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Dernhelm23
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13 Jun 2010, 9:38 pm

To all the Christians in the forum:

Because we're autistic, and one of the trademarks of autism is predominately concrete understanding of an idea, and difficulty with abstract concepts, I would imagine I'm not the only one struggling with interpreting the Bible. There are lots of things we know to take at face value, and there are other things that we should understand are abstract or cultural. How do we know which is which?

I'll see your knee-jerk answers and then expound a bit.

NOTE: This is a simple, sincere question directed at people who have the same interests and beliefs as I do, not an invitation to argue with those who don't. I will be more than happy to engage in discourse with those of different viewpoints in a non-hostile manner, but I'd like to keep those discussions elsewhere if possible. Just a request based on what I've seen from other topics in this forum. ^_^



astaut
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13 Jun 2010, 10:39 pm

I have had the same thought as you about this. When it comes to a lot of things I'm really black and white, but strangely I'm not when interpreting the Bible. I used to do what most kids/younger teens do in regards to the Bible...listen to what they told us at church, think about it a little and try to practice it (at least I guess that's what others do). I'm pretty interested in philosophy and apologetics now so I think about it differently (and a lot more). I don't take it as literally as everyone else, which means I probably don't think of the 'rules' the same as other people who believe in God.


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13 Jun 2010, 11:11 pm

This is probably the reason my past obsession with Christianity was primarily with Fundamentalism. I still find it very difficult to take any Christian seriously if they do not follow the Bible literally, but I love symbolism from the Bible.



psychointegrator
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13 Jun 2010, 11:11 pm

Dernhelm23 -

What are your interests and beliefs?
Why is this directed only to Christians?
Why wouldn't you want to have responses from people that were Christian's before and since then have left the religion?

Here is person I'd generally find more useful than any Christian around today:
Dan Barker
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/dan_barker/
19 years of charging out to the savages with missionary work, evangelical preaching and even Christian songwriting!



Dernhelm23
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14 Jun 2010, 12:01 am

Psychointegrator, to answer your questions, I have LOT of interests and complex beliefs, so your question would have to be a little more specific to get the answer you are looking for lol. But for starters, I believe in the God of the Bible, and I also believe that any metaphysical or spiritual belief, mine being no exception, is faith-based and will never be proven through science or fact (though can be supported by it), thus there is a lot of uncertainty shrouding what exactly is contained in the Bible and what it means. I believe that the things that matter, things of real importance are plain as day and easy to understand if one possesses such faith, such as that Jesus Christ, a real, documented historical figure, was God and was Man, born of a virgin, died, came back to life, etc, and such as that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was the originator and creator of all things, existing before time and to eternity, and omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. As I said, these things cannot be scientifically proven, and I choose to believe in them, and my faith is my evidence, the extent of the evidence I will ever be able to offer.

This also answers your other questions, why this is directed only to Christians and why I don't want responses from once-Christians. It's not that I don't want their responses, only that I don't think they would be particularly helpful as pertaining to my specific question. Due to the faith-based nature of my beliefs, and how it ties in with literal/figurative interpretations, I think those who don't choose to have said faith (for whatever reason, I pass no judgment) will be coming from a totally different perspective and as such might not be able to see the explanations as I am looking for them. By the same token, if even other Christians were to come at this from the perspective of, say, Sunday School answers containing only a cliche'd and watered-down view of God, I don't think that would be helpful for what I'm looking for either. (Not that I'm implying anyone has or would do that, or even that I would judge them if they did, just illustrating the fact that I'm not discriminating against those who disagree with me or don't see things my way.)

Hope this answers your question, and thanks for your help!



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16 Jun 2010, 9:45 pm

i think its because humans want to believe theres something "greater" than themselves. even if it is spoken in metaphorical, or parables.
this cake will frost itself, just you watch


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John_Browning
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16 Jun 2010, 11:14 pm

It can be hard at times to know when the Bible is supposed to be interpreted literally or if metaphors are being used. A Bible with footnotes and lists of cross-referncing verses is helpful.


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16 Jun 2010, 11:54 pm

OK--I'm more of a literalist when it comes to interpreting the Bible, so here are my thoughts:

You problem is that the Bible has a dual purpose in how it relates to its readership. The first part of its purpose was to teach those its precepts who were alive during the time it was written. For example, the Torah was written for the Israelites. The conquest of Canaan was God using the Israelites to carry out His vengeance on the inhabitants of Canaan who were involved in some pretty sick stuff--those who couldn't be killed or deported were relegated to slave labor, and even then they had a profound influence on Israelite worship (not in a good way).

Beyond the Torah, you have an account of the judges and the kings--and the books of Kings and Chronicles paint a bleak picture of life under a monarchy: Those books answer the question of how well the kings lived up to God's standards by following the Law (Torah), and you see that most often they failed to live up to King David's example. And that was just the kingdom of Judah, never mind Samaria who couldn't seem to keep a king on the throne without getting himself assassinated. Chronicles ends with the exile, followed by the accounts of the governors/leaders of Jerusalem who came back from exile to rebuild the temple and the city wall. I'm currently reading the Psalms, which I'll finish tomorrow. :cheers:

The point is that a lot of the Old Testament would not really have been that relevant to someone after, say, 300 B.C. except as a historical and theological document, an outline to aid in keeping ancient Jewish traditions. By that point, or at best not long after, Hebrew ceased to really be a well-known language since it would have been supplanted by Aramaic, Latin, and Greek, the trade languages of the day. Further, people back then didn't have the same standards of literacy most of us hold to today, and it would have been the Levite priests who pretty much had a monopoly on law and doctrine. If you think you're confused TODAY, just imagine how frustrated you'd have been back then!

From the time of Moses through the end of the Babylonian exile, the OT would have been recognizable to those people. Today, not so much.

Also consider the New Testament in the same context. Those who wrote the gospels and epistles likely spoke Aramaic and/or Greek (Aramaic is a kind of sister language to Hebrew). Back then, even the illiterate would have understood the writings of the NT when they heard it read to them. Today, it doesn't make sense because of the differences in language.

What do I mean by that since we aren't reading the original Hebrew or Greek? Well, most of us read one of several translations of the Bible, the most infamous one being the KJV. My problem personally with the KJV is that, while it IS very "pretty-sounding," it's written in a form of English that is no longer spoken. Further, figures of speech and obscure words don't translate well into other languages, much less English, and trying to understand figures of speech written in a now-archaic language is horrendously frustrating. The translation I use in my reading is the HSCB, which is plain, modern-day English, and really tries (and succeeds, I think) in staying true to the intent of the original text. The NIV and ASV are also excellent translations that are a bit easier to understand.

What I like about the translation that I use is that it includes extensive notes on the text, explaining figures of speech and pointing out when scripture is to be taken symbolically or literally. My favorite example is the "mountain-moving faith" passage in which Jesus tells His followers to tell a mountain to throw itself into the ocean and it will be done. I think every sermon I've ever heard on that passage interpreted it incorrectly as overcoming adversity, as in if you just have faith, you can overcome all obstacles in life, or you can do anything you set your mind to. The intent of that passage is nothing of the sort. Jesus was using the image of a literal mountain, maybe even pointing to one in the distance, as a hyperbole to demonstrate the kind of ideal of faith the believer ought to have. It's saying that if you tell a mountain to throw itself into the ocean and actually believe with all your heart that it has been done as you said, then you have the kind of BIG faith that God wants you to have. Doesn't matter if the mountain is still there in reality. It has everything to do with where it is in your heart and mind. So taken as a literal metaphor, the passage makes perfect sense.

More often than not the Bible explains parables and other kinds of symbolic passages of scripture, but it does NOT explain common exaggerations and other figures of speech that were commonplace in the language of the day. It's up to us to study the Bible and learn what these things mean.

Which brings me to the second part of the Bible's nature: It's intent was to be a timeless sacred text. By taking the time to understand it, you can use it in applying Biblical precepts to your own life. The OT establishes God's covenant with the patriarchs, the Law of Moses in separating them and keeping them a distinct group of people, provides historical background on Israel's leaders, and promises the Messiah. The NT establishes a new covenant with all of humanity, not just the Jews, and promises salvation from sinful nature and separation from God through faith in Jesus, God's Son. If you get THAT, then you've got all the basics. Reading the Bible just fills in the details.

The footnotes in my copy are EXTENSIVE, even pointing out obscure words that have no known equivalent in modern language or whose meaning has been lost over the millennia. Apparent discrepancies are also pointed out along with possible explanations of why they exist (usually grammatical errors, different authors using different names in reference to the same person, scribal errors such as substituting similar-looking letters, numbers, generational gaps in genealogies, scribal margin notes that were copied into subsequent manuscripts, and so forth that accounts for 5% or less of the entire text). By understanding the context of scripture, it's a lot easier to comprehend its quality of timelessness--i.e. how the Biblical message is STILL relevant today.



countzarroff
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17 Jun 2010, 5:13 am

Just accept that The Bible is socialist propaganda directed against the Roman aristocracy. That is what it is.



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17 Jun 2010, 9:39 am

Dernhelm23 wrote:
There are lots of things we know to take at face value, and there are other things that we should understand are abstract or cultural. How do we know which is which?


I would say that as you are a Christian your first step is to pray for guidance on the things you want to understand.

James 1:5 "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."

And extensive reading. Alot of people throughout the ages have been interested in the very things that interest you and have done research on it.



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17 Jun 2010, 11:36 am

musicboxforever wrote:
And extensive reading. Alot of people throughout the ages have been interested in the very things that interest you and have done research on it.

And found very little in terms of how to correctly interpret the Bible.

Really, just pick and choose the parts you like, what's the worst that could happen?



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17 Jun 2010, 12:15 pm

The bible taken literally is a badly done fairy tale. Tolkien is better.

ruveyn



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18 Jun 2010, 3:40 am

ruveyn wrote:
The bible taken literally is a badly done fairy tale. Tolkien is better.

ruveyn


You always say that. :)



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18 Jun 2010, 4:49 am

Lecks wrote:
musicboxforever wrote:
And extensive reading. Alot of people throughout the ages have been interested in the very things that interest you and have done research on it.

And found very little in terms of how to correctly interpret the Bible.

Really, just pick and choose the parts you like, what's the worst that could happen?


Yeah I know there has been alot of stuff written along the lines of biblical interpretation that is confusing and unhelpful, but some of it is useful like finding out the meaning of the Greek word for minister "Diakonos". It means running through the dust. And that is significant for some reason, but I can't remember why. It also helps if you can remember what you've read. It think it means that a minister would be hurrying to be of help to other people and that they wouldn't be the sort of person who should lord themselves over people.

There's other things that I've read that have been helpful as well to explain ancient cultural traditions. I've been trying to think of something, but can't off the top of my head. Basically if I read something in the bible and think, that's a bit weird, I will look it up, if I have time, and see if I can work out what it means.



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18 Jun 2010, 7:39 am

Disclaimer: I am a member of the WP Strident Atheists.
However, I'll try to answer this, shortly and with respect to my own experiences when i was a Christian.

I can see in retrospect now, that the reason I first left Christianity is because of the issue you are now facing. How to interpret this or that. Does stoning a woman who wears clothing of mixed fibers and such warrant death, or is it the violation of divine law that warranted the death?

I'll offer you this advice. Try to find various translations of the passages you wish to understand. Different people translate different, and with different biases. Sometimes one or more of those translations will make sense to you in a way that others don't.

The WPSA in me wants to say that's a case of having your cake and eating it too, which to an extent it is... But if you are struggling with something, it can really help.

The important thing in all of this is that you don't just blindly take as literal what someone tells you to, and blindly take as figurative what someone tells you. YOU DECIDE! Also remember that you have THREE choices when reading a passage. Literal, Figurative, and Bogus.

The more you learn, and the more viewpoints you see something from, the better chance you have of finding the truth. All i can say in conclusion is that I do hope you do find the truth.