On Bible-reading and Genesis

This morning I started a project I’ve been meaning to start for quite a while. One of my bucket list items was to read the entire Bible (I did it chronologically), but THEN I got to wondering about all the historical background and stuff… and I just happened to purchase a TNIV Study Bible a year or two ago… so I decided that I want to read the whole Bible chronologically, but this time to do it in my Study Bible so that I can read all the notes. I also resolved to write down in my journal at least one insight or comment from each day’s reading (some of which I will probably post here on the blog).

Today is day one. It took a long time; the assigned reading for today was Genesis 1-3, but before I could get to that I (of course) had to read all the introductory notes about the translation, about the Bible as a whole, and about the structure of the study notes, not to mention the introduction to Genesis itself. I’m just a nerd like that. =)

But eventually, I did in fact read Genesis 1-3 (and all the notes…). Here are a few of my thoughts for today:

  • There are a crapton of really long notes on Genesis 1-3, especially Genesis 1. This made me realize (even more so than before) the significance of this part of the Bible. These three chapters — creation and the Fall — comprise probably the most important part of the Old Testament, if not the whole Bible (literarily speaking, anyway). This is the “point of conflict” without which we would have no story. So it’s kind of a big deal, hence the extensive research and background info.
  • In the introduction to Genesis, the author mentioned the fact that a list of the themes in Genesis is actually a pretty good reflection of the themes in the whole Bible. For example, Genesis is where the key relationships between God and creation, God and humans, and humans and other humans are established. I love those sorts of parallels, so I’m looking forward to watching for that as I continue reading.
  • I really like interesting background info! For example, there was a note (purely speculative) that wondered if the reason Genesis 1 avoids using the words “sun” and “moon” is because those would have referred at the time to the proper titles for the deities of the Sun and Moon. So fascinating!!
  • To continue in my literary vein, I’m really enjoying (and looking forward to continuing) reading the Bible as a single work of literature, authored by God. It really helps me to think about the arc of the story and overarching themes throughout the entire Bible, rather than just within books. I mean, can anyone come up with a more compelling storyline than the fall and redemption of the entire human race and all of creation with them? Answer — NO, you can’t, because that is the most epic storyline EVER.

In conclusion, loving my Bible plan so far. This is gonna be great. =)

What are your thoughts on Genesis 1-3? How about the Bible as a work of literature? Let me know what you think!

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36 thoughts on “On Bible-reading and Genesis

  1. I recently read Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”  I knew it would be good, because it was a “classic,” but my expectation was that it would fall short of other epics (i.e., those of Homer), sort of like watching a $1M-budget Christian film after a $250M Hollywood blockbuster.
     
    However, I was wrong, and for precisely the same reason that you mentioned above: that is, that Genesis recounts “the fall and redemption of the entire human race and all of creation”…how does one top that?  I didn’t think it was possible to get more epic than Ajax/Hector/Achilles/Helen, but God/Satan/Adam/Eve proved me wrong.
     
    Epic, indeed.

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    1.  @Menn Now I’m EXTRA looking forward to reading Paradise Lost! I even have a cool old-ish version that Daniel gave me for my birthday one year. =)

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  2. That thing about the sun and moon we actually talked about in our Old Testament class at seminary… it’s a pretty legit theory.  The author(s) of that section of Genesis (the “Priestly” source) would’ve been very concerned indeed not to have any hint of something that could be taken as acknowledging other deities.

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    1.  @CarissaLick Very cool! Perhaps the crediting of the “Priestly” source is why my editors made it sound more speculative… in the introduction they mentioned that there was a “four authors theory”, but they were pretty down on it. Let me see what they said… “However, this view [the four source theory of Genesis] is not supported by conclusive evidence, and intensive archaeological and literary research has tended to undercut many of the arguments used to challenge Mosaic authorship.”
       
      I mean, this is the (T)NIV I’m reading here… maybe it’s my years of being raised in the LCMS, but I feel like the NIV-related movement is usually pretty conservative about biblical authorship. Thoughts?

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      1.  @RebekahSchulzJackson Yes, the NIV tends to get used by more conservative groups, and the NIV/TNIV Study Bible comes from those same people.  Among non-evangelical scholarship, the 4-source hypothesis is pretty much universally agreed upon, at least in its basic sense.  Scholars like to nit-pick and sometimes disagree about which parts come from which authors (especially for certain passages that are more obscure or unclear), but there is a general consensus that the Penteteuch was written much later than during Moses’ lifetime by people with specific historical contexts in mind (i.e. for the Deuteronomistic source the exile, and for the Priestly source the reign of Josiah).  As for Mosaic authorship, there is no biblical warrant for that claim in the first place.  It’s just tradition/legend.  I don’t know when Moses was supposed to have written down such a long history, anyway, since he was busy wandering in the desert for so long and then died before the end of the story…

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      2.  @CarissaLick So funny! I never cease to be amazed at how many things I thought were “gospel truth” and later come to find out there are like 14 different theories out there, some of which have some legitimate evidence behind them. Now I’m curious to see what the editors will say when we get to the introductions for the gospels… I DO remember learning the source theory in college though, so at least I’ve heard of that one. =)
         
        Also, to give the TNIV a little credit, here are some of their concession statements:
        “Historically, Jews and Christians alike have held that Moses was the author/compiler of the first five books of the OT. … However, a certain amount of later editorial updating does appear to be indicated.”
         
        And to address your “wonder”, my authors suggest that 40 years of wandering in the desert was, in fact, the perfect (“most likely”) time for Moses to compile the Pentateuch.

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      3.  @RebekahSchulzJackson Yes!  That is a very well-written article about the approach to biblical studies that we learned at seminary.  Seeing the Bible (or the Penteteuch in particular) as written by multiple communities over various historical periods does not diminish its power as a religious/spiritual text.  It just gives us more insight as to what types of experiences of God the people of those times had, and helps us to better understand the truths/perspectives they were trying to express.  It’s a very helpful method when it comes to contradictions between various parts of scripture, or contradictions between what scripture says and what we believe to be ethical.  Sometimes, the types of prohibitions and whatnot that the Bible demands make a lot of sense when you understand the plight that the Hebrew people were going through at the time in which that section originated–but that doesn’t mean that they have to make sense in a completely different context such as our own (or a different part of scripture).

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      4.  @CarissaLick  @RebekahSchulzJackson “Diminish” is uber-subjective; it depends on how you measure/evaluate religious/spiritual power. 
         
        Modify is certain; we no longer have the sense of “these are the words from God’s mouth, or the visions from God to Moses, written faithfully and directly”, you have “this is what some people thought. They had interaction with God too somehow, and said a bunch of time that was for them and not really for us”.
         
        My friend Bruce views it as “the theory that claims to know when humans invented God”. I don’t agree with that necessarily, but I don’t feel like you can rightly say so outright-ly that it definitely “doesn’t diminish the power”, unless you’re already operating from the assumption that the original/traditional view was patently untrue and therefore not that powerful in the first place.

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      5.  @DanielSchulzJackson  @RebekahSchulzJackson Daniel, you’re right.  It is a subjective claim.  However, it’s how I feel about it personally, and I know that there are a lot of other people who feel the same way.  In my own life, I’ve found the Bible to be just as spiritually powerful and effective at drawing me closer to God–if not more so–in the years since I’ve revised my understanding of biblical inspiration.  I guess the biggest thing it did for me was to help me be able to make sense of the contradictions and inconsistencies I see in the Bible in a way that I believe is faithful.  I believe God is bigger than anyone can express–especially in words alone–and the various perspectives we see in Scripture each shed light on a different aspect of who God is.  Some emphasize God’s power, others God’s faithfulness, others God’s love, others God’s mercy, etc.  In their powerful experiences which they share about those particular aspects of God’s character, they might overlook or be mistaken about another aspect.  Just because our minds can’t think about so many different things at once.
         
        Which I guess is me trying to say that, at least in my opinion/experience, I did find the original traditional view of scripture to be lacking.  Not that it can’t be powerful that way, too, since it obviously is for a great many people.  But I struggled a lot with the idea that scripture is infallible (i.e. “the words from God’s mouth”) because so many things in scripture are ethically horrifying or at the very least disturbing.  The way women are treated.  The way enemies are treated.  The harshness of punishments for minor slip-ups in the Law.  The idea that God only loves one group of people in the entire world.  The idea that God loves to punish and destroy God’s created beings.  When I read those things and am told that they come directly from God, it causes me to want to pull away from God, not to draw closer.
         
        Intellectually, the Bible makes a ton more sense to me when I see it as a collection of documents written by different human beings who wrote about their experiences of God’s working in the world.  I realize that that makes it a more shaky authority, since it requires open subjectivity in its reading.  However, I find it to be much more life-giving that way.  I trust that the Holy Spirit is active in our reading of scripture to help give us spiritual and other insight.  Even if the words spoken and eventually written down in scripture were not originally intended as the words of God’s mouth for all generations, God in the Holy Spirit can still use them as God’s living word to all generations.  And I believe that is what happens.  Scripture says and means different things to different (even the same) people at different times.  God uses the imperfection of  human writings to speak to and spiritually touch countless people throughout time.
         
        Gosh, this is getting long… sorry… but there’s one more thing I wanted to mention.  I know that Christian tradition has held for a long time the idea that Scripture is inspired and therefore divinely dictated and/or infallible.  Or something close to that belief.  But I don’t really understand where that tradition started in the first place.  Nowhere in the Bible itself does at say anything of the sort.  The closest is 2 Timothy 3:16, which says “All scripture is God-breathed…” (NIV).  But “Scripture” in the time of Paul’s letter meant the Old Testament (possibly just the Law and the Prophets, because it took a while for the Writings to become generally accepted authorities), so this verse is not talking about the New Testament at all.  Also, “God-breathed” (or “inspired” in other translations) is an ambiguous word that does not necessarily mean given word-for-word.  Just like a painting might inspire a person to write a poem, an experience of God’s Spirit (Breath) in one’s life could inspire one to write a historical narrative, or a psalm, or an allegory, or a list of rules, etc.  The words in those writings would not necessarily have to come directly from God.  They came through the person or persons who felt that inspiration.  I’m not saying God COULDN’T dictate such things to people.  I’m just saying there’s no scriptural basis for us to believe that God DID.  That idea is from tradition, not from scripture itself.
         
        You obviously don’t have to agree with me about this.  It’s perfectly fine to believe differently, but I personally have found my faith growing a lot more since I opened up to viewing scripture in this way.  I hope this at least helps you understand where I’m coming from.

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      6.  @CarissaLick  @DanielSchulzJackson Wow! Super interesting thoughts on both counts, Daniel & Carissa. Thanks for sharing! I definitely have a lot of food for thought. =)
         
        I think at the moment I tend to feel that scripture has lots of God’s fingerprints on it, but I have always struggled with the idea of inerrancy (and inspiration, etc etc) because I have never understood how anything that God “thought” in “God-language” could ever be expressed accurately in ANY human language. I always just figure that each translation (including the original Greek/Hebrew texts) captures as much as it can, but there is no way that ANYTHING in this world could fully capture God or God’s plan or God’s attributes.
         
        That being said, I sure don’t want to start coming up with things that God “can’t do”, so who knows! Basically (as with many things) I end up at the position of “Here’s what I think… but I could be totally wrong because God is awesome.” That’s like the story of my faith. =)

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      7.  @CarissaLick  @DanielSchulzJackson p.s. Have I mentioned that this is an awesome discussion?

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      8.  @RebekahSchulzJackson  @CarissaLick 
         
        I definitely understand where you’re coming from; in many ways I “come from” the same place, with the same concerns, the same gripes against the O.T. depictions of God, and a couple of the N.T. ones, and the same notions of the likelihood of an in-between sort of revelation.
         
        I think a difference is that I’m … more concerned about the loss of a clear kind of authority. Not that I’m sure that it’s there, but the prospect of its absence seems to be a bit more… disillusioning / deflating / discouraging to me. Because at that point, we have “Here’s a collection of thoughts people have had about God”, and I start to lack a strong basis for basing my life largely upon its contents, any more than the contents of books I’m imagining Oprah wrote about her thoughts on God.
         
        All that said, I have to admit that much of my dichotomy (All-God-Book or Just-As-Human-As-Every-Other-Book) might just be the Enlightenment talking. And I’m trying to sort through the mess and discern what appears most probable, and like I said, I’m thinking it’s probably something in-between, but I just don’t have a real coherent picture of what that’s actually like.
         

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      9.  @DanielSchulzJackson  @RebekahSchulzJackson Well said.  The authority piece is definitely a major (THE major?) question in this whole discussion.  Having grown up believing in absolute biblical authority, the idea of the Bible as being written by ordinary people is definitely jarring.  The thing that really helped me personally to start to make some level of distinction between biblical writers and Oprah (ha!) is the experiential knowledge that the Bible HAS inspired countless people for thousands of years in their own spiritual journeys.  It’s not necessarily special because of what it says, as it is special because of who speaks through it.  Not that God can’t speak through anything or anyone, but I believe that the Bible is an extra special type of vessel for the Holy Spirit to speak.  When you look at the New Testament, it’s the very closest we can get to Jesus himself and his words (whether or not they’re perfectly historically accurate, they’re the best we have).  So the Bible is THE go-to place to look for God’s word, even if we know it isn’t PURE “God-language.”  Especially if when we look, we do so prayerfully and relying on the movements of the Holy Spirit to make it a living word.

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      10.  @CarissaLick @DanielSchulzJackson So, after reading this discussion all day, but not inputting any thoughts, I feel this is my time to do so, because I think I have a pretty good answer to the question of biblical authority.  It’s the answer I’ve had for a while, and it works for me.
        First off, as Christians, the Bible is not normative.  Only one thing is normative – that is Jesus Christ.  The rest doesn’t matter.  If Jesus Christ shows up tomorrow and says, “Yup, the whole thing’s true, every word.”  Then great.  If Jesus Christ shows up tomorrow and says, “Nope.  That’s not even 10% right,” then we throw it on the garbage heap.  Scripture is not Jesus.
        However (what a wonderful word, isn’t it?!?), there’s a however.
        And that “however” is that SINCE Jesus Christ is normative, and we only find his story in one place – guess where? – that place hold special authority.  Likewise, for Jesus, the OT held special authority.  Now, it’s clear from Jesus own teachings and the way he uses Scripture that some parts of the Bible are (how do you say this?) more helpful than others.  And those are the parts that are most important to us as Christians.  I mean, there’s probably a REASON Jesus doesn’t spend any time quoting from Joshua, if you catch my drift.  Anyway, the point is that the Bible CAN’T be “just any other book” or “Oprah’s feelings about spirituality” because it’s the book of Jesus.  Now, it still contains human thoughts, human errors, and revelation filter through human eyes with human bias.  That’s why it has to be tested, be discussed, and be contemplated.  That’s why we “wrestle with God” (see Genesis 32).  It’s not easy.  But it is important.
        Now, that probably got SUPER rambly, but I’m really tired since the puppy wore me out today.  And now I’m going to sleep.  So goodnight, friends!
         

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      11.  @CarissaLick  @RebekahSchulzJackson 
         
        Well, I’m not sure if it’s encouraging that it has inspired many people over a long space of time. Maybe millenia from now people will be hearkening to and redacting the writings of the prophet Oprah into hundreds of languages, and I won’t care. (Ignore the anachronism involved in this)
         
        But I do resonate more with what you said later, where “It’s the very closest we can get to Jesus”. A diligent, albeit fully human document about a real, fully God person would still be a big fricking deal.
         
        And also the idea that the Holy Spirit specially accompanies the Bible and speaks through it uniquely also bears some of that unique special power that we both seem to hunger to find in the Bible.

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      12.  @CarissaLick  @RebekahSchulzJackson 
        But then, the question would be, what is the basis for those claims — (fully real God-Jesus, special Holy-Spirit attendance)?
         
        Back in “Biblical Inerrantist” land, it was basically “We have proofs that the Bible is inerrant, and then we believe everything it says”. I don’t necessarily think that the execution of either of those two steps really works in the way that camp thinks it works, but at least it’s a progression… at least it CLAIMS to be based on bases…

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      13.  @davidlick  @CarissaLick 
        FYI I didn’t see this before I posted my other reply.
         
        I like your point here, Jesus is the center, the Bible matters because Jesus matters.
         
        But then again, what I said below about bases remains; what then is the view of the all-central Jesus BASED ON? The Bible? But the Bible is only central inasmuch as Jesus is central, which we haven’t yet established apart from the assertion of scripture (you’re seeing the circle…)
         
        (Also, Jesus DOES quote Joshua, but it’s not about conquest, but rather, freedom from law to help people — when the priest allowed David and his men to eat consecrated bread)

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      14.  @DanielSchulzJackson 
        Okay, first, the story of David is actually from 1 Samuel.  I’m still pretty certain Jesus doesn’t quote Joshua.
         
        Second, if we didn’t have a Bible, could we still have Christianity?  I say “yes.”  We could have a Christianity if all that existed was oral tradition.  The Bible in itself is an interpretation of that tradition.  I don’t really think it takes anything more than a cursory reading of the Gospels to see this:  Jesus’ words are different from Gospel to Gospel, some stories are emphasized more in one Gospel than another, some stories are altogether omitted.  Why would that be?  It COULD have been a pastoral decision on the part of the authors, knowing that their community/communities really needed some stories, to the exclusion of others.  Maybe they ran out of papyrus.  But I think the more likely answer is that different traditions were handed down already by the end of the 1st Century.  And that’s totally fine.  Because while we don’t have a 100% clear picture of Jesus, we do have a pretty good idea of who Jesus is/was and what he stands/stood for.  I mean, it’s not like he’s a radically different guy in the four Gospels, so that’s encouraging.
         
        Third, the reason I would argue my understanding of the Bible is NOT a circular argument is that, in Christianity, we expect/hope for Christ to come again.  Even if we didn’t have any written stories about Jesus, this would CERTAINLY have been passed down by oral tradition.  Anyway, if that is our expectation, when Jesus comes, as I see it, the Bible becomes useful only insofar as Jesus himself uses it.  Besides that, what becomes normative for the people of the time is Jesus himself.  I mean, look at the Scriptural witness.  When Jesus comes, is he critical of the people who advocate living moral lives, trying their best, and using Scripture, or is he critical of those who have a dogmatic adherence to it?  I think we know to which group the Pharisees belong – and they, too, are not without their reasons.  And yet, Jesus shows that it’s not just as simple as looking at the Scripture and seeing what it says.  Jesus shows, in the very example you cited about David on the Sabbath, that Scripture itself is almost always filled with opposing sides in any argument, and you can use Scripture to “prove” whichever you like, as both Jesus and the Pharisees point to Scripture in their argument with one another.  Jesus is simply pointing out that some parts of Scripture shows us “better” (I hate using that word, thus the quotation marks) truths than other parts of Scripture.  Maybe not better – more useful, though.
         
        I don’t know.  I guess that’s what works for me.  And I’m totally cool with it if that doesn’t work for you.  I just think it makes a lot of sense, <i>and</i> it resolves a lot of my anxieties about Scripture.  Because if I had to be either “all or nothing” about Scripture, I’d probably tend more towards “nothing” than “all.”  But, thankfully for me, I don’t think Scripture (or pretty much anything in life) has to be <b>that</b> black-and-white.
         
        Fourth, yes THERE IS A PUPPY!  I know you recently declared you wouldn’t Facebook as much (random question for @RebekahSchulzJackson  – when using a proper noun as a verb, i.e., “Google” or “Facebook,” does it become a “proper verb?”  I guess what I’m asking is – do I capitalize it?), but if you make an exception to go look at some photos Carissa”s posted in the last two weeks, you’ll see A LOT of puppy pictures!
         
        p.s.  Thanks for a good discussion!  This is fun!  And, it’s getting my brain warmed-up for school starting again in the fall.
         

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      15.  @davidlick  @RebekahSchulzJackson  @CarissaLick Oh. Right. Samuel, Not Joshua. You know… just a few hundred years off, Conquest vs. Kingdom… no biggie. Skip the Judges; too gory… … Goes to show I shouldn’t be trying to brain through scriptures that late at night.
         
         
        >> the reason I would argue my understanding of the Bible is NOT a circular argument is that, in Christianity, we expect/hope for Christ to come again.  Even if we didn’t have any written stories about Jesus, this would CERTAINLY have been passed down by oral tradition. 
         
        Really? Are there any well-known oral traditions today that have lasted 2k+ years without being written down and canonized in some way? 
         
        And this still kind of feels like a circle: The Bible / Christian Tradition is True, So We Believe Jesus Will Come Again, and When He Does, His Use of the Bible / Christian Tradition Will Show Us The Nature of The Bible / Christian Tradition, Because He Is — as The Bible / Christian Tradition Interpreted As We Interpret It Indicates — Supreme and All-Knowing.
         
        It seems to me that there’s nothing in this loop to move us away from “it’s all hogwash and falsehood”, or rather, there’s no basis for moving into the loop in the first place.
         
        In fact, the loop doesn’t even seem to complete, so not only does it not start from an anchor, it doesn’t even loop back into itself.
         
        The Bible / Christian Tradition (BCT) when we view it as X (WHY DO WE VIEW IT AS ‘X’!?), tells us that Jesus will come again and tell us what’s true about (BCT).
         
        That’s not even as thorough of a loop as the “dogmatic” version, which says, “The Bible, when Viewed as X, tells us that the Bible is X.” This statement by itself makes no reference to external support, and may be falsifiable, but at least it loops back and claims to confirm its original assumption, as opposed to the aformentioned
         
        “BCT, when viewed as X, tells us that Jesus will come again and demonstrate that BCT is Y, which may or may not equal X.” 
         
        I know this is getting a little abstract/fuzzy, and it’s making me tired to think about, but I feel that it matters somehow.
         
        Here’s what I’d love to see:
         
        “Observations about the world tell us that BCT is X.  Inspection of BCT confirms that it can indeed consistently be seen as X. We then interpret BCT as X, (whether that’s literal or looser inspiration/truth or totally non-divine) and live accordingly.”
         
        Re: “Jesus beats up on people who are dogmatic about scripture:”
         
        I’m not sure if he’s beating up on them for being dogmatic about SCRIPTURE or only about TRADITION.
         
        He definitely beats up on them for being dogmatic about TRADITION. (“Do you forsake the scriptures for your traditions?”) That’s kind of… their oral tradition? Perhaps in a sense, the written scripture is there to minimize the “telephone game” effect… Traditions more easily get stuff added (read: Extrapolated Excessive Jewish Law), whereas if you prioritize just the original text, you’re not at liberty to add your own legalism.
         
        But if Jesus really did break SCRIPTURAL law and not just TRADITION law, if he really scolded people for being scripturally dogmatic and not just tradition-dogmatic, then yes, you’d necessarily have to either take a more “fluid” view of scripture or never read the Gospels.
         
        I agree with Carissa (and you) that 2Tim’s “All scripture is God-breathed and useful” doesn’t NEED to mean “all scripture is verbally the true words of God”. Even if passages claiming to be God-spoken weren’t, and the Bible could still be the only place we could find a good account of the very real God-in-flesh-savior.
         
        I LARGELY appreciate your perspective, as well as engaging with it, and I think it might be viable. That said, the statement “It works for me” one that has much sway with me. “[insert-religion-here] works for me” doesn’t by itself lead me to believe [aforementioned-religion] has any truth to it. So perhaps I should clarify — what do you mean it “works for you”? 
         
         
         

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      16.  @davidlick  @RebekahSchulzJackson 
        Right. Samuel, Not Joshua. You know… just a few hundred years off, Conquest vs. Kingdom… no biggie. Skip the Judges; too gory… … Goes to show I shouldn’t be trying to brain through scriptures that late at night.
         
         
        >> the reason I would argue my understanding of the Bible is NOT a circular argument is that, in Christianity, we expect/hope for Christ to come again.  Even if we didn’t have any written stories about Jesus, this would CERTAINLY have been passed down by oral tradition. 
         
        Really? Are there any well-known oral traditions today that have lasted 2k+ years without being written down and canonized in some way? 
         
        And this still kind of feels like a circle: The Bible / Christian Tradition is True, So We Believe Jesus Will Come Again, and When He Does, His Use of the Bible / Christian Tradition Will Show Us The Nature of The Bible / Christian Tradition, Because He Is — as The Bible / Christian Tradition Interpreted As We Interpret It Indicates — Supreme and All-Knowing.
         
        It seems to me that there’s nothing in this loop to move us away from “it’s all hogwash and falsehood”, or rather, there’s no basis for moving into the loop in the first place.
         
        In fact, the loop doesn’t even seem to complete, so not only does it not start from an anchor, it doesn’t even loop back into itself.
         
        The Bible / Christian Tradition (BCT) when we view it as X (WHY DO WE VIEW IT AS ‘X’!?), tells us that Jesus will come again and tell us what’s true about (BCT).
         
        That’s not even as thorough of a loop as the “dogmatic” version, which says, “The Bible, when Viewed as X, tells us that the Bible is X.” This statement by itself makes no reference to external support, and may be falsifiable, but at least it loops back and claims to confirm its original assumption, as opposed to the aformentioned
         
        “BCT, when viewed as X, tells us that Jesus will come again and demonstrate that BCT is Y, which may or may not equal X.” 
         
        I know this is getting a little abstract/fuzzy, and it’s making me tired to think about, but I feel that it matters somehow.
         
        Here’s what I’d love to see:
         
        “Observations about the world tell us that BCT is X.  Inspection of BCT confirms that it can indeed consistently be seen as X. We then interpret BCT as X, (whether that’s literal or looser inspiration/truth or totally non-divine) and live accordingly.”
         
        Re: “Jesus beats up on people who are dogmatic about scripture:”
         
        I’m not sure if he’s beating up on them for being dogmatic about SCRIPTURE or only about TRADITION.
         
        He definitely beats up on them for being dogmatic about TRADITION. (“Do you forsake the scriptures for your traditions?”) That’s kind of… their oral tradition? Perhaps in a sense, the written scripture is there to minimize the “telephone game” effect… Traditions more easily get stuff added (read: Extrapolated Excessive Jewish Law), whereas if you prioritize just the original text, you’re not at liberty to add your own legalism.
         
        But if Jesus really did break SCRIPTURAL law and not just TRADITION law, if he really scolded people for being scripturally dogmatic and not just tradition-dogmatic, then yes, you’d necessarily have to either take a more “fluid” view of scripture or never read the Gospels.
         
        I agree with Carissa (and you) that 2Tim’s “All scripture is God-breathed and useful” doesn’t NEED to mean “all scripture is verbally the true words of God”. Even if passages claiming to be God-spoken weren’t, and the Bible could still be the only place we could find a good account of the very real God-in-flesh-savior.
         
        I LARGELY appreciate your perspective, as well as engaging with it, and I think it might be viable. That said, the statement “It works for me” isn’t one that has much sway with me. “[insert-religion-here] works for me” doesn’t by itself lead me to believe [aforementioned-religion] has any truth to it. So perhaps I should clarify — what do you mean it “works for you”? 
         

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      17.  @DanielSchulzJackson  @RebekahSchulzJackson 
        Okay, by “it works for me,” I mean that it allows me to still be able to find truth, virtue, and value in a document that is, viewed from the outside, no different from any other mythology.
         
        I feel that we’re talking past one another, and discussing slightly different things from slightly different angles, so I’m not sure how much more productive this conversation can be henceforth.
         
        My problem with any sort of literalistic interpretation of the Bible is that I quickly find that it doesn’t match reality as I have experienced it.  Christianity and much of Scripture still speaks to me as truth.  It doesn’t speak to me as factual truth; it does help me to understand reality and God, however, and I can’t let go of it.  But the factual truth of it doesn’t really have anything to do with how i experience its truth.  Maybe that helps, maybe it doesn’t.  Meh.  This is way too hard of a discussion for me to have in writing, so I think I’m done.  But if you want to talk more, I’m always game for a phone call!

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      18.  @davidlick  @RebekahSchulzJackson  I think I’m the only one guilty of “talking past”. As soon as I started using variables, we were in trouble 😛
         
        I’m ready to hang up my hat on this one as well.
         
        I pretty much track what you’re saying, and even hunger for the life-application and spirituality capabilities that your view of scripture imbues/allows, but I’m looking for something “from the outside” that can verify the truthfulness of your (or another) view of scripture.
         
        I tend to want to verify things. 
         
        I would LOVE to talk by phone. I’ll shoot you a Facebook message, and try not to get distracted by my news feed 😛

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      19.  @DanielSchulzJackson  @davidlick  @RebekahSchulzJackson I’m not sure I really understand all of your BCT and X business, but I did think this sentence made sense as a formula: “Observations about the world tell us that BCT is X.  Inspection of BCT confirms that it can indeed consistently be seen as X. We then interpret BCT as X, (whether that’s literal or looser inspiration/truth or totally non-divine) and live accordingly.”
         
        And in my perspective, Observations about the world tell us that BCT is not literally true but conveys truth in other ways.  Inspection of BCT confirms that it can indeed be seen as true in its themes and witness of human experience of God and of the world.  Thus, we interpret BCT as true but through the lens of our own experience/context/perspective.
         
        I don’t think you were addressing me in the “works for you” question, but I see my interpretation of scripture in that same way:  It works for me, so I’m going with it.  It works for me in that (as I wrote in the above paragraph/formula) it is consistent with my experience and reason.  (In the Methodist church, we like to say that our beliefs are based on Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience.)

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      20.  @davidlick  There is no such thing as a proper verb… I’d say this one is pretty much up to you. =)

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      21.  @CarissaLick  @davidlick  @RebekahSchulzJackson  
         
        Cool. I dig.
         
        David’s description of a view of scripture “working for me” was more that it “allows me to …”, whereas yours was more “it appears to me to be true in light of…”.
         
        And while GREATLY valuing David’s perspective and input and Christology, at this time I’m decidedly more interested in your brand/view/flavor of “works for me”.
         
        Uber helpful conversation, all. Your conversation really helps give some traction and interaction to my (attempted) study of scriptural authority.
         
         @RebekahSchulzJackson , I think there HAS to be such a thing as a proper verb. “You totally Bob-Barker-ed that one!” Just like people can invent words and they’re words, (the urban dictionary is a real, albeit chaotic dictionary) I think they can invent grammar categories. 

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      22.  @DanielSchulzJackson  @CarissaLick  @davidlick 
        Re: the various authority thingies, WOW. My brain hurts. But in a good way. Having friends in seminary is the BOMB. =)
         
        Re: the supposed “proper verb”, ok, I can see it. And good example. So, David, apparently the proper usage would be, “I’ll Facebook you!” or “Let me Google it!” or “He’s gonna Evil-Knievel it!” Daniel for the win there. 😉

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      23.  @DanielSchulzJackson  @davidlick  @RebekahSchulzJackson I just saw this article today on Huffington Post that is another, very similar, perspective about reading the Bible.  You should check it out. 🙂

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      24.  @CarissaLick  @DanielSchulzJackson  @davidlick LOVE IT! I totally resonate with this. I think that differences in interpretive “leanings” come from… surprisingly… the differences in people! Each person when they read the Bible will have different things that bother them — or don’t! I don’t mind when some of my more conservative friends say “that’s what the Bible says” to support something I disagree with after having read the same Bible as them — we just interpret it differently. Same thing with liberal friends and “that’s how I interpret this based on the historical context” or whatever thing liberals say — we’re all responsible adults (or I hope so!) and we’re going to disagree, and THAT’S OK because I trust that we are all doing our best to seek God’s purpose and will and kingdom and all that… and that’s good enough for me.
         
        …wow. I think I just discovered a new soapbox. =)

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      25.  @davidlick  @CarissaLick  
         
        Archetypes represent collective experience of the human psyche….The idea that story and reality are interconnected is a very old one.  In the 6th century myhero, an Irish prince turned monk turned exile who converted the Picts to Christianity, is quoted as saying:”Since all the world is but a story, it is better that you choose the more endearing one.”What story is more endearing than the love of God for us in Jesus Christ,whereby the everyman is more than a conqueror, the least of us is more enduring than the mountains, the worst of us bring the loudest songsin our repentance, and every story has a happy ending in Christ.
         
        I read this (an email from an actually UBERconservative friend) and thought of what you said about the Christian Story being the one that resonates most deeply as True in your hearing.

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  3. So I just came back to this post/discussion because I’m writing a paper that (peripherally) involves biblical authority.  I thought to myself, “Didn’t I write a paper about this recently?”  Only to eventually figure out that it wasn’t a paper at all!  It was a discussion thread. 🙂

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    1. @CarissaLick YES!!!!!!!!!!! Crazy blog post comments for the win! You should just print out this thread and turn it in. A+. Guaranteed. 😉

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