§200 Biblical thoughts – for a pennyJuly 28, 2008
My wife is apparently ready to offer a penny for my thoughts
So here, to honor my 200th post, are some thoughts I wrote in 2005 when I was studying academic Bible research (Old Testament only), and struggled in my head in how to be able take a scientific approach to something that is so important to my faith. I am not saying this is what I pondered on when that picture was taken… it looks more like I’m thinking “I wish my wife was naked right now” or something. Anyway, here are the ponderings I wrote down 2½ years ago:
My starting point is that the Bible is 100% divine and 100% human. God doesn’t take control of the author’s pen, he uses the personality of the author. It’s not by chance that Jeremiah, who grew up in Anatot in the desert, always use parables about God as the Living Water, and this is only one example.
Now the key questions are:
What can I accept of the academic theories on the Bible, and what can I not accept?
How far can I go without making compromises with my faith?
What IS considered part of my faith?
Is it significant for my personal religious life if Salomo gave or received 20 towns to/from the Lebanese king?
Is my faith untrue if Moses didn’t write the entire Torah (Pentateuch)?
Can I accept the scholars’ doubt regarding the historical authenticy of the Exodus?
Must I believe that homosexuality is a sin in order to call my self a Believer in the Bible?
Must I be against evolution in order to call my self a Believer in the Bible?
How much of the authority of the Bible can I deny without shaking the foundation of my faith? Because I MUST deny some parts, since it does include contradicitons and inconsequentialnesses
How large part of the Bible can I see as “untrue” and still be a Believer in the Bible?
How to reach a solution:
-Remember what is significant for my faith and what isn’t
-Avoid “ignoring the problems and hope they’ll go away”. (Also known as the “The-Bible-is-true-because-it’s-true-theory”)
-Don’t let anyhting lead to compromises with my faith
-Remember that the Bible is not a book of History, Astronomy, Geology or Anthropology
-Try to understand how the author understood the text he wrote, and study his cultural and political background.
With these guidelines one has to reach an answer for each of the above questions. The big Question here is where to draw the line. I personally don’t think it matters to my personal faith who received towns, or whether Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch or not. But I do think that it would be to go to far to accept the scholars’ doubt regarding the historical authenticy of the Exodus.
Regarding evolution, I have all the reasons not to accept it, since it goes against the nature of the God I believe in. My God is good, and I refuse to believe that he has created the world through the method of “whoever doesn’t fit in must die”. Since the evolution is not and can not be proved by science (mostly since the method of experiments is impossible) I see no reason to accept it. On the other hand, I understand and accept that people who do not believe in my God can and will accept this theory, and I see no reason to try to convince them otherwise, and I find no sense in trying to find scientific support for the stories related in the bible. I believe it because it’s in the bible, that is what we call faith. Why do I need scientific support for that?
Homosexuality is also a question I can’t compromise with. This is because now we’re no longer talking about history, anthropology, geology or astronomy – subjects that are insignificant from the Bible’s viewpoint, and that are only mentioned incidentally. No, this is about way of life, and what is considered sin and not. This is the essence in the message of the Bible, and if I start to doubt even the smallest part of it, my entire faith is undermined. This is regarding everything, whether it’s prohibition to eat pork, sanctify the Shabbat, celebrate the Lord’s Feasts, not celebrating pagan holidays, loving your neighbor as yourself, seek righteousness, avoid homosexuality and sex before marriage, always do everything in my might to live a holy life and keep all 613 commandents.
Clarification needed – I am not saying that “whoever disagreees is an idiot”, and I don’t hate people that practice selfishness, homosexuality, sex before marriage, pork eating or christmas celebration. I see it as my way to judge myself and my life. The insight of others into the truths of the Bible is between them and God. I am also aware that others may have insights in things I don’t have.
The Bible is a mirror through which I can see how sinful I am. Only the Bible can teach me about sin, and since no one is free from sin (including me), it’s rather a mirror than an “instruction book for life”. This mirror helps me to find out where I stand, and what I need to change in my life in order to become holier. It’s impossible to fully keep the Mitsva of “You shall be holy, for I am holy”. But it’s possible to keep trying.
The Bible is no history, astronomy, geology or anthropology book. It’s a guide for life that helps us to live our lifes according to God’s will. Inaccuracies may occur in historical, astronomical, geological or anthropological details. But I can never ever compromise with the rules for life, nor the moral of the historic stories that are told. Because these, and not unimportant historic details, are the foundation of my faith.
So why are there inaccuracies? We can search for the answer to that question by studying the cultural and political background of the author, and try to understand how the author understood the writings he wrote. Then the historic details are important, and I must decide what can be seen as historic facts in the Bible and what can’t, and compare to archeological findings etc.