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By Alex Aili
If the Biblical authors wanted to describe historical events, would they do so with the precision of a modern physicist or police investigator?
What if they wanted to leave an impression? Were they just providing information or would they have wanted to illicit a response from their recipients?
The first rule of hermeneutics is to understand the original context of the text in question. What was the reason to write it? To whom was it written? What is its genre and how does that influence its meaning?
When flipping open the ancient pages in today’s skeptical climate, here are 3 reminders that might prove useful:
1.) The Bible is limited
2.) Unanswered questions are not proofs to the contrary
3.) Truth comes in various forms
Biblical Stories are Limited
What we have are snapshots, really, of what ancient authors deemed important. Good writers know what to leave out; editing and cutting are the key to keeping stories focused on the main point. The main point of the Bible, to put it in its most general terms, is “God relating to humanity.” The various genres and themes are all woven together into this unified purpose.
By its nature, the Bible will be limited because it’s a focused story. What’s important is to let the words speak in their original context.
Anyone with a Google search bar knows that determining the original context of the Bible is the question that millions of books, and trillions of hours of study try to answer. Unfortunately, an objective approach to Biblical studies is impossible for humans, and the results are prone to contamination due to human presuppositions. The best we can do is learn to weigh the angles of each issue and understand our biases before we make a conclusion. If we disbelieve in miracles and supernatural activity, then of course we’ll discredit the veracity of the Resurrection or the parting of the Red Sea. If we’re fundamentalists, we’ll find it hard to accept any view that isn’t a literal reading of the text.
Even so, the Bible should not be seen as internally erroneous. The only reason so much ink has been spent over its “problems” is because so much of it is already reliable, and the exegetical issues that remain are merely a result of our desire to polish it. The problem is when we disagree on how to polish it…
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