• BrianW
    640
    There's been a long-standing debate over whether there are inconsistencies and contradictions in the teachings given, primarily, in the bible but, also, in other scriptures.

    My query is, "should we consider the circumstances involved as providing additional directivity to the teachings given?"
    I find that, if we don't consider the 'outside' factors such as psychological states of those involved, whether the teachings are given from a political, social, religious, etc standpoint, what symbolism is used and what meaning is intended vs those which are not intended, etc, you get the drift; after such considerations, to me, there's very little contradictions, inconsistencies, mistakes, etc, in the teachings themselves. Most of the problems I often have is with peoples limited perspective. Some of these people are those who wrote the scriptural texts, some are those who translate them, some are those who analyse and interpret them, etc.

    What are we looking to find in the scriptures. If it's the truth, then, amidst the many interpretations, which do you pick as truth?

    Personally, I choose the least contradictory interpretation or the most harmonious to be closer to the truth. This is because I believe reality to be in absolute harmony in the way it unfolds. This does not mean phenomena don't interact with each other but, there are laws/principles which govern such interactions and resolve them logically. Therefore, for me, the path of least resistance, the path of greatest harmony or unity or freedom, is closest in approximation to reality.

    I don't know how you choose what is significant in any teachings but I would like to know. Please share your thoughts.
  • hachit
    23
    I am Christian and have looked at theology for 3 months (so not the best). If my pastor has taught me anything about intuprting scripture it is this. When siting a verse you at least need to understand the entire chapter. In some cases you may also need the chapters before and after it
  • BrianW
    640
    When siting a verse you at least need to understand the entire chapter. In some cases you may also need the chapters before and after ithachit

    And, do you take the literal or direct translation or do you factor in indirect statements which use some symbolism or infer a larger context than may be expressed in the meaning of a singular word?
  • hachit
    23
    Frist and formost context is important. A doctor can walk in one room and say to a patient you need exercise. Then in the next room rest tell the patient you need rest. Two important question is who is taking and to whom. Sometimes you may need to refer to the original scripture because the words don't have the same definition in English. When the bible says word there are I think 5 difrent meaning. It also helps to know the history
  • Rank Amateur
    922
    Just a slightly different take. This is from Ignatian Spirituality - It is called imaginative prayer - and what Ignatius asks is that instead of reading scripture as text to parse and digest and attempt some intellectual understanding - we immerse ourselves in the story. He asks, as an example, we imagine we are sitting with the crowds hearing the sermon on the mount - but more than that - we try to feel the sun, imagine the people around us, try to become a participant in the event. And here is the most important part, than listen to what we are feeling - not thinking - feeling.

    The Bible is not a history book, or a science book, or a political text. It is also not a how to instruction manual. It is, for us believes, the inspired word of God - inerrant in its purpose - which is to save our souls. This is more an emotional journey, than a cerebral one. In a more secular view it is a book, taken in its totality, that is teaching us to love. That is not a journey of the mind, it is a journey of the heart.

    Sermon over.
  • BrianW
    640


    I agree with you. I share the same sentiment because I often think what people misjudge as contradictions and inconsistencies easily fade away with the right context.
  • BrianW
    640
    That is not a journey of the mind, it is a journey of the heart.Rank Amateur

    Agreed.

    And here is the most important part, than listen to what we are feeling - not thinking - feeling.Rank Amateur

    This is more an emotional journey, than a cerebral one.Rank Amateur

    This, as I have discovered in my investigations, is the kind of notion that leads to bias. In my opinion, the bible teachings demand both right feeling and right thinking. Not one or the other.
  • Rank Amateur
    922
    This, as I have discovered in my investigations, is the kind of notion that leads to bias. In my opinion, the bible teachings demand both right feeling and right thinking. Not one or the other.BrianW

    ok - no argument from me - it is a personal journey - enjoy the trip
  • BrianW
    640
    I would like to expound a little on what it means by scriptural teachings are 'a journey of the heart, not of the mind'.

    A journey of the heart refers to developing understanding (or wisdom) which becomes a part of one's life-activity. It is different from a journey of the mind which refers to mental exercises or reason, which in itself is a necessary process towards understanding but not as definitive or comprehensive. This is because reason can differ with circumstances even when the underlying motive is the same.

    For example, in the bible, the disciples come to Jesus and tell him of people who've been playing at casting out demons and providing healing in the name of God but they don't seem to be of the same spiritual 'school' as Jesus. So they ask Jesus if they (the pretenders) should be rebuked and he (Jesus) denies their request. The reason for that is later seen when the pretenders meet actual demons and they suffer the consequences of their ineptness. They had managed to replicate actions which reflected certain spiritual connotations but because their faith was not developed (through understanding) their actions could not match up to their intentions. Hence, they were more of conmen than men of God. Jesus saw through their hearts and must have seen that they deceived themselves just as the others (if they did not deceive themselves, they would not have thought to face real demons) and knew that the best remedy was a dose of reality. That reality being that, activity was derived from a corresponding degree of faith (understanding).

    To develop the heart (understanding/wisdom), one must be willing to sacrifice time and effort. It is not enough to think and to feel, one must do. And all these parameters take time to mature into significant endeavours, which is why Jesus took his time educating the disciples until he knew that they were ready. And he taught them how to evaluate themselves to know when they would be ready and gave them instructions on what to do and how to go about it.

    Also, I think that, as humans, we're always feeling and thinking simultaneously and there is no mastery to be achieved by denying any one in favour of the other. Such an endeavour can only lead to suffering due to an imbalance.
  • Jake
    1.1k
    Sermon over.Rank Amateur

    And I must say, it was a fine sermon. Seriously.

    But as you can see, the Bible, all holy books, are just begging people to get lost in all this interpretation analysis. It's been going on for 3,000 years, it never ends, each new generation gets sucked in to it.

    This is more an emotional journey, than a cerebral one.Rank Amateur

    Then why has the Catholic Church been piling up all the intricate doctrinal documents for 2,000 years?

    Here it comes again, yet again. John said, "God is love". Three words. All anybody really needs to know. All the billions of other words are not bringing us closer, they're a hiding place. They allow us to circle safely around what matters and pretend that we're participating.

    We go to church and the full text of the priest's sermon is...

    God is love.

    But, but, but, we say, we have many questions!!

    And the priest says...

    Never mind about that. You know what to do, so go do it. Or admit that you're not.

    And then the priest has to get another job, cause there's little market for getting down to business. :smile:
  • BrianW
    640
    And then the priest has to get another job, cause there's little market for getting down to business.Jake

    I wish. It's more like the priest keeps saying the same things over and over again until... Oh, wait, they're not done yet. And that's the downfall of religion - that, beyond the bible (scriptural) teachings, most people do not want to take the necessary efforts to develop their own faith.
  • Bitter Crank
    7k
    There are Biblical verses one hears a lot because they are part of liturgy, or because they are repeated frequently (like Psalm 23). There are some verses I don't hear in liturgy and they aren't repeated all that often like Micah 6:8: Do Justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

    Ecclesiastes 9:4 ... to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

    Ecclesiastes 9:9-9:11

    Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy futility, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy futility: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.

    Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

    I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.


    Ecclesiastes seems to me to be quite unlike much of scripture in that it emphasizes the futility of existence. Enjoy life, because that's all there is, and in the end there is the grave where there is nothing. The best do not win. The wise are not rewarded. Life is futility.

    Pairing the Micah and Ecclesiastes verses one gets "You only have this life in which to do justice, love tenderly, and keep God company. This one life is not a dress-rehearsal; it is the main, and only event. So, mortal, if you are going to do justice, love mercy, and keep god company, you had best get on with it.

    Life may be futile for God too. Hosea was ordered to marry a prostitute who, after the marriage, continued to behave like a whore. What is the point of this exercise, a frustrated Hosea asks. God says that being the God of Israel is a lot like being married to a whore--extremely disappointing.
  • Rank Amateur
    922
    But as you can see, the Bible, all holy books, are just begging people to get lost in all this interpretation analysis. It's been going on for 3,000 years, it never ends, each new generation gets sucked in to it.Jake

    My unsupportable opinion is 99% of this is for human aggrandizement and 1% for the greater glory of God. But I could be a little to cynical
  • Rank Amateur
    922
    Never mind about that. You know what to do, so go do it. Or admit that you're not.

    And then the priest has to get another job, cause there's little market for getting down to business. :smile:
    Jake

    Yea, but they have that in persona Cristi thing - big time job security there
  • Queen Cleopatra
    19
    What are we looking to find in the scriptures. If it's the truth, then, amidst the many interpretations, which do you pick as truth?BrianW
    @BrianW

    For all the contradictions there are otherwise reasonable interpretations consistent with the overall message in the scriptures. Most people often ignore them because they're more interested in proving "God" to be wrong. In the end, they just reveal their motives. There are many reasons why statements from different people would be contradicting, the better question would be, are their teachings in contrast?
  • Jake
    1.1k
    Hi Rank,

    My unsupportable opinion is 99% of this is for human aggrandizement and 1% for the greater glory of God.Rank Amateur

    The trouble starts at the moment we say the word God. The word "God" is a noun. It has to be defined so we can draw the imaginary boundary between "God" and "not-God". Then various people will declare themselves experts on the subject, and those who can master the job of projecting authority will be able to make a living at being such experts. Once they know how to play the role of expert, and probably forgot how to make a living any other way, the authority generating machine has to be promoted, typically by an ever growing pile of definitions and explanations. And the authority generating machine has to be defended, which typically involves conflict of various kinds. Then people's egos become attracted to and addicted to the conflicts, and the circus unfolds from there.

    Rather than attempt to unravel the circus bit by bit, it seems more efficient to return to the "original sin" of taking the real and turning it in to the symbolic. That is, the shift of focus from the experience to explanations of experience.

    Ok, so some of that shift is inevitable, this is granted. But instead of building an ever higher pile of interpretations we should be seeking to reduce the pile to the lowest possible level so that the pile of interpretations doesn't get confused with the experience itself, at least to the degree that is humanly possible.

    This is why I keep chanting John's statement that "God is love". It's an interpretation of course, but it seems to get to the bottom line in the most efficient manner. But then John, like me, wasn't content to leave it there and went on to say a million other things, and so the circus continues.
  • Jake
    1.1k
    I wish. It's more like the priest keeps saying the same things over and over again until...BrianW

    Yes, but to be fair to the priest, this is what their audience wants. If we keep talking about love, love, love and God, God, God then we can create the impression that we are faithful to the religion, without having to actually do anything that is scary or challenging.

    You know, when I was young my Mom dutifully took us to Mass every Sunday, and we sat there and did the routine, and then never spoke a word about it the rest of the week. We had checked the God box, we were done until next Sunday.

    It seems the reality the priest is faced with is that this is what most of us want to do most of the time, and if the priest rocks that boat too much he won't have a congregation.
  • BrianW
    640
    It seems the reality the priest is faced with is that this is what most of us want to do most of the time, and if the priest rocks that boat too much he won't have a congregation.Jake

    At least the priests have their priorities in order.
  • BrianW
    640
    There are many reasons why statements from different people would be contradicting, the better question would be, are their teachings in contrast?Queen Cleopatra

    Apparently, for some people, it doesn't matter why the statements might contradict as long as they do. Why should reasons matter?
  • Rank Amateur
    922
    Brian - so how about we all just stipulate, that basis some reasonable interpretations of the Bible there are passages that can be shown to be contradictory to other passages. Let's all assume that is 100% true for this discussion -

    Where do you want to go from there ?
  • Rank Amateur
    922
    sorry - got my threads mixed up - mea culpa and I slink back into my hole
  • tim wood
    1.6k
    What Factors Do You Consider When Interpreting the Bible (or any other scripture)?

    What do you mean by "interpret"? And what, exactly, are you interpreting? Before you can interpret, isn't it a good idea to first read, and then understand? With the bible, don't you have to pause and consider whether what you are reading actually is the bible? Each of these is a not-so-simple question. But they must be answered on the way to answering your question, else your question become empty (of determinate meaning because ambiguous and vague) and its answers meaningless with respect to the question.
  • BrianW
    640
    sorry - got my threads mixed up - mea culpa and I slink back into my holeRank Amateur

    It's a good question so allow me to provide a reply.

    Where do you want to go from there ?Rank Amateur

    The contradictions are fact. However, the bible is not a collection of historical or scientific facts. The main aim of the scriptures is to teach morality which it does to a very high degree of success. Other factors are at best 'filler material'. In fact, we could ignore the 'who said' and 'when it was said' part and the 'what was said' would still qualify as proper moral teachings.

    I believe those who get stuck at the contradictions are the type who are inclined to believe God exists because the bible says so. They forget they have a duty to themselves to question everything and to analyse everything in order to extract what is significant and useful. So the question to ask is, "what significance do the contradictions have in light of the purpose of the bible and its narratives?"
  • BrianW
    640
    What do you mean by "interpret"? And what, exactly, are you interpreting?tim wood

    As you read, the words and sentences are being converted into a narrative in your mind by your understanding. That is what I mean by interpretation. This means that whatever report is in the bible (scriptures) must be given a reasonable and critical processing before its value can be determined.

    As I've mentioned (in the previous post), the contradictions are fact. Yet, they do not diminish the value of the scriptural narratives. The contradictions are just a proof of human participation. Only those who wish to direct ridicule or scorn to God seem to dwell on them. Ask those same people if they believe in God, or who/what God is, and their silence or lack of logical responses would be quite uninspiring.
  • Rank Amateur
    922
    The contradictions are fact. However, the bible is not a collection of historical or scientific facts. The main aim of the scriptures is to teach morality which it does to a very high degree of success. Other factors are at best 'filler material'. In fact, we could ignore the 'who said' and 'when it was said' part and the 'what was said' would still qualify as proper moral teachings.

    I believe those who get stuck at the contradictions are the type who are inclined to believe God exists because the bible says so. They forget they have a duty to themselves to question everything and to analyse everything in order to extract what is significant and useful. So the question to ask is, "what significance do the contradictions have in light of the purpose of the bible and its narratives?"
    BrianW

    Hello preacher - meet me the choir
  • tim wood
    1.6k
    As you read, the words and sentences are being converted into a narrative in your mind by your understanding. That is what I mean by interpretation.BrianW

    The question goes to what is presupposed in this process of reading - and to answer it requires answering the other questions as well. What your answer implies is that your reading is what the bible says (presumably, what any book says, so read).

    What I'm on about is that I am deeply suspicious (based on long experience) of folks who explain texts without first making cleat what they're actually doing, and how.

    To be sure, though, I think many folks would call your description of interpretation just reading, and not more than a very basic, and for present purpose completely inadequate, description of reading.
  • Athena
    274


    How about the story of Adam and Eve should be interpreted abstractly as should all the parables be interpreted abstractly.

    Interpreting the Bible literally is very problematic! Yes, we should wash our hands before eating and demons do not possess us unless you want to be abstract about those demons meaning fear and anger, not literally supernatural beings of evil.
  • Andrew4Handel
    938
    Only those who wish to direct ridicule or scorn to God seem to dwell on themBrianW

    I am the person who started the contradictions thread and in there I did not make any claims about Gods existence. My primary question is how truth can exist with contradictions.

    I am personally an agnostic and I have argued a lot with atheists and materialists.

    The issue bible inerrancy is a valid theological topic with a long history that a lot has been written about not something invented by the "New atheists"

    My thread was targeted at people who claim the bible (or some other work) is infallible.

    Contradictions are most problematic for people who believe in Biblical infallibility. The infallibility doctrine tends to be preached by groups like the Evangelicals and The Plymouth Brethren sect I grew up in.

    When I have discussed this with my parents they often supported infallibility but when you push them they admit they are using interpretation. But then they claim their interpretation is true because the holy spirit revealed it to them
  • BrianW
    640
    My primary question is how truth can exist with contradictions.Andrew4Handel

    Contradictions in what? Statements may have truth value but are not truth in themselves, are they?

    Contradictions are most problematic for people who believe in Biblical infallibility.Andrew4Handel

    Why should the bible be infallible? Doesn't that point to God and not the humans who wrote the bible?

    But then they claim their interpretation is trueAndrew4Handel

    Again, what is true? Or truth?
  • BrianW
    640


    Agreed. I find people who find fault with scriptures are at fault themselves for not evaluating the nature of what they're extracting from those scriptures. Most people can't give an absolute definition for truth, yet they want to accuse the scriptures for not portraying that truth they do not fully understand. And often they're the first to claim falsity in others.
  • Andrew4Handel
    938
    Contradictions in what?BrianW

    Contradictory claims abut the same topic leading to confusion.

    Why should the bible be infallible?BrianW

    I am not claiming it is or should be. But many people still make this claim. I think if you believe the bible is just something to be interpreted and not lawful then anyone can interpret it as they see fit or based on their sense of revelation.

    However if you interpret it using notions of logic and fact and commandment or law then your interpretation is going to be criticized using these tools. I have no problem with positive and non harmful interpretations of scripture. I had this interpretation myself as a child as I mentioned in the other thread I focused on verse like "Turn the other cheek" I think that you can get some kind of inspiration from the Bible by interpretation but I wouldn't call interpretation fact.

    There are long and detailed Wikipedia articles on all this.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_consistency_of_the_Bible

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Statement_on_Biblical_Inerrancy

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_inerrancy

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Only_movement

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_literalism
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