Same Thing, but Shorter

November 28, 2006

You are HereI just posted this comment on Susan Russell’s blog, and it seems like it made about the same point as my last entry but with a lot fewer words so I thought I’d repost it here:

“Where does the Bible say that the world is flat?”

A strict reading of the text (Gen 1) gives a pretty firm impression that there is a flat world under a dome, and lights suspended from the dome (I think the word in the text actually translates better as canopy than dome). Of course ignoring for a moment that light comes before the sun was created, the sun and moon are placed in this canopy above the earth– assuming an earth-centric universe.

What the text certainly does NOT say is “let galaxies be formed with solar systems that have suns in the center, and let one solar system in particular be formed that has a planet orbiting around it form…” You get the point.

To think that the authors of Genesis had some preconceived prophetic scientific understanding of the universe is a bit naive. And when somebody realized it was naive they got ostracized. Now, we realize that GLBT issues aren’t written so precisely in Scripture either. And, in due course– typical of our broken human nature– those who have a hard time changing would like to ostracize those who are figuring out just how imprecise these areas of Scripture are.

I didn’t put this in my post on Susan’s blog, but I suppose it begs the question:  “What kind of truth are we to gather certitude from in Scripture?”  There is no easy answer to this question.  I have to go read about the King David at the moment, but I suspect that our hermeutic drives what we are trying to get out of Scripture.  While orthodox claim to be reading Scripture “faithfully” and accuse others of not doing so, I think that the reality is that it is simply a different hermeneutic– we are trying to seek different kinds of truth from the scripture.  That doesn’t necessarily invalidate either one, but it does mean that the conversation should be not about the surface issues but about the nature of the Scripture and what it contains to provide meaning for us.  I don’t believe that there is any universal answer for this, but that could just be a careless answer because I’m really quite worried about reading about the archaelogical evidence supporting the various theories behind King David at the moment.  I’m sure one of you will have a theory for or against, though!

UPDATE — OK, well I’ve finished my David reading, and got exactly the answers I was looking for.

Quote (source listed below) on the two kinds of truth people seek in Biblical studies, and the danger of each:

  1. Didactic – “Those who see David as a pious hero generally believe that the Bible is didactic literature that offers moral lessons and examples…  The assumption that Scripture is a simple text (didactic…) composed by simple ancients is in need of revision. “
  2. Ideological – “Those who read David as a murderous villain ground their arguments in the claims that the Bible is ideological literature and that the narratives about David constitute a propagandistic apology for David… Although ideological and similar forms of criticism have shed light on some aspects of the text, this partial illumination has sometimes been mistaken for something more.”

The author’s view (on David, in this case), is that the truth lies somewhere in between.  I happen to agree (at least in the case of David).

A final note from this article, as a follow-up to a comment I made on yesterday’s post.  I said that I thought we could all agree that God acted ethically.  Apparently we don’t, as the author refers to God acting through David’s sins in establishing his reign, which ultimately set the stage for the kingdom of Israel, the foundation for the rest of the Old Testament and the introduction for the entry of Jesus on the scene:  “A critical reading of the Books of Samuel suggests that Yhwh has purposes independent of ethics.”  (Read 1 Samuel if you need a refresher on the storyline).


Source:  Bosworth, David A., “Evaluating King David: Old Problems and Recent Scholarship,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 2006. (To read online you must have your own login to ATLA Serials).


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