How to read the bible

Discuss either theological doctrines, ideas about God, or Biblical criticism. I don't want any debates about creation vs evolution.

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socrates
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How to read the bible

Post by socrates » Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:58 am

Hello everyone!

It's a very long time since I last took the opportunity to enjoy dialogue on one of Metacrock's boards.

I wonder if anyone here would like to offer their reflections on how to read the bible.

The fundamentalists, I imagine, find this question a very easy one. For them, at least in theory, it is simply a case of - sentence 1 - this is literally true, sentence 2, this is literally true... and so on, until it is time to replace the book on the shelf and set about their daily tasks of condemning homosexuality and other abominations. I say in theory, because even in the case of the fundamentalist, there is usually a good deal of discretion exercised. Whilst many of them seem to particularly like objections to their gay brothers, they are as apt as the rest of us to wear clothes with mixed fibres and borrow money on interest.

But how should one who is not a fundamentalist approach the bible? Perhaps, since it is a set of books of various types: poetry, history, laws etc... we should try to confine our explanations to one type of reading. So I would like to ask the question, how should one approach the reading of the bible for moral guidance, law or advice?

There are sections of the bible, we all know what they are, that would, as Hitchens puts it, "raise the eyebrow of the ethnic cleanser or brothel keeper," but there are others we feel are more morally edifying and should be followed.

How does one, to use a biblical metaphor, separate the wheat from the chaff?
Last edited by socrates on Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to read the bible

Post by Metacrock » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:42 am

socrates wrote:Hello everyone!

It's a very long time since I last took the opportunity to enjoy dialogue on one of Metacrock's boards.
Hey Soc, great to see you again man. I hope you will put up a self intro on the adventure of faith board.


when you say "read the Bible" that sounds like a request for exegetical tips. Then your examples deal with accepting doctrine. Are you asking about hermeneutics or the authority of the bible?
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Re: How to read the bible

Post by socrates » Wed Jun 15, 2011 12:38 pm

Thank you for your welcome Metacrock. It is much appreciated and it is great to be back in your company and that of your online colleagues once again. And thanks for offering me the opportunity to clarify my question.

Perhaps I should make some quick comments about my style and persona before we continue. This may be of some help.

The reason I originally chose 'Socrates' as my online persona and repeated this choice here again is that I wished to embrace and, to the very limited extent that I am able, emulate the spirit and to some extent the style of this great philosopher. Part of this involves actively attempting to be simple and even childlike, at all times avoiding jargon and the shorthand references to the 'in' knowledge of contemporary philosophy. My aim is to continue the method in this way and simply ask plain questions.

So please do not be too cross if I avoid the use of terms like 'exegesis' and 'hermeneutics.'

So to clarify in a plain manner, I would be interested to know how people here think one should approach the Christian text for moral guidance. Since there are stories and injunctions that are morally reprehensible, at least apparently so, and stories and injunctions that are morally inspiring and edifying, how does a believer go about the task of deciding which statements to reject and which to embrace?
"An honest man is always a child."

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Re: How to read the bible

Post by sgttomas » Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:57 pm

socrates wrote:I wonder if anyone here would like to offer their reflections on how to read the bible.
Through the Qur'an.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful.

Alif. Lām. Mīm . Allah: There is no god but He, the Alive, the All-Sustaining. He has revealed to you the Book with the truth, confirming what has been before it, and has sent down the Torah and the Injīl (the message sent through Jesus) earlier to give guidance to mankind, and has sent down the Furqān (the Criterion of right and wrong). Surely, those who have rejected the verses of Allah, for them there is severe punishment. Allah is Mighty, the Lord of Retribution.

Surely, Allah is such that nothing is hidden from Him, neither in the earth nor in the sky. He is the One Who shapes you in the wombs as He likes. There is no god but He, the Mighty, the Wise. He is the One who has revealed to you the Book (the Qur’ān). Out of it there are verses that are MuHkamāt (of established meaning), which are the principal verses of the Book, and some others are Mutashābihāt (whose definite meanings are unknown). Now those who have perversity in their hearts go after such part of it as is mutashābih, seeking (to create) discord, and searching for its interpretation (that meets their desires), while no one knows its interpretation except Allah; and those well-grounded in knowledge say: “We believe therein; all is from our Lord.” Only the men of understanding observe the advice.

“Our Lord, do not let our hearts deviate from the right path after You have given us guidance, and bestow upon us mercy from Your own. Surely, You, and You alone, are the One who bestows in abundance. Our Lord, You are going to assemble all the people on a day in (the occurrence of) which there is no doubt. Verily, Allah does not back out of His promise.”

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
socrates wrote:How does one, to use a biblical metaphor, separate the wheat from the chaff?
In God's Word there is no chaff, rather men have altered His Word. The Criterion of the True and the False has been sent to mankind.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful.

Alif. Lām. Mīm . This Book has no doubt in it - a guidance for the God-fearing, who believe in the Unseen, and are steadfast in Salāh (prayer), and spend out of what We have provided them; and who believe in what has been revealed to you and what has been revealed before you; and they have faith in the Hereafter. It is these who are guided by their Lord; and it is just these who are successful.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful.

Alif, Lām, Rā. This is a book We have sent down to you, so that you may deliver the people, with the will of their Lord, out of all sorts of darkness into the light, leading them to the path of the Almighty, the Praiseworthy Allah, the One to whom belongs what is in the heavens and what is in the earth. Woe be to the disbelievers because of a severe punishment, to those who prefer the worldly life to the Hereafter and prevent (people) from the way of Allah, and seek to make it crooked. Those have gone too far in straying.

We did not send any messenger but (speaking) in the language of his people, so that he might clearly convey the message to them. So, Allah lets go astray whom He wills and lets find guidance whom He wills. And He is the Mighty, the Wise....

...(Recall) when Ibrāhīm (Abraham) said, “My Lord, make this city peaceful, and keep me and my children away from worshiping idols. My Lord, they have misled many a people. So, the one who follows me does surely belong to me. As for the one who disobeys me, then You are Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful. Our Lord, I have settled some of my children in a valley of no vegetation, close to Your sanctified House, so that, Our Lord, they may establish Salāh. So, make hearts of people yearn towards them, and provide them with fruits, so that they may be grateful. Our Lord, surely You know what we conceal and what we reveal.-Hidden from Allah is nothing whatsoever, neither in the earth nor in the heavens.

Praise be to Allah who, despite my old age, blessed me with Ismā‘īl (Ishmael) and IsHāq (Isaac). Surely, my Lord is the One who listens to the prayer. My Lord, make me steadfast in Salāh (prayer), and my offspring as well. And, Our Lord, grant my prayer. Our Lord, forgive me and my parents and all believers on the day when reckoning shall take place.”

Peace,
-sgttomas
Prophet Muhammad (God send peace and blessings upon him) is reported to have said, "God says 'I am as My servant thinks I am' " ~ Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol 9 #502 (Chapter 93, "Oneness of God")

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Re: How to read the bible

Post by socrates » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:03 pm

Well I hadn't expected that!

May I thank you sgttomas for taking the time to offer me such a long response?

Might I turn my question in your direction and ask, for the sake of clarity, what you believe to be the correct approach to seeking moral guidance from the Qur'an?

Do you believe that all the injunctions to be found in its pages are direct quotations from Allah, mediated by the angel Gabriel, and passed to humankind through the messenger Mohammad, such that ALL its rules governing behaviour are perfectly clear and unambiguous and perfectly valid?
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Re: How to read the bible

Post by mdsimpson92 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:28 pm

socrates wrote: Thank you for your welcome Metacrock. It is much appreciated and it is great to be back in your company and that of your online colleagues once again. And thanks for offering me the opportunity to clarify my question.

Perhaps I should make some quick comments about my style and persona before we continue. This may be of some help.

The reason I originally chose 'Socrates' as my online persona and repeated this choice here again is that I wished to embrace and, to the very limited extent that I am able, emulate the spirit and to some extent the style of this great philosopher. Part of this involves actively attempting to be simple and even childlike, at all times avoiding jargon and the shorthand references to the 'in' knowledge of contemporary philosophy. My aim is to continue the method in this way and simply ask plain questions.

So please do not be too cross if I avoid the use of terms like 'exegesis' and 'hermeneutics.'

So to clarify in a plain manner, I would be interested to know how people here think one should approach the Christian text for moral guidance. Since there are stories and injunctions that are morally reprehensible, at least apparently so, and stories and injunctions that are morally inspiring and edifying, how does a believer go about the task of deciding which statements to reject and which to embrace?Thank you for your welcome Metacrock. It is much appreciated and it is great to be back in your company and that of your online colleagues once again. And thanks for offering me the opportunity to clarify my question.

Perhaps I should make some quick comments about my style and persona before we continue. This may be of some help.

The reason I originally chose 'Socrates' as my online persona and repeated this choice here again is that I wished to embrace and, to the very limited extent that I am able, emulate the spirit and to some extent the style of this great philosopher. Part of this involves actively attempting to be simple and even childlike, at all times avoiding jargon and the shorthand references to the 'in' knowledge of contemporary philosophy. My aim is to continue the method in this way and simply ask plain questions.

So please do not be too cross if I avoid the use of terms like 'exegesis' and 'hermeneutics.'

So to clarify in a plain manner, I would be interested to know how people here think one should approach the Christian text for moral guidance. Since there are stories and injunctions that are morally reprehensible, at least apparently so, and stories and injunctions that are morally inspiring and edifying, how does a be. :mrgreen: liever go about the task of deciding which statements to reject and which to embrace?
That is perhaps a question that I cannot fully answer. Some actions like say Abraham going to sacrifice Isaac, would be considered morally reprehensible, but yet at the same time illuminates areas of the human condition in some manner. However,personally I do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible so that there may be pieces that I disagree with is understandible considering it was written by fallible men trying their best.

By the way, welcom to our blog. I look foward to talking with you. The picture looks really cool and I can already see a bit of the Socratic method being used on sgttomas. just keep in mind I am one of those who has the knowledge that of lacking full knowledge, and is a big fan of Plato and thus to a degree Socrates. :mrgreen:
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Re: How to read the bible

Post by socrates » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:55 pm

mdsimpson92 wrote:
socrates wrote: So to clarify in a plain manner, I would be interested to know how people here think one should approach the Christian text for moral guidance. Since there are stories and injunctions that are morally reprehensible, at least apparently so, and stories and injunctions that are morally inspiring and edifying, how does a believer go about the task of deciding which statements to reject and which to embrace?
That is perhaps a question that I cannot fully answer. Some actions like say Abraham going to sacrifice Isaac, would be considered morally reprehensible, but yet at the same time illuminates areas of the human condition in some manner. However,personally I do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible so that there may be pieces that I disagree with is understandible considering it was written by fallible men trying their best.

By the way, welcom to our blog. I look foward to talking with you. The picture looks really cool and I can already see a bit of the Socratic method being used on sgttomas. just keep in mind I am one of those who has the knowledge that of lacking full knowledge, and is a big fan of Plato and thus to a degree Socrates. :mrgreen:
Thank you for your welcome mds. It is a pleasure to meet you. And may I also thank you for your honesty in confessing from the outset that this is a question you, "cannot fully answer." But perhaps we could explore the partial answers you have and see where this may get us.

If the story you selected was literally true, am I take it that you believe Abraham would have been wrong in agreeing to sacrifice his son?
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Re: How to read the bible

Post by mdsimpson92 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:13 pm

socrates wrote:
Thank you for your welcome mds. It is a pleasure to meet you. And may I also thank you for your honesty in confessing from the outset that this is a question you, "cannot fully answer." But perhaps we could explore the partial answers you have and see where this may get us.

If the story you selected was literally true, am I take it that you believe Abraham would have been wrong in agreeing to sacrifice his son?
On a purely ethical standard, I would say yes.I have read Euthyphro and would agree with the idea that God would love something because it is good.

But in a strange way I can appreciate what he showed in doing it. He was promised that through his son (I don't remember exactly) his descendents would be great in number. However, there is a logical contradiction given that he cannot have descendents with his son dead and he being so old. He had to take a "leap of faith," that must have lead him to go through great doubt, it would have been much easier to ignore God's command in this case. I believe Kierkegaard himself said that he is simultaneously drawn to Abraham and repulsed by him, that he would suspend the ethical in such a way.
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Re: How to read the bible

Post by sgttomas » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:16 pm

Heh, I'm full of surprises. Welcome to Doxa ;)
socrates wrote:Might I turn my question in your direction and ask, for the sake of clarity, what you believe to be the correct approach to seeking moral guidance from the Qur'an?
That which has been interpreted through the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, his family, and his companions. This sunnah has been compiled by the scholars of the schools of sunni fiqh (jurisprudence), the agreed upon works of tafsir (quranic interpretation), and those who follow the way of the heart (tasawwuf/sufism). Therefore the correct approach to seeking moral guidance is to ask a scholar who knows the answer. :)

I know a few, if you would like to talk to them. Some have websites, even. :geek:
Do you believe that all the injunctions to be found in its pages are direct quotations from Allah, mediated by the angel Gabriel, and passed to humankind through the messenger Mohammad, such that ALL its rules governing behaviour are perfectly clear and unambiguous and perfectly valid?
I think the Quran already addresses this question in the passage that I enlarged, italicized and emboldened?

Peace,
-sgttomas
Last edited by sgttomas on Wed Jun 15, 2011 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Prophet Muhammad (God send peace and blessings upon him) is reported to have said, "God says 'I am as My servant thinks I am' " ~ Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol 9 #502 (Chapter 93, "Oneness of God")

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Re: How to read the bible

Post by mdsimpson92 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:55 pm

sgttomas wrote:Do you believe that all the injunctions to be found in its pages are direct quotations from Allah, mediated by the angel Gabriel, and passed to humankind through the messenger Mohammad, such that ALL its rules governing behaviour are perfectly clear and unambiguous and perfectly valid?

I think the Quran already addresses this question in the passage that I enlarged, italicized and emboldened?
I think that Socrates is following the method of his namesake. So asking seemingly obvious questions can be part of the method to qualify statements.
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