences.

    I think that going into reading the bible as if it were all 100% true, just saves one from thinking, and using their own discernment. You outline the difficulty of interpretation, but you must see how this itself renders calling the bible “100% true” unclear, as truth itself is interpretation. Take the example of a parable, like one of Aesop’s fables, like the one about the wood cutter, and the golden axe. The moral being that honesty is high quality, and rewarding, whereas dishonesty is repulsive, and punished. I could say that this fable is “100% true”, but that doesn’t mean that I think that the events took place, that the people in the story were real, or ever lived, or that any of the details corresponded to reality in any sense, but the moral was 100% true. Since one’s interpretation can be wrong, it is, I think, just unhelpful to make unqualified proclamations such as that. Similarly, if I demand that all of the details of the fable have to have taken place, and argue endlessly about the necessity of this, aren’t I actually completely overlooking the truth of the fable?

    Now, that said. I am against pre-judgment, and preconception, so I am entirely in favor of reading any entire text uncritically, and taking everything at face value until I read the entire thing, and get the whole picture, as anything I perceive as a mistake or problem, may not be if I give the text time to unfold itself to me. After I have it all though, I think it is very important to exercise our critical faculties. We have them for a reason.

    My prefer to use Dante’s method for interpreting scripture, who in my opinion has a fantastic literary theory, and a method great for interpreting all forms of literature, not just the bible. Dante believed passages of the bible to have four levels of meaning, the literal meaning, the allegorical meaning, the tropological, or moral meaning, and finally the anagogical, or ultimate meaning. I add in a fifth level, no present in his original method; the topological, or historical context. Covering contemporary allusions, references, and such.

    As for the actual translations of languages, well, I mainly have faith in linguists — as the deconstructionists, that offer all of the various meanings of terms, cannot account for the fact that a literalist translation may not capture the actual intended meaning as well as a non-literal translation. Knowing which is the case requires a nuanced grasp of both languages, so I tend to leave that up to the professionals. I believe that one must have faith in their fellow humans, as well as God.

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  9. thorin25 says:

    Interesting comment. Thank you. But I’m surprised that you say – “I feel that you take an extreme position on the bible…” I am a Christian, and the Bible is what Christians believe is revelation from God. My view of the Bible is the same as that of all Christian denominations that I know of, from the Roman Catholic church to Pentecostals in South America to Anglicans in Africa. (obviously with some slight nuance variations). If my view of the Bible is extreme, than so is the view of the Bible by all Christians.

    When I say that the Bible is fully true, of course I don’t mean that all interpretations are fully true. We can err in our interpretations.

    I think some passages should be interpreted literally and some shouldn’t as you do. It depends on the author’s intention and the genre of the writing.

    There are many books out there that show the amazing validity and accuracy of the Bible. Books that delve into textual criticism and show how many ancient manuscripts we have today, and how remarkably similar they are. Do you know about the Dead Sea Scrolls? Read a book on those, it’s quite amazing. People used to think our Bible is full of errors because of being repeatedly copied over the years, but the Dead Sea scrolls finding blew that theory out of the water. Our Bibles are amazingly accurate and for the most part unchanged over the last 2000 years.

    I know certain Christians in the past believed in allegorical methods of interpretation. It makes some sense, but I largely find this unhelpful as its basically a subjective free for all (aside from certain specific passages that the authors meant to be taken allegorically). Even if God intended allegorical reading of Scripture to be okay and valid, we are still left with people saying the text means whatever they want with the allegorical method. Though, if you put some hedges around allegorical reading, then it can be more okay. Such as that the literal meaning of the text takes precedence, and so an allegorical meaning of a text can never go against the rest of what the Bible says. In the end, I really don’t use it, and haven’t seen it be helpful.

    I’m a bit confused as to what you think. Are you saying you don’t believe the events of the Bible are true, but it just teaches a moral fable? Let me know, because that paragraph was a bit confusing. I believe in a real living God who has acted in history, and continues to act today. That means I believe he did do things for his people and the stories we have written down are some of the things he did. I do believe he became incarnate in the person of Jesus, and the stories about Jesus are true. If the Bible is just morals, then it’s a pretty unimportant book. But if the Bible is more than just morals, and tells me about who God is and what he is done, and how he accomplished salvation and eternal life for me, and how I can get to know him right now, then it is a book worth reading.

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  10. Wosret says:

    I agree that almost all Christians believe that the bible was inspired, as do I, but I don’t believe that inspired means the same thing as dictated. I favor Catholicism, for their rich theological history, but the Catholics do not limit God’s inspiration to just the bible, but believe all of the saints and theologians to have been inspired, and for their works to be no less canonical than the bible. What this inspiration means, is a hot theological subject, but I don’t think it does much justice to the idea to just interpret it as dictated verbatim from God. Revelation is no different, and is a word that is synonymous with epiphany, which originally referred to insight through the divine.

    Yes, I’m aware of the dead sea scrolls, which are relevant for old testament bible scholarship. I was referring to new testament scholarship. There is an important difference in that the Jewish tradition was long standing, and established. Christianity in the early days was not, and no new testament canon existed until the forth century C.E. and the council of nicaea. Even then, Christianity was in its infancy moving around Europe through conversion, being introduced to people that were not raised by it, and it wasn’t second nature to, like the Jews. Christianity was just establishing itself, and the disagreements between the newly initiated mattered. As I outlined, when the bible was compiled for the printing press, all of this became quite apparent. I am interested in your scholarship however, perhaps you could drop some names for me to research, some authors of the books you mention.

    The literary theory I outlined, the five levels of meaning apply to all of the passages in the bible, and all of them apply. There isn’t a choice between literal, and allegorical, it is both, but also moral, spiritual, and historical. In every passage.

    I believe God to be unfathomable, ineffable, not subject to human conceptualization. I believe in a relationship with God, not a mere concept of what God is — and I do believe that the bible is an inspired instruction towards righteousness. Mainly being a guide on how to live a righteous life. I do however also believe many religions to be inspired works towards the same ends.

    My example with Aesop was not to say that biblical events didn’t happen, or that they are all fables… it was a criticism of the vagueness of calling something “100% true” without qualification. I do however believe that whether or not some of the events took place is far less important than the point of telling the events. Even when events did take place, they are told because of some higher meaning that they are attempting to convey with them, and not merely to recall events for no reason. So, whether they events actually took place, I do believe to be secondary to the message one is attempting to convey by recounting them

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  11. thorin25 says:

    I think you may have misread my post, or perhaps I wasn’t clear. I actually do not believe in the dictation view of inspiration. I believe every word is what God wanted, but I don’t think God dictated it to the authors. As I said, the authors used their own words, own vocabulary, etc, and didn’t even know they were writing what would be called Scripture, God’s Word.

    When I say the Bible is “true” I mean it is true according to its intention. So a historical narrative in the Bible is true in that it reports history. How is a parable true? Well it is not true in that it literally happened, because that goes against the definition of a parable, it’s teaching is true. So when I say “true” it is of course according to the intention of each passage, the intention of the author, what type of literary genre, etc.

    If God is totally unfathomable then we can’t know anything about him or know him. This is completely contrary to the Christian faith, and the main place that I see the two of us diverging. Of course, I believe that we can’t fully understand God or know everything about him. But we do know what he has revealed. If he has revealed it, what he has revealed is no longer mystery. He has not only revealed truths about himself, but revealed himself through the person of Jesus.

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  12. Wosret says:

    I do not see a distinction between saying that God dictated the works, and God intended them to be word for word, verbatim what was written. I think that God inspired the message, but the medium is secondary, and partially the men themselves, for being righteous, insightful people.

    I think we’ve come to an agreement on the truth of the bible.

    I believe that one comes to know God by being in a relationship with a living God, and not through mechanical conceptualizations, and mere thought. That one is introduced to God by opening their heart, and further acquainted with God through living a holy life. That one comes to knowledge of God not through contemplation, but through righteous actions, and noble thoughts and feelings. Through orthopraxy, and orthodoxy is secondary, and can only be understood through orthopraxy. In this one, a righteous person sees the influence of God in all righteous, and beautiful things. So that I believe a sage, a truly righteous person can see the foundation of the holy life being the vital seed from which all religious orthodoxy is inspired.

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  13. panteradraco says:

    Reblogged this on doramapolis and commented:
    Great!

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