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April 20, 2011

Interpreting Scripture

   I admit, I've been struggling with this concept a lot lately.  I use lately in a relative term because the ideas have been floating around in my head for a number of years.  I grew up in churches and told people in arguments, and heard many variations of, "but that's what scripture says."  Whatever the issue is, you are wrong.  You are wrong because I read scripture, and this is what it says...not that.

   Lately (as in the past year or so), I have become frustrated when I hear people they just live the Bible.  They just do what it says.  They aren't interpreting it.  Or how about someone telling you that "their church just teaches the Bible."  As if all the other churches aren't teaching the Bible.

   Usually, I find that when people get fired up, it is become they are interpreting scripture, and the other person has a different interpretation.  Personally, I think it is impossible to read a book written thousands of years ago, to a specific person (or group of people), in a specific place and time, and not make interpretations of how that applies today.  There is a reason that there are hundreds upon hundreds of denominations.  Obviously it is not as clear cut as we want it to be because a lot of people don't agree on what scripture is saying.  

   What do you think?  Does scripture always apply exactly the same ways throughout history?  Has it always applied to your life or situation the exact same ways?  If scripture is not open to interpretation, why not?  If it is, who decides which interpretation is right? Join the conversation and share your thoughts.

54 comments:

Scott Chambers said...

John,

Interpreting scripture is not an easy task but I think there are three clear concepts to follow:

1) Study the background, history and reason the book was written. This, in my opinion, solves 90% of interpretive problems. Each book of the Bible is not a bunch of random facts. Each book was written for a specific purpose, with a specific structure for a specific reason. (A lot of specifics, I know) If we can glean what it was written for in its day, we can probably deduce what its meaning is for us today.

2) Study the context surrounding the specific verse you are trying to interpret. Each verse cannot be taken out of the Bible and interpreted separately. Many cults do this and it results in heretical doctrine.

3)Other studies such as lexical (word analysis, etc.) are helpful but I would recommend coming up with your own interpretation and then comparing that to at least three good commentaries. We are all sinful people and as a result none of us have the right answer. By looking at several opinions we can begin to understand the passage a little more.

Those are my two cents

-Scott C.

Lyles Jessica said...

Hi Sandra,
I'm glad it made sense. Lately I've had the blessing of joining a CBS Bible study. It's a national and international organization. The directors attend conferences at their headquarters in Colorado Springs. I looked it up and found they have one in Fort Collins, that's the closest to you. Here's the link if it's interesting at all http://www.communitybiblestudy.org/classes_and_courses.aspx.

The books are amazing. It allows you to go through scripture on your own at first answering questions. They encourage you to pray before beginning each day, because understanding of truth only comes through the Holy Spirit. And He will reveal a different emphasis in a scripture depending on what He's trying to show you. Then we meet in a group and discuss. Then we listen to a lecture, then we read a commentary. The commentary writer for this book was Dr. Eddy Swieson. He's a theologian and former pastor. I learned a lot about language and context from his commentaries. Understanding the author and what they were trying to emphasize is important as well. We write what we are interested in, what we think matters to those who are reading. So it doesn't mean that one detail is more important than another, it just meant it was what accomplished their goal for writing. Luke was writing to the Romans, he wanted to convince them beyond a doubt that Jesus was the Son of God. He was intentional and a perfectionist about the details. Matthew was more focused on Jesus' royal lineage and miracles. John was a witness to the actual events. So they all wrote from their perspective. The study used the different accounts to create a fuller picture of the scene, rather than viewing them as contradiction. That helped me a lot.

I also use different translations of the Bible to study. I really like the Message, as much as it's received criticism I've found a lot of understanding reading it. When I compare it to the NIV or NLT I get a better understanding. I'll have to find the names of good commentary writers. They really are helpful. One of the books that enlightened me about Paul's writings was called "Why not Women" by Loren Cunningham, the founder of YWAM. I also love study Bibles. You get some info about the Greek and Hebrew and what a term might have meant in the culture of the time, as well as other scriptures to read for a fuller understanding.

Wow, that was long. =) I'm really interested in this, if you can't tell. I had found myself getting more and more lost in my faith as an adult. When I asked myself the question, why do I believe this? How do I know it's true? It's been a journey, but I believe I'm finding more and more of Christ in the scriptures. The more I understand the people of the Bible. Studying Jesus himself this year has made me fall more and more in love with Him. We serve an amazing God.

Sandra said...

Jessica, I was writing a comment a few moments ago before I saw that you posted this and I very briefly wrote something similar to what you just said. I know that you're right in many instances with the case for some things being lost in translation. I agree. And it makes sense. :) What do you use to study those details, if you don't mind me asking! :)
And thanks for the background information about the lineage! That does clear that up some.
Very awesome your transition of your understanding of their stance toward women at the time. I think that's a great illustration of learning about our freedom in Christ by learning about what Paul would have meant at the time. Very cool.
Thanks for this, Jessica!

WYMatt said...

One thing I have begun learning and embracing just recently is that Scripture itself is a story of people learning to interpret Scripture as well.

As uncomfortable as that might make people, we have to grasp that in order to reflect on the guidelines we use -- personally and corporately -- to interpret it as well.

The early disciples and church leaders had to interpret the new church's relationship to the old covenant. Paul had to interpret what the whole Gentile thing was going to look like. All of the New Testament writers were essentially interpreting what this whole new shebang actually meant.

And the pattern I see, time after time, is marked by erring toward love and freedom.

So my two cents would be that those two things would be good places for us to begin our interpretations as well. (But you already knew that, since you read my book. :) )

Sandra said...

Schmoel, please don't take offense to this, but I sense this is becoming less about talking through it and more about you trying to take over the conversation to give the right answers. I don't know you (I assume so, anyway!) so it's hard for me to want to get into any theological student/teacher interaction with you when I don't know anything about you. Again, no offense intended.
What my point was is that there are lots of things that bump heads with each other in scripture. It's tough. It's not black and white. They were humans writing these words, which is why there are different accounts, like Jon wrote below.
I think I may be coming off as skeptical of the truth of the Bible, though I'm not. I truly believe that the Bible is from God, though I really feel it's impossible to not interpret what it may mean. I also believe in the study of scripture, too - the Greek and Hebrew meanings of words, the time in which it was written and what it meant and the weight of it at that time (and I'm no scholar so it's helpful to know others who enjoy studying these details and have resources for that study) - to give us more of those answers, but then don't we interpret what that would mean for us today, in a very different cultural and political environment? It takes interpretation and conversation and of course, prayer, to understand some of the unclear passages of the Bible.

jondkelly said...

They can only all be true if you make assumptions (interpretations) about what was written or left out. The fact is that the four accounts say different things. It was either Mary, or Mary and whoever or the group, but those can only all be true if youbmake assumptions based on what is not included. Jesus healed one man or two....if the person who wrote one didn't feel it important to include the second person, how do you know they both ignored a third or something else all together? Jesus was either betrayed with a kiss and taken, or voluntarily went. The point is that what is written is not the same in those things and unless you start playing with the wording or perspective, those things contradict. The Bible is beautiful and messy and confusing. No one has it figured out and if they think they do, they are kidding themselves.

jondkelly said...

Either way, his story isn't the same as the other ones. Your options at that point are to admit that scripture does have contradictions/things that don't line up, or you are applying an interpretation to scripture by assuming things that he didn't actually write.

Jenblue8 said...

Oh you know, all the important stuff. I just find that the longer I'm a Christian, the more confusing I find it to be. And I'm kind of ok with that...I guess I just thought when I was younger that I'd have it all "figured out" at some point. But I think the older you get and the more of life and the world you see, the more obvious it becomes that "figuring it all out" is impossible. I think when you're younger you expect everything to be black and white, and I think a lot of Christians would like to make life and Jesus and following him black and white, and it's really a very messy bunch of white and black lots and lots of grey.

Schmoel said...

Simply stated, yes they can all be true. What is the most difficult passage of the ones you have mentioned? We'll start with that for starters. If you think I am full of it, we don't have to waste any more of each other's time. What do you say? Which one seems hardest to reconcile?

Schmoel said...

Do you depend on any older women in the faith (as in Titus) for discipleship over hard scriptures to understand?

Schmoel said...

WHat about Him do you believe?

Schmoel said...

One thing to also keep in mind, John, is that John was wrritten last. John was not only an eye-witness, but had many others around him who were as well. John was also aware of the other gospel accounts so the details in his gospel (them being 90% unique to the synoptic gospels) were assuming upon much of the truths already given in Mark, Luke, and Matthew.

Sandra said...

I definitely don't think scripture is clear cut. There's a lot that is easy to not understand, or be misunderstood. I mean, take the book of Revelation, for instance. There is so much I do not understand, and I don't believe any person has all the right answers about the Bible. There's a lot of wrestling that needs to be done and studied and discussed. And thank goodness for that. That's the best place to find Jesus, I believe, when we're discussing honestly and talking through scripture and weighing why Jesus said certain things or did certain things or what in the heck John was writing about in parts of Revelation or why Jesus says 7 or 8 different things about what it takes to spend eternity with Him. And, like you, Jen, I still believe in and have faith in Jesus, despite not finding scripture clear cut.
Just my other two cents. :)

Jenblue8 said...

I don't know if I believe that all scripture is "absolute truth". And I definitely do not think scripture is clear. But I still believe in Jesus. I hope that's enough.

jondkelly said...

I have that book. My youth kids spent a good amount of time working our way through it. Not light reading, but definitely good and interesting.

Gretchen Nelson said...

The Case for Christ stuff talks about just like coached witnesses, if everyone's accounts of a story are identical, they were obviously told what to say. The gospels are different perspectives of the same thing, and thus there are variations. Also, the book Case for Christ has even more info.

Jon Kelly said...

There are many reasons that we have different denominations, but you make it sound as if the biggest issue is that we don't have a location where everyone can meet up. I definitely don't think there is a reason to condemn one over the other because they are all simply trying to practice scripture as they believe it is to be lived out. That particular passage is very interesting too.

Here we have Paul writing a personal letter to an intimate friend Timothy offering him encouragement. Here's a little sample from a book that my friend Matt Coulter wrote exploring that passage.


When Paul wrote that “all Scripture is inspired,” the Greek word he used for "inspired" was theopneustos. That’s a compound word in Greek, made from combining theos, “God,” and a form of pneuma, “breath”. Thus, Scripture is breathed out by God. That’s kind of a neat picture, I think. It speaks less about control and more about gentle influence. But the most interesting thing about it to me is that it’s a made up word. Theopneustos doesn’t occur anywhere else in our Bible. It doesn’t even occur anywhere else in any of the Greek literature before this time that we know of.

It’s as if Paul is trying to explain how valuable and beautiful and life-giving Scripture is and couldn’t come up with a word to describe exactly what he wanted to communicate - so he made one up. A word with wonderfully poetic ideas behind it. These ideas and thoughts and stories that you are learning, he tells his friend, contain the breath of God. The same breath that gave life to Adam at the beginning... the same breath that caused the slain bones in Ezekiel’s vision to come to life... that same breath is present in Scripture. So hold tight to these teachings, and have life! The God-breath that fills us with life is contained in this book. Why would anyone want to take something so incredibly poetic and stunningly beautiful and reduce it down to a dry doctrinal statement to argue and fight about? Instead, shouldn’t we revel in it’s... well, breath-taking beauty instead. - taken from Torn Wineskins by Matt Coulter


So in this personal letter, Paul is trying to figure out how to express this to Timothy, and 2,000 years later, we are trying to interpret what it means that scripture is God Breathed because those interpretations have a direct impact on how we live our faith.

Great thoughts!! Thanks for joining the discussion.

jondkelly said...

There are many reasons that we have different denominations, but you make it sound as if the biggest issue is that we don't have a location where everyone can meet up. I definitely don't think there is a reason to condemn one over the other because they are all simply trying to practice scripture as they believe it is to be lived out. That particular passage is very interesting too.

Here we have Paul writing a personal letter to an intimate friend Timothy offering him encouragement. Here's a little sample from a book that my friend Matt Coulter wrote exploring that passage.


When Paul wrote that “all Scripture is inspired,” the Greek word he used for "inspired" was theopneustos. That’s a compound word in Greek, made from combining theos, “God,” and a form of pneuma, “breath”. Thus, Scripture is breathed out by God. That’s kind of a neat picture, I think. It speaks less about control and more about gentle influence. But the most interesting thing about it to me is that it’s a made up word. Theopneustos doesn’t occur anywhere else in our Bible. It doesn’t even occur anywhere else in any of the Greek literature before this time that we know of.

It’s as if Paul is trying to explain how valuable and beautiful and life-giving Scripture is and couldn’t come up with a word to describe exactly what he wanted to communicate - so he made one up. A word with wonderfully poetic ideas behind it. These ideas and thoughts and stories that you are learning, he tells his friend, contain the breath of God. The same breath that gave life to Adam at the beginning... the same breath that caused the slain bones in Ezekiel’s vision to come to life... that same breath is present in Scripture. So hold tight to these teachings, and have life! The God-breath that fills us with life is contained in this book. Why would anyone want to take something so incredibly poetic and stunningly beautiful and reduce it down to a dry doctrinal statement to argue and fight about? Instead, shouldn’t we revel in it’s... well, breath-taking beauty instead. - taken from Torn Wineskins by Matt Coulter


So in this personal letter, Paul is trying to figure out how to express this to Timothy, and 2,000 years later, we are trying to interpret what it means that scripture is God Breathed because those interpretations have a direct impact on how we live our faith.

Great thoughts!! Thanks for joining the discussion.

Jon Kelly said...

I definitely agree that scripture is always applicable and beneficial. Whether you say studying or interpreting makes no difference to me...I see them as too similar to make a huge difference. People "study" it and "interpret" it so they better understand who God is and how what is written should be lived out.

I went and added those movies to my queue so I can check them out. The basic answer I've heard many times for the differences in the Gospels is that it was just what that author focused on, or this is a general account and this one is focusing on the history, and this one the message.

I dislike that argument for many reasons. Like for which group of people went to the tomb...if Mary went alone, then it contradicts another Gospel account, which says she went with others. I've also heard that the author didn't mention the other people because they didn't feel it was unimportant. If you don't believe scripture can be interpreted, that doesn't work either because it is making assumptions from the passage that aren't there (interpretation). Neither of those (whether it is a contradiction, or simply oversight) changes my faith in the Word or Jesus at all because the important point is that in all accounts, Jesus wasn't there because He was alive again and death was defeated and sins were paid for!

Gretchen Nelson said...

You guys should watch the Case for Christ movies...answers a lot of those. And on Netflix instant right now!

Gretchen Nelson said...

I think scripture IS clear cut, always applicable no matter how long ago God breathed it, and the word "interpretation" of the bible is far inferior to the idea of studying the bible. The context, the greek origins of the words...and I love that I know so many Godly men and women that have much more knowledge than I do right now that I can easily go to for counsel. What a blessing! (So excited for Jason to get into seminary to keep on learning)!

Gretchen

Sandra said...

The way the women respond after finding the tomb are different in all the accounts, as well. It's very interesting.

Jon Kelly said...

Interesting...I knew the ones on the tomb and the kiss, but not the blind men.

Sandra said...

Just to make clear, I am Jon's wife. I'm posing the question to the other commenters, which is why I explain my stance at the introduction of my statement - so there's no confusion. :)
I'll also reiterate that I'm posing these questions not as a skeptic, but I'm asking honest questions that I'd love to hear some input on.

Sandra said...

I am a believer and I believe in the truth of the Bible, that it is God breathed, and is to be lived by. However, I'm going play devil's advocate because I've asked some of these questions myself and sometimes don't know what to make of it. What about the discrepancies in the Bible, or even just in the New Testament? Some of these discrepancies are minor and unrelated to the overall message of the passage, even though, one must be true and one is not? It can't be both ways in some cases, right?
For example:
Matthew 1.2-17 and Luke 3.23-38 give two inconsistent genealogies for Jesus. The most obvious difficulty is Joseph's father: Was Joseph born of Jacob (in Matthew), or Heli ( in Luke)?

Or who found the empty tomb first?
Mark 16: 1 says Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome.
Matthew 28:1 says Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary."
Luke 24:10 says Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and "others." (Luke 24:10).
And John 20:1 says only Mary Magdalene. So which is it? They can't all be correct.

Or did Jesus heals two blind men on the way to Jericho (Matthew 20:29-34)? Or just one (Mark 10:46-52)?

In Mark 14:44-46 Jesus is betrayed by Judas with a kiss and then taken.
In John 18:2-9 Jesus voluntarily steps forward to identify himself. No kiss is mentioned.

These are just a few that I looked up online and searched out the verses. These are not message altering verses, but are inconsistent. Does this mean there is human error in their writing then? Any thoughts?

Jon Kelly said...

The only problem is that two people can read the same passage and get very different meanings from it, and both of those people truly believe that God revealed the truth to them. That is why we have people who believe in predestination, arguments over faith and works, and debates over when or how the rapture will take place. Everything you believe is a result of your experience (in life, in scripture and with the Holy Spirit) and either how you interpret that passage, or how you were taught to interpret that passage.

Think about about passages like Matthew 9 where Jesus says "the harvest is plentiful." I'm sure you've heard a sermon or two where that is used to motivate people to evangelize. Two chapters later, Jesus starts denouncing towns where He'd performed miracles "because they did not repent." Obviously those towns were not ripe, so is what Jesus said still a timeless truth? Or in the Circumcision Council in Acts 15 where the consult and say, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." That was a group of folks wrestling with what all this meant. Context and interpretation have a lot of impact.

Schmoel said...

"All scripture (graphe) is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2Tim 3:16-17) Is this verse difficult to interpret? many times the problem is not the exegesis of scripture, it is when people commit isogesis. The difference is pulling thought from scripture verses inserting thoughts into it. There is absolute truth; and God's word is truth.
Personally, this is my hope and joy of God's word. I can not only understand it, but I can trust it. Praise God for His word. I could not imagine a world without the Holy light of scripture piercing its darkness. Not only does it guide believers but it is the path that faith follows (Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God).
Although interpretations may differ, this is not the sole reason we have denominations. There is not a building on earth that could hold all believers. Multiple congregations are innevitable. The fact that each differs slightly on minor doctrine does not mean that one should condemn the other. Nor does it mean that each should take a lighter view of their own interpretations "whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Rom 14:23). Our convictions as to what pleases the Lord is between us and God. Therefore, justifying our beliefs in God's word needs to happen with our Lord.
This discussion assumes a neutral position as to the effectiveness of interpreting scripture, and thus is probably scewed from the get-go. I will say that there are defineitely things we can know from scripture. Things that are true. Things that are absolutely true, absolutely

Jason said...

We have to study the Bible as absolute truth and discover what the time, place, and context each book was written. Scripture is absolute truth, and by adding our own interpretations is how the Word gets distorted. We must study Scripture and live our lives as a reflection and understanding of that, not living our lives and trying to apply our own opinions, thoughts, or interpretations into the Bible.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." As well as 2 Timothy 4:2-4. Obviously this is not the only place in Scripture that speaks of the truth and superiority of the entire Word of God. It is not ignorance that we believe in only one truth, it is because of the Bible that we can KNOW this is truth, not because someone else said it was, or that our sinful human complex through reasoning and interpretation that led us there, it is God through his Word that we know these things to be true.

Jenblue8 said...

Well, I think you already know what I think on this one cause I'm pretty much right there with you. But I think this is also why people get so fired up about politics. Each "side" has their own "Interpretation" if you will about the best way to run the US and they get crazy when the other "Side" gets their way or does something they disagree with. There's no one right way to run a country...there are some ways that are obviously more right than others (see Zimbabwe as an example of a not so right way!) but I think the hateful political rhetoric comes from people being as passionate about their "side" as others are about the Bible being interpreted a certain way.

jondkelly said...

It's especially tough when you are on any side of something you feel personally strong about and not even limited to politics and religion. Although I think they are fantastic things to discuss. :-)

jondkelly said...

Sounds like a really interesting Bible study...it would be nice if we were closer to one though. I totally understand the perspective of the author issues too. Each author was coming from their side with a purpose that was usually aimed at convincing a certain group of people about Jesus - not necessarily setting out to write "the Bible." I have stated quite a bit that the differences aren't the focus though...does it really matter how many people went to the tomb or in which order? The focus is that Jesus wasn't there! The question becomes...if there are things that aren't the same, does that impact what most people view as the inerrancy of scripture? Thanks for sharing Jessica!!

Schmoel said...

I see what you mean. I agree in some sense of what you are saying. But certainly there are things you've found to be undoubtably true to your Christianity, no?

Schmoel said...

first, to say that it doesn't line up is also applying an interpretation that is not there. John did not say that Mary was the only one present, but this must be implied until one reads the other accounts (for example).
Secondly, I see what you mean, but I am not assuming anything if another gospel puts it in more detail, I am simply adding it up. Do you see what I mean?

Schmoel said...

Sandra "no offense" but it seems you are more black and white than you want to admit. You've already made the conclusion that things cannot be black and white. At the mention of my attmept to show you clarity you resist. I understand that I am a stranger to you, and if you are uncomfortable with hearing the harminization of a stranger I understand. Let me ask this. If someone could make it clear to you, would you listen or have you concluded your ignorence?

Schmoel said...

I am not trying to be arguementative. This is a real question. If you would rather not discuss it I understand. I just like to hear where people are coming from. After all, why discuss why simething is unclear if possible solutions cannot also be discussed. Are we not just pooling ignorance?

Schmoel said...

Its a good one. No I don't think that denominations exists casue we all wouldn't fit in a building is the only reason. I'm just pointing out that changes come in church history and not all of them bad. WHen teacher come in with distructive doctrines, its time to get away from that brand and identify a new one for like-minded believers. I'd be a fool to assume that (though not far from one presently)

Schmoel said...

THe reason that is uncomfortable is because it is not true. Friend, the NT writers weren't trying to figure out what to write, (2Peter 1:20-21) . By stating that Paul was using his human intellect to determine what to write, that he had to "figure out what the whole gentile thing was going to look like" or that the NT writers were interpreting the meaning of Christianity. We appeal to the Holy Spirit for understanding, not your 2 points

Schmoel said...

AMEN!

Matt said...

It is absolutely true. (Hey, there's some absolute truth for us! Heh.) First of all, that verse from 2 Peter has nothing to do with the New Testament. Peter is talking specifically about prophecies that prophets gave in the Old Testament. Of course there was no "interpretation" in them -- they were messages directly from God.

Very few passages of Scripture are direct prophecies, however. We've got to stop pretending like the Bible was handed down from the sky in its complete form to us by God and realize that God breathed influence on human beings to write it.

For instance, Paul's letter to the church in Galatia, most likely the first letter he ever wrote after his conversion experience, is entirely about interpretation. Paul has to figure out how to answer the question: what to Gentiles need to do to follow Jesus? What pieces of the Old Covenant, if any, do they need to follow? Specifically, do they have to be circumcised?

And Paul interprets the narrative of God in such a way to say, "No." They do not have to be under the Old Covenant. He has no Scripture to back this idea. In fact, this interpretation flies in the face of the Scripture of the time! Paul interprets the narrative of God to say that there is another, new way to God through Jesus which does not require going through the old covenant first.

Did Paul rely on the Holy Spirit for this interpretation? Absolutely. Just like we rely on the Holy Spirit for our interpretations today.

But to assume that God spoke verbatim to Paul as he wrote letters to these early Christians is absurd.

The early church leaders relied on foggy interpretations when they came together at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 -- again, to interpret what rules Gentiles had to follow. They didn't make any hard and fast decisions, they simply said, "It seems good to the Holy Spirit and us..." And later on, Paul would come to contradict those very instructions as he wrote to other Gentiles.

Their understanding of what this new chapter in the narrative looked like was constantly evolving and shifting as they worked out all the new wrinkles of faith in Jesus.

And they absolutely used freedom, grace, and love to guide them in these decisions. It's why Paul confronted Peter about eating with Gentiles. It's why Paul railed so hard against those demanding Gentiles be circumcised. It's why Jesus fought so bitterly with the Pharisees.

There's no reason that you can't appeal to both the Holy Spirit and to love & freedom when interpreting Scripture. In fact, I would venture to say that it seems to me if your appeal to the Holy Spirit leads you somewhere other than to love and freedom, it's not the Holy Spirit you're listening to.

jondkelly said...

I've said many times in these comments, that it honestly makes no difference to me if it was Mary or a crowd of 5,000. The point of the passages is that the grave was empty and Jesus had completed His work on the cross. My whole point is that we interpret scripture all the time! Of course there's interpretation in either of these views. In no way am I saying that the writers of the Gospels were lying, but not telling the entire story is definitely going to lead to confusion. I remember being a teenager and being asked by my mom who was there and intentionally leaving out names of people for whatever reason. What I included, or didn't include in my answers spoke a lot to my credibility. How a non-believer feels they can approach their questions and issues in scripture speaks a lot to how they are going to feel about Christ and the Church.

Lyles Jessica said...

I agree, it doesn't really matter who was there first or how many. The point of the story and what all versions share is that Jesus was resurrected. That is truly the point and the life changing message.
And if things appear to not be the same from one account to another or one translation to another, that absolutely lends itself to doubt by people who want to know that they are believing in something real. I think we're all reading and questioning to be sure we're not the dope believing a contradicting lie.

Another thought I had was about the fact that after Jesus' resurrection, He stayed with His disciples and opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45). He also stayed with them some 40 days and taught them about the new way of following God. The way it was through Him. How He had changed the Old Covenant to the New. They were filled with the Holy Spirit. He also came to Paul on the road to Damascus. And Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit as well. He spent a lot of time with the disciples, learning about Jesus and the teachings He had taught them. Then he went out and preached it. It just made me think that Jesus did make a point to physically "write" in the Bible. He opened their minds, that's the only way they could understand. It's the only way we can too. So I believe that it is possible to understand. We're not just floating around hoping we get it. There is truth and we have access to understanding it, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Maybe you all have said this already. But it's what was weighing on my brain, had to share.

Schmoel said...

Hmm, so Peter does not consider the wrintings of Paul as scripture (comparable to the prophets)? is that your final answer? 2Peter 3:2, 3:16 seem contrary to your view. Yes, I know the nature of Paul's epistles. I know the target audience in Matt, Mark, Luke, and John. However, you demote the position of apostle to nothing. Apostles were not liek you and I. They had special gifts, they all did miracles, and there are 12 thrones waiting for them in heaven. Peter considers Paul's writings as scripture just like the prophets. Let me ask you a question. You said we have to stop acting like the Bible was handed to us from the sky. Why? And by the way, after you respond to whether Paul's writings were considered as scriptural as the prophets from 2Peter3:16, and why it is so important that we stop considering the Bible "from God", you should also remember that 2Tim 3:16 does not say "breathed influence" it says that all scripture is "breathed out".
If 2Peter 3:16 doesn't satisfy, I can quote where Paul sites the book of luke as scripture as well.

Schmoel said...

I don't think you understand the danger of what you are saying. I'm sure you feel very intelligent for your doubt of the scripture's accuracy. I'm sure at the discovery of percieved contradiction, you at first felt betrayed or confused which led to the path of least resistance which was to trust your intuition and conclude that the writers must have made a few minor mistakes here and there. The problem with this is that no where in scripture does the Word make this claim. In fact, Peter and Paul BOTH consider the writings of the gospel and epistles at the same level as the old testiment. "My whole point" is that although we must rely on the Holy Spirit as well as faithful men of the church for understanding of the Word of God, to assume that the writers of the NT were under any less superintending influence than the prophets is to go agianst scripture's claim of itself.
To claim that the NT writers could get away with innacuracies in their accounts would be a misunderstanding of Hebrew culture (not to mention the amount of eye-witnesses still around looking over Matthew's shoulder as he penned the first gospel). Ultimately, regardless of the number of eye-witnesses that could put the lie to the accounts, the danger lies in the foggy line that must be drawn between what did and did not happen. Who is qualified to make that call? you? me?

Jenblue8 said...

Oh, absolutely. Plus I am just going through a rather stale time as we are still seeking a church home, so I feel rather adrift in that area. It colors a lot of the way I look at things.

Matt said...

"is that your final answer?"

I never said Paul's writings weren't Scripture, but thanks for twisting my words and missing the point of my comment.

"You said we have to stop acting like the Bible was handed to us from the sky. Why?"

...Maybe because it wasn't? And if you believe it was, then I am sad for you.

Schmoel (whoever you are), it's becoming quite obvious that this isn't a dialog for you. It's a debate. It's all about you having to be right and proving to everyone else why they're wrong. It's tiring, it's self-defeating, and it's not Christlike.

Please, go back, re-read your comment above this one, and recognize how arrogant and snide you come across. Then consider how Jesus interacted with people like the Samaritan woman at the well. Or the woman caught in adultery. Or anyone, really. There is a distinct lack of love and a lack of desire for any kind of positive relationship in all of your comments. It hurts me to say that to you (truly, it does) because I don't know you -- but I say it with the hope that it will help and bless the ministry you have with the other people around you in "real life".

Know that I will not be replying to any more of your comments on this blog. Nothing personal, I just need something entirely different than what you're offering at this stage in my Christian journey. Grace and peace, brother.

Lyles Jessica said...

I started in this blog line of conversation because I thought everyone here was seeking understanding and to dig deeper with other people. It posed a question ripe for debate. So as a friend to a few of you I have to say I feel bad for Schmoel. We don't think we know him, maybe we do. But especially if we don't it seems he's getting some pretty rough treatment for trying to offer truth and debate. I can understand you all thinking he's snide and arrogant, but he's not the only one, from what I'm interpreting.
Christ called things for what they were and He knew when to stay silent. He could discern which needed to be done at the right time. It does seem the conversation needs to end. But I think Schmoel deserves some thanks for joining the conversation and adding some valid points. I don't know if I'm misunderstanding the line of questions and statements, but I'm walking away with the fear that you guys think man had the ability to screw up the Bible. If God didn't superimpose himself on each of the writers and make them check their facts perfectly than I don't know how we have any faith to stand on. It means we can't trust anything in the Bible, because Paul may have misinterpreted something. It's really hard for me to believe that. God had to be hands on and His word has to be reliable and absolute if we have any truth to believe in.
Maybe I missed the point too. I told myself I wouldn't comment anymore, but I couldn't help it. I feel really frustrated by this whole thing. I was hoping everyone was digging for truth and would be delighted to find it.

jondkelly said...

Hey Gretchen...just wanted you to know I've been watching through these. I've heard or studied a lot of these lines of apologetics before, but it is still interesting to hear. They are pretty well made too. I'll make sure to finish them all!

jondkelly said...

I disagree with you that there is any danger in any of my views. We don't even know each other, but this is what is coming across in your writing...I get a sense of arrogance in your responses and it immediately turns me off to what you're saying. It seems that you have less interest in discussing or sharing your thoughts than you do with simply correcting views that you think are wrong. In this particular response, you automatically make the assumption that someone who has these types of questions takes the "path of least resistance" or that I'm trusting my own intuition. You assume I haven't already heard, read or studied the apologetics surrounding these issues, or the other people posting haven't also looked into this. Also, You talk about "faithful men of the church" as if there aren't faithful men in the church who hold these exact same views.

I am completely grateful that you are part of this conversation, but I wish you would approach it as a conversation, rather than a means to convince people why you are right. I present my thoughts, and I LOVE to hear other people's thoughts, but almost every single response you've written is about correcting other people, rather than simply sharing your own views. If someone had never been involved in any sort of church setting, and started getting involved, I really think they would have a hard time approaching you for honest dialogue about their concerns because of how it comes across.

I apologize if I've come across poorly too. Any of my friends can tell you that I tend to be a little sarcastic at times, and I hope that isn't influencing my writing too strongly. Writing in an "anonymous" online forum also allows people (myself included) to say things in ways we probably never would if we were sitting in the same room. I would love to continue the conversation, and I hope that if you or anyone else wants to join us, they will continue to do so. I hope we can all approach these questions in love and grace and that we all come to a deeper understanding of scripture and of who God is.

Sandra said...

I agree with what Jon just responded to you a few minutes ago. I'm sorry if I came off as standoff-ish. I guess I just became defensive when you swooped in and began, what seemed to me, to tell us ALL what is right and to even try and pastor me (perhaps you are a pastor?) when I have no idea who you are.

Again, I apologize if I came off rude. I'm sorry.

In response to your response: within minutes of writing what I wrote above to you yesterday, I commented on Jessica's post about what she learned about the genealogy in Luke and Matthew. I took in what she said and thanked her for her insight (I know and trust Jessica and her walk with God). So yes, I appreciate clarity and discussion with and from others. It felt like a discussion between believers (Jessica and I) rather than, as Jon pointed out, you trying to only correct most of the posters on this blog. I appreciate you trying to help and explain things that perhaps you understand better than I.

I read your response to Jon about all of the different accounts of who went to the empty tomb first and adding up the different accounts. I understand what you're saying and that makes sense to me. I'll also reiterate that to me those details, in this instance in particular, are inconsequential to the empty tomb.

Schmoel said...

Wow, that's an impressively honest statement. Hope you find one. I'll pray for you.

Schmoel said...

Jesus wasn't nice to everyone Matt. His interractions with the self-righteous were very abbrasive. He called them names, mocked their actions and warned everyone not to be like them. I did not say you didn't think Paul's writings were scripture. You said they were not of the same nature as the Old Testiment writings. THis is not true. Paul was not "interpreting" the situation as we interpret as you indicated. The claims you make such as how someone should interpret scripture, although not bad, are also not scriptural. If you were wrong in your attitude or practice would you not want rebuke? BTW this is obviously rhetorical since you will not be replying. Just think about it. No one thinks the Bible was literally handed down, but if our God is sovereign the one we have is trully the one He ordained.

Schmoel said...

I totally understand. The trouble with blogs is that you really do not know who you are talking to. I am a pastor at LVC (not the pastor, but one of the little ones) My urgency for this topic is not to prove others wrong, but to shed the light of scripture and historical facts on things so that believers have

Schmoel said...

confidence in their Bibles. Doubt in GOd's word is not good even in details. This is the root of why many CHristians get bogged down form fellowship with other believers and even doing the Lord's will.

Jon Kelly said...

I've been thinking this one over and praying about it, and I wanted to let you know that I really like the explanation of adding it up. It is a lot better than simply stating the writers were writing with different perspectives, as I've heard many apologists do. It just gives it more tangible understanding of that, even if it says the same thing.

I was thinking too, in terms of my analogy of who I included when my mom asked me the question...even if I left names off the list, it didn't change who was actually there. Just wanted you to know that. It's a good explanation. Thanks!