I love the bible.
As a little kid one of my most cherished church memories was singing bible verses year after year in our church ralleys.
I can still put about 50 verses with their references to song!
For the last 15 years I have studied the bible every single week verse by verse with homework for each day and commentary to go with it. I went to, not one but two bible studies a week and ran summer bible studies every year! This didn’t include Sunday church attending and studying of scripture or teaching Sunday school.
I have spent my life immersed in the word of God. But the more I got immersed in Jesus the more it changed my understanding of scripture and the role it plays in our life.
Reading and journaling through the bible has connected me with God. I remember getting in trouble during reading time at school because I was always bringing in and reading the bible.
They had no problems with me bringing in the bible they just wanted me to read from a variety of sources as well. (As Jesus did, quoting outside scripture at times.) They felt it would enhance my appreciation for the bible to be able to learn and pull out of a variety of other sources, like Jesus did! And they were right!
You would think that this meant I had a high view of scripture, but as the Spirit of God has been growing me, lately I have become aware of how my view of the bible was narrow and skewed.
Evaluating the “function” of scripture was not something I thought much about.
I assumed Jesus did exactly as *I* did and
I assumed Jesus thought exactly as *I* thought on this matter.
When John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. ” I use to literally hear that as “the bible became flesh”.
The bible was the 4th member of the Trinity to me. It was “the Word” Or at least the bible was Jesus before he converted from paper to human flesh!
This view of the bible is pretty distorted but also very common within evangelicalism. The bible becomes something very different than what God intended it to be. It becomes an idol.
Piper tells us to: “Marry the Bible?”
The bible is not the 4th member of the Trinity.
It didn’t occur to me that “the Word” was *only* Jesus. Thee *one & only* full of grace & truth. Wait, isn’t the bible also filled with grace & truth?
When I heard that “the word is living and active, sharper than any double edge sword” (Hebrews 4:12) … I didn’t get it. I thought of the word with the lower case “w”. The bible. (I think I didn’t connect verse 12 to verse 13) I completely missed what it was pointing at with words like ‘living and active’ : Jesus. The fulfillment of all of the written texts.
It was clear to me that the bible was the “divinely inspired sacred text” and every single word in it was written by God exactly as He commissioned it- completely accurate.
This view is called “inerrancy”. If someone told me someone did not believe in inerrancy I wasn’t sure if they could be “serious” about God. In fact if any bible teacher veered off that course I was taught to promptly discard all of their other teaching. They were teaching a plague that would go down a “slippery slope” leading “to full blow atheism” aka sliding into hell!
Don’t take my word for it (I’m a “progressive Christian”) Let’s take it from TGC:
If the bible was not the book manual we read every day as we prayed, in order to grow, grow, grow… the only alternative I saw was that we made up our own rules and picked and chose from whatever parts we liked and discarded the rest.
False dichotomies, like the above TGC statement are great: the bible is either inerrant or you are “throwing out the bible”. Those were the only two possible ways to treat scripture in my head.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” from 2 Tim.3:16-17 meant that every word was a helpful true reflection of who God is and how He thinks and what He wants from us. Each passage and verse needed the same degree of reverence.
Even this one (trigger warning: sexual assault):
36 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because you poured out your wealth and exposed your nakedness in your promiscuity with your lovers, …37 therefore I am going to gather all your lovers, with whom you found pleasure, those you loved as well as those you hated. I will gather them against you from all around and will strip you in front of them, and they will see all your nakedness. 38 I will sentence you to the punishment of women who commit adultery and who shed blood; I will bring upon you the blood vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger. 39 Then I will hand you over to your lovers, …They will strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry and leave you naked and bare. 40 They will bring a mob against you, who will stone you and hack you to pieces with their swords.
I don’t know how you feel when you read passages like this in scripture, but if you feel comfortable with God encouraging sexual assault your inerrant view may have created some serious cognitive dissonance. And trained out your empathy.
Or this passage from Psalm 137: 8&9 about how good it feels to get vengeance on your enemies.
8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us– 9 he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
That lovely Psalms even ends on that “happy” note.
Maybe there was something evangelical culture was missing to this “all scripture is God breathed, useful for teaching and training us” part. What do the verses before that say?
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
So the common thread there was not about how each verse (verse numbers were not part of the original text) was 100% accurate in representing God, but that “all scripture” as a whole had a goal to teach us something- namely to point us to Jesus!
The bible informs us about Jesus. But it never occurred to me to let Jesus inform me about the bible.
It never occurred to me to see what Jesus did with the entire bible. Did Jesus completely skip over certain parts of the bible? Did He ever pull a passage out of context? Ascribe a new meaning to a familiar OT text? Did He ever take things in a different direction than the original text?
Or did He treat the entire bible (there was only the Old Testament) as equally relevant with every word holding exact clarity and truth? Did He go through a one year reading plan of the Old Testament in His teachings (He had less scripture to cover than we do!)?
I couldn’t have told you how many books he quoted from. I just didn’t know. Was it half of them?! (Google the answer and surprise yourself! )
And I never tried to figure out if He treated the Old Testament like it was inerrant. I never looked at how Jesus pulled verses out of their context with a very specific trajectory and emphasis in mind, or if he reinterpreted passages out of their clear context (examining throughout the bible “What Would Jesus Do?” with the bible?) and I certainly had never considered what a “Jesus hermeneutic” would look like.
A hermeneutic is simply your way of breaking down a bible text. If you don’t know what hermeneutic you are using, your likelihood of making scripture say whatever you want it to say, shoots way up! Did Jesus have a method or theory of interpretation? In order to learn a “Jesus hermeneutic” we need to watch how Jesus did it!
Instead of doing this, I assumed every passage and verse held equal weight and truth because God’s word was the truth, “infallible”, I was taught.
Most believers of inerrancy will only hold this inerrancy view, that God preserved every single word exactly as the Holy Spirit whispered in each authors ear to pen it, about the original autographs (which we no longer have).
They will admit there are variations among the manuscripts, and even more among the translations into modern languages. “Lost in translation” is an expression for a reason. Not all words can translate over exact sentiment or meaning accurately from one language to another.
There are some small cults that believe in inerrancy with regards to a specific linguistic translations (KVJ -Onlyists)… And they use the logic of the inerrancy belief (“why wouldn’t God accurately preserve every single word?!”)
however, by and large, this specific broadly interpreted view of what inerrancy (a term not used in scripture) means is generated from mostly the protestant stream. They would say the originals that we no longer have are without error.
If God chose not to preserve those originals (he didn’t), they would argue that we can trust the manuscripts (oldest versions we base translations on) even with their discrepancies (which are acknowledged to exist by conservative and liberal scholars alike), because they only deviate on the more *trivial* matters thus making the trustworthiness of scripture a central tenant of the faith.
“Sola scriptura” was an offshoot of this thinking after the reformation a couple of hundred years ago. It’s fruit has been a splintering of so many denominations all hoping they have finally understood the bible correctly.
It’s interesting that the more we study how the bible was put together, the more loaded a term “inerrancy” becomes. Or the more “new” / Protestant view becomes.
I.e. Catholics have held that the bible has 73 books of canon, Protestants only hold to 66 of those books of the canon as “inerrant”.
There are 81 books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church canon.
God never was clear in a very direct sort of way, about which books in this Canon would specifically be the “only” inspired words!
A council got together to debate which books should be included and which ones excluded. That was almost 400 years after these books were written.
The Synod of Hippo that agreed on this Canon was in the year 393.
Learning about the formation of the bible helped me better understand how to use it. But studying the bible, pointed to Jesus as the “one to be followed and imitated”; Showing me *how* Jesus treated this ancient text, informed how to treat different passages in light of each other, and how to evaluate the text.
For those wanting to explore how a high view of scripture is found by modeling after a Jesus hermeneutic, or to even begin to explore what a Jesus hermeneutic looks like, there are a few highly recommended resources out there.
First check out the podcast “The bible for normal people” by Peter Enns. Or read his book “the bible tells me so”…
Second, I can’t speak highly enough of Richard Rohr’s “higherachy of truth”.
Check out the mp3 download at the end of that article. It will cost a few dollars, but worth the learning!
I’ve come to the conclusion that evangelical culture has lost it’s grip on a higher view of scripture by holding fast to this relatively new inerrancy model, that I grew up on.
When I read through scripture now I try to have a Jesus hermeneutic and model after how He treated scripture, giving priority to what He highlighted instead and de-emphasizing what He completely skipped over. Jesus is our model. We are to follow Him first. The bible should not be idolized.
Once I started to do that I noticed the beauty of the Bible. And I could stop trying to pretend God was a way or acted in such a way that Jesus clearly spells and lived out that He is not.