Human understanding of the bible

This is from a post of mine on a Facebook group talking about taking the bible literally, with a few additions for this blog post:

Neither the human mind or languages allow for complete understanding. I admittedly have not done a lot of bible reading for myself, but in church small groups we have done some bible study. Most passages that we study have a good amount of ambiguity and are open to multiple interpretations. It is not humanly possible to have perfect understanding of such a complex thing as the bible. With every human idea and with humans interpretation of the bible, we are always subject to differences in what we place the most importance on, how deeply we go into a subject (the surface level interpretation may not always be correct), how we translate from one language to another, how much you build upon what you read, etc. How else do you explain all the many different denominations of Christianity, with many different ideas, all claiming to be grounded in scripture? Even if, for the sake of argument, the bible was infallible, our understanding of it is not and never can be infallible, because we are human. For that reason, we should never have unquestioned acceptance of what we read in the bible because we very likely could be misinterpreting it or reading a bad translation.

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4 Responses to Human understanding of the bible

  1. ansel says:

    Sure, every interpretation might have flaws – but some have far less flaws, and less serious ones, than others, right? One reading of the Bible or any text can be much more valid and authoritative than others if it’s found to be more true by a greater number of people, or it better takes into account historical context… so then, relatively, one could claim that a given interpretation is closer to truth than another. It’s doubtful that any biblical theory is infallible, of course, but there are degrees of fallibility and those are useful. Eh?

  2. Timothy says:

    You are correct. I should have put the context of what the debate was about. My argument was not that all interpretations should be judged to be equal, but that you should never assume with absolute certainty that what you are getting out of it is correct. I was debating with fundamentalist Christians who believe that the bible should be taken literally as an absolute authoritative source.

  3. Julia says:

    When was the Bible written?
    Who wrote it?
    In what language was it first written?
    What are the differences between that language, then and that language today?
    How many translations have there been?
    How many versions of the translations have there been?

    Answering these questions is fundamental to discussing any interpretation of the Bible, whether literal or figurative. I suppose there are some American Christians who believe the Bible was written in English. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the missing gospels. Keep in mind, it was a politically created history book, like most history books.

  4. Gwen says:

    My favorite explanation for my viewpoint on this is actually taken from an Islamic teaching. Everything on earth, the teaching goes, is an imperfect copy of something in heaven. The Koran – or in this case, the Bible – is included in this. It is God’s Word, translated and biased by mankind.

    Of course, I grew up with my Episcopal priest father, who used to meet members of other religions (not going to be specific here, but I’m sure you’ll get who I am referring to) who went door to door with at least 3 different translations of the Bible, including a Hebrew version of the Old Testament. Maybe I’m warped beyond belief. đŸ˜‰

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