My Problem With The Bible

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Glacier
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My Problem With The Bible

Post by Glacier »

I have a problem with the Bible. Here’s my problem…

I’m an ancient Egyptian. I’m a comfortable Babylonian. I’m a Roman in his villa.

That’s my problem. See, I’m trying to read the Bible for all it’s worth, but I’m not a Hebrew slave suffering in Egypt. I’m not a conquered Judean deported to Babylon. I’m not a first century Jew living under Roman occupation.

I’m a citizen of a superpower. I was born among the conquerors. I live in the empire. But I want to read the Bible and think it’s talking to me. This is a problem.

One of the most remarkable things about the Bible is that in it we find the narrative told from the perspective of the poor, the oppressed, the enslaved, people, the occupied, the defeated. This is what makes it prophetic. We know that history is written by the winners. This is true — except in the case of the Bible it’s the opposite! This is the subversive genius of the Hebrew prophets. They wrote from a bottom-up perspective.

Imagine a history of colonial America written by Cherokee Indians and African slaves. That would be a different way of telling the story! And that’s what the Bible does. It’s the story of Egypt told by the slaves. The story of Babylon told by the exiles. The story of Rome told by the occupied. What about those brief moments when Israel appeared to be on top? In those cases the prophets told Israel’s story from the perspective of the peasant poor as a critique of the royal elite. Like when Amos denounced the wives of the Israelite aristocracy as “the fat cows of Bashan.”

Every story is told from a vantage point; it has a bias. The bias of the Bible is from the vantage point of the underclass. But what happens if we lose sight of the prophetically subversive vantage point of the Bible? What happens if those on top read themselves into the story, not as imperial Egyptians, Babylonians, and Romans, but as the Israelites? That’s when you get the bizarre phenomenon of the elite and entitled using the Bible to endorse their dominance as God’s will. This is Roman Christianity after Constantine. This is Christendom on crusade. This is colonists seeing America as their promised land and the native inhabitants as Canaanites to be conquered. This is the whole history of European colonialism. This is Jim Crow. This is the American prosperity gospel. This is the domestication of Scripture. This is making the Bible dance a jig for our own amusement.

As Jesus preached the arrival of the kingdom of God he would frequently emphasize the revolutionary character of God’s reign by saying things like, “the last will be first and the first last.” How does Jesus’ first-last aphorism strike you? I don’t know about you, but it makes this modern day Roman a bit nervous.

Imagine this: A powerful charismatic figure arrives on the world scene and amasses a great following by announcing the arrival of a new arrangement of the world where those at the bottom are to be promoted and those on top are to have their lifestyle “restructured.” How do people receive this? I can imagine the Bangladeshis saying, “When do we start?!” and the Americans saying, “Hold on now, let’s not get carried away!”

Now think about Jesus announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom with the proclamation of his counterintuitive Beatitudes. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” how was that received? Well, it depends on who is hearing it. The poor Galilean peasant would hear it as good news (gospel), while the Roman in his villa would hear it with deep suspicion. (I know it’s an anachronism, but I can imagine Claudius saying something like, “sounds like socialism to me!”)

And that’s the challenge I face in reading the Bible. I’m not the Galilean peasant. Who am I kidding! I’m the Roman in his villa and I need to be honest about it. I too can hear the gospel of the kingdom as good news (because it is!), but first I need to admit its radical nature and not try to tame it to endorse my inherited entitlement.

I am a (relatively) wealthy white American male. Which is fine, but it means I have to work hard at reading the Bible right. I have to see myself basically as aligned with Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Caesar. In that case, what does the Bible ask of me? Voluntary poverty? Not necessarily. But certainly the Bible calls me to deep humility — a humility demonstrated in hospitality and generosity. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being a relatively well-off white American male, but I better be humble, hospitable, and generous!

If I read the Bible with the appropriate perspective and humility I don’t use the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus as a proof-text to condemn others to hell. I use it as a reminder that I’m a rich man and Lazarus lies at my door. I don’t use the conquest narratives of Joshua to justify Manifest Destiny. Instead I see myself as a Rahab who needs to welcome newcomers. I don’t fancy myself as Elijah calling down fire from heaven. I’m more like Nebuchadnezzar who needs to humble himself lest he go insane.

I have a problem with the Bible, but all is not lost. I just need to read it standing on my head. I need to change my perspective. If I can accept that the Bible is trying to lift up those who are unlike me, then perhaps I can read the Bible right.
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averagejoe
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

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Gotta like Elijah!
Ecclesiastes 10:2 A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left.

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unclemarty
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

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There's been growing interest among Christians for a deeper understanding of the "lost" historical hebraic context within the New Testament writings. Apparently this interest has also been growing for some jews.

Oldest New Testament Papyrus Manuscript.JPG


Israeli Professor: New Testament is a Jewish Text
Israel Today - Sunday, June 01, 2014

A prominent Israeli professor writing in the free Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom continues the trend of Jews both here and abroad reclaiming Jesus and even the New Testament as their own.

Professor Eyal Regev, head of the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology Department at Bar-Ilan University, writes that while most Jews might not believe the New Testament or Jesus’ claims of messiahship, it is now indisputable among most Jews that the movement that became Christianity was originally Jewish to the core.

“The books of the New Testament, the gospels that tell the story of Jesus’ life and teachings, the Epistles of Paul, and other writings, contain many quotes from the Pentateuch, as well as sermons peppered with the spirit of Second Temple Judaism,” notes Regev.

The professor continues: “The New Testament writings, as bizarre as they might appear to a Jew who does not believe in Jesus, are Jewish compositions.” He even acknowledges that it was not the original intent of the followers of Jesus to break away from Judaism and form a separate religion.

Regev goes on to applaud more and more Christians for coming to these conclusions, pointing out that it is not an easy process for adherents and leaders of the world’s largest religion. “Such an acknowledgment could lead them to conclude that the Christian religion as we know it veered off the original path of Jesus and his students, or that it does not have a claim to its most fundamental spiritual assets,” he writes.

http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/t ... p=readmore
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Last edited by unclemarty on Jun 1st, 2014, 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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unclemarty
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

Post by unclemarty »

Another good article:

Do Messianic Jews still have to keep Torah?
http://mjaa.org.au/2014/03/19/messianic ... eep-torah/

Torah Scroll.JPG


The story in Acts 21:17-26 is incredibly controversial for our modern day views on Torah. In this story, Jacob (James) tells Paul that he has developed a reputation for telling Jews to cease their Torah observance and for being a law-breaker himself. Many Church historians and Christians today would agree with this assessment of Paul. This is because of a lot of his writings, if taken in isolation, can be interpreted as being anti-Torah.

However, the story in Acts 21:17-26 turns this view of Paul on its head. This is because Paul had a moment in Biblical history where he could have made it clear once and for all that Jews should totally throw off Torah observance when they come to the Messiah. But, to put a spanner in the works, Paul did the opposite. He did as Jacob told him to. He financed a sin offering that was part of a Nazarene vow for two Messianic Jews (Acts 21:23-24). He did this publicly to show everyone that

“there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.”

This is radical stuff. Paul made a public statement that he not only taught that Jews should continue to live in observance of the Torah after they come to faith in Messiah, but that he himself was as well.

Of course, this must be measured against his other statements in his letters where he reveals that his Torah observance was not the way he achieved right standing with God. It was always his faith in what God has done through the Messiah that brought him ultimate right standing with God. After he had come to faith, although, he continued to practice and observe Torah.

What can we take from this story then? Should Messianic Jews continue to observe Torah, even if they were not so prior to coming to faith in Yeshua? Should they become zealous for the Torah?

I think Jews should be passionate about their history and that it is good and honorable to try to keep those parts of the Torah that are able to be kept today. Being said, I don’t think Paul was by his actions here trying to compel Jews to become more observant. I think he was affirming what these Messianic Jews were already doing and the attitudes they already had regarding Torah. I think he was saying that the way they were thinking and living was not wrong even in light of the New Covenant that had inbroken into the world.

There is a lot more to think on. This is quite a difficult and complex topic. It seems that at the very least, Messianic Jews should not be criticized if they do decide to keep Torah as a lifestyle. The error comes when we believe that keeping Torah is somehow essential to being in ultimate right standing with God.

This story in Acts demonstrates that Torah observance is okay for Messianic Jews. I would argue that any observance of Torah must be dependent on a standard of righteousness that is outside of observance itself. A standard that is not achievable through observance. The standard of righteousness apart from the Torah that is through faith in what God has done for us in the Messiah (Romans 3:21-31).

Moreover, any observance of Torah must prioritize living in the reality of the New Covenant. We have to aim to live not by the letter, but by the Spirit of the living God (Romans 7:1-6) who he poured out for us at Shavuot (Pentecost).

Finally, I think that we Jews need to realise that the only way to truly return to Torah, as commanded in Deut. 29-31, is to listen to the one who alone makes Torah eternally and universally relevant (Mat. 5:17-21; Romans 10:4; Romans 3:31). Beware the yeast of the Pharasees and their modern form of Torah observance. It is not the Torah of Moses. Listen to the one who alone prophesied the destruction of the Temple, our current dispersion and its final end; the One whom Torah points to and who brings it to its ultimate goal and highest meaning in Himself.
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Hmmm
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

Post by Hmmm »

It would be helpful to first understand why the Mosaic Law was given to the Jews and its overall intended purpose. When one understands those two things, you will see Paul's writings are not anti Torah at all.
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annexi
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

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Glacier wrote:
As Jesus preached the arrival of the kingdom of God he would frequently emphasize the revolutionary character of God’s reign by saying things like, “the last will be first and the first last.” How does Jesus’ first-last aphorism strike you? I don’t know about you, but it makes this modern day Roman a bit nervous.



This aphorism doesn't make me nervous because I'm not sure you've interpreted Jesus' phrase correctly in assuming it refers to the materially poor and wealthy.

There is however another phrase that says 'a rich man going to heaven is like a camel passing through the eye of a needle' - so I think being rich can put you at a disadvantage spiritually, maybe rich people have to try a little harder to be good (like you talk about)

You do make a very interesting observation, how the bible is written from the perspective of the poor/oppressed/exiled. I imagine that's probably true although I seem to recall reading books in the bible written by kings & queens ...
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

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Great article ! awaiting and praying for this revelation of the Kingdom to capture the attention of all of us in our comfortable villa's ! The first beatitude ," blessed are the poor in spirit" is also amazing , if you look up the meaning of "poor", crouching low like a roadside beggar , helpless , destitute, it describes some of us for whom this world and material blessings are not enough,(more is never enough)and we are desperate for God, for His truth, peace and meaning for our lives. So by the grace of God I am on my head seeing it as you have so wonderfully described.
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

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I don't have a problem the bible, I do have question for those who study this book.

So in the original text of the bible there is no separation into chapter & verses, that took place around early 1200's by a man named Stephen Langton.

My question is does it benefit the bible or does it not.

Added question does it make it easier to misinterpret it contents, if so why continue to use it since original did not them.
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

Post by A_Britishcolumbian »

hey gordonh, good to see you here! :)

the purpose of the specifically segmented and numbered style applied to the 'bible' was to embed coded messages.
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annexi
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

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GordonH wrote:I don't have a problem the bible, I do have question for those who study this book.

So in the original text of the bible there is no separation into chapter & verses, that took place around early 1200's by a man named Stephen Langton.

My question is does it benefit the bible or does it not.

Added question does it make it easier to misinterpret it contents, if so why continue to use it since original did not them.

I imagine the separation of text into chapters and verses made the bible easier to read; same as chapters do in a regular book by grouping ideas, events, themes, etc.

How would dividing the bible into chapters and verses potentially make the bible easier to misinterpret?
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annexi
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

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Glacier wrote:
I have a problem with the Bible, but all is not lost. I just need to read it standing on my head. I need to change my perspective. If I can accept that the Bible is trying to lift up those who are unlike me, then perhaps I can read the Bible right.


Those who the bible are trying to lift up - the poor & oppressed as you point out - indeed differ from you in material wealth.
However, what if we are all equally poor with respect to spiritual poverty? I'm more familiar with the new testament, and it seems the message it carries - of love - is equally applicable to all humanity regardless of their material wealth.
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GordonH
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

Post by GordonH »

GordonH wrote:I don't have a problem the bible, I do have question for those who study this book.

So in the original text of the bible there is no separation into chapter & verses, that took place around early 1200's by a man named Stephen Langton.

My question is does it benefit the bible or does it not.

Added question does it make it easier to misinterpret it contents, if so why continue to use it since original did not them.


annexi wrote:I imagine the separation of text into chapters and verses made the bible easier to read; same as chapters do in a regular book by grouping ideas, events, themes, etc.

How would dividing the bible into chapters and verses potentially make the bible easier to misinterpret?


What its done is taken something whole & complete and broken it into millions of pieces. Which now can be taking out and used completely out of context (which churches have done & continue to do) in which it was intended by the original writers.
If the original writers wanted it broken up into chapters & verses, would they have not done it themselves.
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

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The Bible writers didn't have books to write in when they wrote it. By adding chapters and verses, it makes it easy to find where you want to go. As far as churches misusing it, you have the right. I honestly feel there are very few sincere church leaders. In other words, sincere in actually teaching the Bible. When they learn what they believe is wrong, they still teach it, because they get paid to do so. So much of what they teach are BOLD FACE LIES, but hey, who cares, its a living, right?

Not all, but many.
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

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Well, let's see. You have something like 35 thousand different Christian sects all interpreting the bible differently. That appears to me to be a problem. Could it possibly be because they broke the writings down into chapters and verses? Anything that is written is open to misinterpretation and it appears that the King James version is one of the most misinterpreted books of all time. To me, it would make more sense to go directly to the Source to find out the truth of the matter: "Seek and ye shall find, ask and you shall receive." Why waste time reading an ancient book that is open to misinterpretation when the supposed author is waiting to answer your questions?
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annexi
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Re: My Problem With The Bible

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cliffy1 wrote: To me, it would make more sense to go directly to the Source to find out the truth of the matter: "Seek and ye shall find, ask and you shall receive." Why waste time reading an ancient book that is open to misinterpretation when the supposed author is waiting to answer your questions?


"...go directly to Source to find out the truth..." Indeed, I agree.

"Seek and ye shall find, ask and you shall receive." One of the beautiful truths to be found in the bible. There are entirely too many biblical interpretations ultimately made with the end of serving the misguided ego.

Opening that connection with source/God is easier said than done however. How does one do such a thing in your opinion?
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