Posted by: Alicia | November 21, 2008

Homosexuality and the Bible: Introduction

TWO TYPES OF INTERPRETATION:

There are two different approaches that we could take to interpreting the bible: the “literal” reading, which is used by most Fundamentalists, and the “historical-critical” reading, which we will be using in this teaching.

The literal reading claims to take the text simply for what it says. It claims not to be interpreting the text, but merely to be reading it as it stands. The rule of this type of reading is that a text means whatever it means to somebody reading it today.

The historical/critical approach, however, follows a different rule. It claims that a text means whatever it meant to the people who wrote it long ago. To say what a biblical text teaches us today, you must first understand the text in its original situation and then apply the meaning to the present situation.

For instance, in three of the Gospels (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25 and Luke 18:25), Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” With this in mind, it sounds as if it is impossible for someone that is rich to go to heaven, for certainly a camel cannot fit through the eye of a sewing needle! That is what this saying suggests, if you don’t take into account the historical basis for what Jesus said.

In Jerusalem there was a very low and narrow gate through the city wall. When a caravan entered through that gate, the camels had to be unloaded, led through the gate crouching down, and then reloaded inside the city wall. That gate was called, “the eye of the needle.” So what Jesus was explaining was that it is difficult (not impossible) for the rich to enter into the kingdom of heaven. They might first have to “unload” their material concerns. Jesus was once again teaching about simplicity of life and single-heartedness.

Another way of looking at this would be to look at some of the sayings that we have today. Like for instance, “she is out in left field”. Now for someone who is not accustomed to our slang here in the United States, they might go looking for this person in a field somewhere off to the left! When actually, to understand what is being meant by this statement they would need to know a little something about baseball. Areas of a baseball field are called center, right and left field, as viewed from the batter’s position. Most batters are right-handed. The swing from the right to the left. So they tend to hit the ball more often and more deeply into left field. So the player covering left field needs to be positioned far back in the field, far from the other players. In many ways this player is isolated and out of touch, off in his or her own world. So to say that someone is “out in left field” is to imply that he or she is disoriented, out of contact with reality, wrong, unconventional, loony.

With these two examples in mind, we can see how having a literal approach to interpreting the bible can lead to misconceptions, and misinterpretations if one doesn’t take into consideration the historical aspects of the text.

TOOLS

Not only are we going to be looking at the bible from a historical/critical approach, we will also be looking for the complete meaning of each of the biblical texts in question. We will be using a variety of tools to do this: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Original Hebrew/Chaldee and Greek texts, Hebrew/Chaldee Dictionary, Greek Dictionary, English Dictionary, and several different versions of the bible.

The purpose of this bible study is to teach you how to properly interpret scriptures on your own, with the use of helpful tools, and to feel secure in your own interpretations. Too often, we take what others say as the “gospel” or truth, without ever checking it out on our own. And this in turn leads to self condemnation and alienation from the body of Christ and from God. We hope that by the end of this teaching you will have a restored or more beautiful relationship with our Creator, and a better understanding of how we fit within god’s plan.

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