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"The Bible Says it, therefore it's True" . . . And Other Stupid Statements

Just because the Bible says something, this does not make it true. We follow the Bible in what it teaches, but not everything it records is intended to be teaching in the proper sense. Our goal as Christians is to be good interpreters of the Bible, being able to discern when something is being taught or when something is being told.

Here are five ways that we can mistakenly believe that the Bible is teaching truth or principles when it is not.

1. Some parts of the Bible are incidental to the bigger picture, not intending to teach any principle.

Be careful that you don’t try to find a principle in every passage. Not every verse or chapter of the Bible has an “application” in the traditional sense. For example, the chronologies of Matthew and Luke are not intending to teach a principle in and of themselves. They are simply attempting to give necessary background material so that Christ as the Messiah can be substantiated.

2. You have to distinguish between prescriptive and descriptive passages.

This is related to the previous and is especially relevant to narrative books such as Acts. We must be very careful with narratives since their primary purpose is to tell a story that is relevant to the bigger picture of redemption, not to give us prescriptive commands to live by. For example, in Acts chapter 1 we are told that the Apostles “cast lots” to discover who God wanted to replace Judas among the twelve. This is not giving principles on how to elect a pastor! It is simply saying this is what happened, nothing more, nothing less.

Another example (although not narrative) appears in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Paul tells Timothy to “bring him his cloak” (2 Tim 4:13). There is no abiding theological principle saying that Christians are to bring people coats! It is simply teaching us that Paul asked Timothy to bring him his cloak. Paul was cold! Nothing profound.

3. Different types of literature have different types of truth.

You cannot interpret a Psalm the same way you do a Proverb. And you can’t interpret a Proverb the same you you do an epistle (letter). And you can’t interpret an epistle the same way you do apocalyptic material. They all follow different rules. And the truths that they communicate will be understood according to those rules. For example, a Proverb is a general truth of wisdom that does not necessarily apply or hold in every situation. Just because the Bible has proverbs does not mean that we are to sanctify the way we interpret the proverb. In other words, just because it is in the Bible does not mean that it is a truth that does necessarily apply in every situation. Psalms are songs and need to be understood under such imagery. Epistles are letters and need to be understood under the “rules” that apply to a letter. And then there is Ecclesiastes…don’t get me started there!

4. Sometimes the author does not want you to take him literally.

Authors can exaggerate, speak candidly, be sarcastic, or be in bad moods. This will effect the way we are to interpret them. This will also effect the “truth” that they are teaching. For example, Paul says that “all Cretans are liars” (Tit. 1:12). Does this mean, since it is in the Bible, that at the time Paul wrote this every individual who lived in Crete continually lied? No. We use exaggeration as rhetoric all the time. We don’t intend people to take us literally.

Another example is in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. He says about false teachers: “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1Ti 6:3-4). The Greek word used for “nothing” is meden. It means “no thing” or “nothing.” (Wow!) Does this mean that in order to be faithful to the truthfulness of Scripture, we have to take Paul literally here? Does this mean that the false teachers did not understand what 2+2 is? Of course not. The meden is limited to what Paul is talking about. It is a rhetorical overstatement—hyperbole—that Paul uses for effect. The false teachers did not understand anything with regard to the doctrines which they were teaching.

5. Sometimes the Bible records falsehood.

I was at a website the other day that had a daily Scripture at the top of the page. This particular day it had Matt. 4:9 “All of this I will give to you if you will worship me.” Out of context, that looks fine. God will give us many blessings if we worship him. The problem is that this is a quotation from Satan when he tempted Christ! This verse is in the Bible, but it is not true. We need to be careful that we are mindful of who is talking, when, and how their words are to be understood. I hear people quoting Job’s friends all the time as evidence for certain characteristics of God. But Job’s friends are not presented in a positive light. Some of what they say is true, but much is wrong—even if it is in the Bible.

When interpreted correctly, I believe that the Bible always speaks the truth. But when interpreted incorrectly, it goes without saying that the incorrect interpretation does not represent the truth. If the Bible says it, this simply means that God wanted whatever it says to be included. We believe that the Bible is true in whatever it teaches, but whatever it says is not always meant to teach in the way we often assume. Be careful with God’s word. It is the most wonderful book in the world, but it is also the most dangerous.

40 Responses to “"The Bible Says it, therefore it's True" . . . And Other Stupid Statements”

  1. I’ve been thinking recently about how we throw out the word “Biblical” and if that necessarily captures the truth that Scripture is conveying. Just because its in the Bible doesn’t make it Biblical.

  2. This sounds so basic, and still it’s so important! Some time ago I started to stop saying just “biblical” in conversations or discussion because I got really annoyed by a so-called “biblical reasoning” which basically is nothing more than “take a verse and run with it”. Instead I’m trying use phrases like “biblical-theological” (which sounds much better in German…) to point to the fact that what I’m saying is based on a (hopefully) proper interpretation of scripture and not just on the take and run principle.

  3. We need to be careful that we don’t just reject ideas because the passage is descriptive. Jesus calming the storm is descriptive, but there are a lot of theological implications.

    I find that those who are cessationist (yes CMP you can put up your hand :) ) tend to put down Acts as being descriptive, yet wouldn’t dare to do the same for the gospels.

    I recall being taught at a non-cessationist seminary. “Of course you can do theology from Acts. You just have to be aware that it looks quite different from the Epistles.” Quite frankly what goes right in the forming of the early church as recorded in Acts should inform your theology a lot more than Paul correcting what had gone wrong as recorded in the Epistles.

  4. “Quite frankly what goes right in the forming of the early church as recorded in Acts should inform your theology a lot more than Paul correcting what had gone wrong as recorded in the Epistles.”

    Michael Bell, Not sure I agree with this. In fact, this seems to be exactly what CMP is warning about.

    Your statement seems to be a generalisation. Sure, Paul has much correction in his epistles, but there is much that is not. What is clear is that his letters are primarily descriptive unlike Acts. Paul is interpreting the OT and recent history covering the time of the gospels and Acts and describing how the church should live. Yes, negatively in places (Galatians and 1 Corinthians), but also more positively (Ephesians and Romans).

    I’d certainly trust him, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to explain what church life should be like in light of that recent history than any modern interpreter of Acts. So if someone tries to draw conclusions concerning a significant aspect of Christian living from Acts that seems unsupported by the epistles, I for one would have concerns with their interpretation.

    And for the record, I am not a cessationist.

  5. Pantman, and other who might follow:

    Let me elaborate a bit more with some random ramblings.

    We do all kinds of theology from the narrative in Acts, yet I have found that when a theology that might come from Acts doesn’t fit with what we are comfortable with, we dismiss it as being descriptive and therefore not prescriptive.

    So for example: We have no problem with not keeping Saturday as the Sabbath, but meeting on the first day of the week because as I have heard many times “that’s what the disciples did in Acts.”

    But when it comes to “having all things in common”, “or charismatic experiences”, I hear, “that is what was going on in Acts, but is certainly not prescriptive for us today.”

    I was just reading in Mark 1 about Jesus touching a leper. A very descriptive passage. Yet there is certainly much theology that can be implied as a result. My point is that we should not dismiss narrative passages as a source to informing our Theology.

    Pantman writes: “So if someone tries to draw conclusions concerning a significant aspect of Christian living from Acts that seems unsupported by the epistles, I for one would have concerns with their interpretation.”

    I wouldn’t. If the conclusions were contrary to the Epistles I would have a problem with that, but not if they were unsupported. If you say that the interpretation has to be supported by the Epistles, then the Epistles become your Bible.

    Changing gears a little bit. As much as Protestants like to say “Sola Scriptura”, the fact is that our experience informs our theology much more than we are willing to admit. When I read CMPs series on why he is not a cessationist, he basically said that scripture did not seem to support cessationism, but his experience differed, and if someone was able to heal his mother, he would be willing to change his views. He also described what was going on in the early church post apostles. So post apostolic narrative, and his life narrative, have significant impact on this theology, but somehow Acts is second class.

    Seems a little inconsistent to me.

    Changing gears one last time. CMP, you know I hold you in very high esteem, so please, don’t take this an an all out attack on yourself. You are just a convenient example. I think that because we look at scripture through different lenses we end up with some differing conclusions, on manly minor theological points.

  6. Having said all that,

    I do agree with the bulk of what CMP has to say on this particular topic.

  7. Michael, you know EXACTLY what I am going to say! :0)

    I would add to your great list another nuance, which is the fact that we must read the texts in the proper literary and cultural context. When a culture prefers to describe certain types of events and concepts (creation, origins of various types) in very specific literary styles, we must accept their style of writing and not impose our own modern genres upon them.

    If the writer(s) of the creation account(s), for example, wanted to use symbolic, figurative, typological and other non-literal styles of writing, we should not impose our modern historical narrative preferences upon them. Doing so not only gets it wrong from a literary standpoint, but suddenly has the Bible saying things it does not say!

    I believe the Bible tells God’s message in an inerrant fashion, but God’s message is NOT that He created the universe is six literal days about 6,000 years ago, for example. If that is what the Bible was actually INTENDING to say, the Bible would be in error, but since it is not, then the Bible is not in error on that point.

  8. Pantman: “If you say that the interpretation has to be supported by the Epistles, then the Epistles become your Bible.”

    False.

    I have tried to find an example of a conclusion drawn from Acts which is unsupported in the Epistles or Gospels and cannot think of any. Before making such a statement you need support. There is only one response we ought to have to unfounded conclusions: pitch it, it’s worthless.

    Also, because of the unity and divine authorship of Scripture we can maintain that it is consistent with itself. Meaning, if something in Acts is meant to be understood as prescriptive (to define with an imperative: “do this!”) then we will find support elsewhere in scripture. If something in Acts is merely descriptive (meaning: “this happened.”) then we probably won’t find a prescription (“do this!”) somewhere in the epistles. Example, in Acts we see many people speaking in tongues at or around their conversion. Some wrongly conclude that proof of conversion is in speaking in tongues. It’s not. The epistles teach us that proof of our conversion comes in growing in sanctification. See how the narrative literature works with the epistles? They must be taken together. These “tongues” demonstrate the power of God in salvation. It also creates cohesion between the apostles teaching and those who believe their message. But, even in Acts we see this trend becoming less and less a trend. Paul elaborates this in his passages on spiritual gifts. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit is demonstrated in more than just tongues, but in all the gifts.

    Michael may disagree with this statement, but I maintain this to my death: if you maintain a belief that is unsupported by the rest of Scripture, especially one based in narrative, you are walking on thin ice, at best. I would maintain that you are wrong. Absolutely wrong. That is how cults, false teaching and heresy begin. Subtlety, eisegesis and unsupported beliefs. Be careful.

    The example of casting lots is a good one. It is mentioned, but only to say “this happened” and not “do this!”.

  9. Vance,

    Regarding creation; there is considerable debate about that and the role or presence of such literature in Genesis. Many godly men and women have taken legitimate stances of both sides of that issue. Be careful not to become too dogmatic. Something to ponder, if we take Genesis 1 and 2 as figurative then should we take the rest of Genesis as figurative? Was Abraham not a literal man, just a personification of the people of faith? I think we would agree that Abraham was a real man, but the issue is: If we hold to a figurative creation account, where does the figurative language end and the literal narrative begin?

    As a disclaimer, I want you (and those who follow) to know that I believe the timeline of creation is a tertiary issue for Christian fellowship. The center piece of importance that I maintain all Christians must believe about “creation” is that God was active, not passive, and intentional, not haphazard as well as purposeful and thoughtful. If you maintain a theistic evolution model of creation and can hold to an active, intentional and purposeful creation or if you are a young earth, 6 literal day creationist and (inherently, I would argue) hold that, we have fellowship. Whether you believe in theistic evolution or a young-earth creation either way the focal point of creation is God. It teaches us a lot of God and, I believe, that is the point. The mode of creation is secondary.

  10. I find that the non-narrative books are often treated as a canon within a canon.

    Furthermore, people not only use their experience to discount the experiences related in the narrative texts, but they also use their experiences to read the Bible anachronistically. “All Cretans are liars” seems to us to be hyperbole, so we read it as such. However what about descriptions in the Bible about the sun going around the earth. Anachronistically we say that the writer was speaking phenomenologically, but it is likely that the Biblical writer actually believed that the sun did go around the earth.

    Is what CMP advocates really any different than what liberal theologians have said? That we have to find out what the Bible intends to teach? The liberals, using one methodology that they believed was justified, tossed out much history as not being what the Bible intended to teach. The Bible really only intended to teach salvation and theological truth. CMP, using a different set of methodologies, draws a broader circle around the scope of what he thinks the Bible is intended to teach, but still not as a broad as it could be. CMP believes that the Bible does teach facts and history, but that it does not teach that all Cretans are liars (even though it says that).

    On what basis does he claim that Paul is using hyperbole (I, for one, don’t think he is)? And how does he differentiate his method for doing this and ignoring the so-called “literal” sense from liberals who discount Biblical references to allegedly historical details (e.g., king lists).

    The website for Westminster Seminary California takes the statement as true and not mere rhetoric: “John Calvin comments on this verse: ‘From this passage we may gather that it is superstitious to refuse to make any use of secular authors. For since all truth is of God, if any ungodly man has said anything true, we should not reject it, for it also has come from God.’ You see how careful Calvin is to follow what Scripture says. If Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, says that the testimony “All Cretans are liars” is true, then certainly it is true. And the fact that a pagan “prophet” said that sentence first does not make it false.”

    I really don’t find CMP’s post, stated generally as it is, to be helpful except in a generic warning sort of way, i.e., “be careful when interpreting”. I don’t agree with CMP’s principle no. 2, at least in the way it seems to me to be intended. I also don’t agree with principle no. 1, and I think many others would disagree as well. For any event, there are a number of ways to write about it, and any number of details to include or exclude. So when reading a Biblical text we ask, “why did this writer include these details and not others?”, “why did he write in this way?”, “why did he increase the salience of these aspects of the story?”, etc. Moreover, if God inspired the text, He also inspired the incidental details.

    And principle no. 3: …

  11. Thank you so much for the post and perspective it brings. As a young Christian just beginning to gain a deeper understanding of theology and the Bible I have had a hard time with the OT among other things. With this post, it becomes much clearer to me the need to not simply take as “truth” every word and my naive thoughts about it, but rather to be continually increase my awareness of the context and purpose as I strive to become a good interpreter guided by the Holy Spirit.

  12. Jacob, I agree with your conclusions on the lack of dogmatism we, as Christians, should have on this issue. In fact, I wrote an article on that very subject that Michael featured here in this blog. My basic point was that the entire area was not a “salvation” issue and that, unfortunately, the more extreme Creationists were making it so, to the great damage of Christianity.

    As for Abraham, though, I would say you simply need to take each text and account separately and realize that the early authors of of these accounts used a wide variety of literary styles to tell what God was inspiring them to tell. And, among these styles were a long, sliding scale of literalness to the historical narrative. There is a reason Herodotus is called the “Father of History”, and it is because prior to general era, the idea of writing strict literal history was not even one of desired options. No one wrote that way, so it seems odd that we would expect this one group to tell its story, including all of the Divine messages God wanted told, in such a literary style.

    So, the creation accounts could be telling of literal historical events in entirely non-literal language (but still conveying every truth God intended), Abraham could be told in an “epic” style which takes historical events and expands and combines to best convey the messages God intends, and later texts may actually be providing strict literal historical narrative. Regardless, it is all “true” in the most important senses. And it is never “false” or “in error”.

    So, the whole “slippery slope” argument is a non-starter. We take the texts in context and make decisions about each one as best we can, knowing that, no matter what, the Bible does not lie. It is just not always saying what we think it is saying! :0)

  13. Just another follow-up.

    CMP says: “For example, in Acts chapter 1 we are told that the Apostles “cast lots” to discover who God wanted to replace Judas among the twelve. This is not giving principles on how to elect a pastor! It is simply saying this is what happened, nothing more, nothing less.”

    So why is it there? Why mention casting lots at all? Why was Luke inspired to note this particular occurance? Could it be that the disciples were following the example God gave them in Joshua 10 and 1 Samuel 7. I can imagine the disciples conversation “We are not sure how to pick the next disciple. Well, God had the Israelites, pick Saul as King, by casting lots, so perhaps that is the best way for us to discern God’s will in this situation.”

    So God has Saul chosen as King by casting lots, the next disciple was picked by casting lots. Hmmm, could it play a role in how you elect your next pastor??? Neither choice turned out to be a great one, so perhaps that bit of narrative informs how we interpret this passage too.

  14. Jacob writes: “Michael may disagree with this statement, but I maintain this to my death: if you maintain a belief that is unsupported by the rest of Scripture, especially one based in narrative, you are walking on thin ice, at best. I would maintain that you are wrong. Absolutely wrong. That is how cults, false teaching and heresy begin. Subtlety, eisegesis and unsupported beliefs. Be careful.”

    To a certain extent I would agree with you. but I would note that there is a big difference between being contrary to the rest of scripture, and being unsupported by the rest of scripture. Each book is in the canon because it is inspired by God, just because something occurs in just one place, doesn’t mean that we are on thin ice to believe it.

    CMP and I disagree on a lot, but when we look at what both of us consider to be the essential core of belief, we would rarely differ. It is because the things that are most important to us are those things that are themes that run throughout scripture.

  15. Jacob (and anyone else interested), here is a link to the post I mentioned on “misplaced dogmatism”. The version that was on this site must have gotten lost in the “Great Crash”, but here is the same post from a “sister” site:

    http://submerging.reclaimingthemind.org/blogs/2007/09/04/creationism-v-evolution-the-danger-of-misplaced-dogmatism/

  16. Thank you for reminding everyone some common sense and basic rules of interpretation. This type of stuff needs to be taught and taught often.

    Keep up the good work.

  17. Vance,

    Re: creation

    There’s certainly a place for raising the question, “Was this supposed to be taken as a plain-language description of the events of creation, or not?” Gotta watch out for bad assumptions.

    We also have to watch out for, “I have no textual basis whatsoever for interpreting it this way, but I can sort of jam it in if I look sideways and squint.”

    Discernment is the watchword.

  18. Jugulum, my point would be that we should start NOT with our own literary style preferences, but instead start with the style of writing about such things which were common at the time. We definitely know how the ANE wrote, and they simply never, not in a single instance that I have seen, wrote about creation accounts in “plain language” descriptions (meaning a strictly literal historical narrative).

    So, we should start with the figurative, symbolic and typological as the default interpretation (since that is how the ANE wrote about such things), and then see if there is any evidence which would cause us to think they were, instead, using a strict literal historical narrative style.

    I don’t really see any evidence that it should be read in a modern, historical manner. So, I go with the default.

    I think part of the problem lies in the fact that our modern sensibilities place greater value on strict historical narrative as a genre for describing past events. We think it is more accurate, more “true” and more trustworthy. The ANE thought very differently. Sure, they could have written about their past in that way, but they chose not to, and instead conveyed what they held important about those past events in a literary style that was more “fitting” to the subject matter.

    And, honestly, I would tend to agree. I much prefer that style for the creation of the universe to a newspaper or scientifically focused account.

  19. Matt,

    Smack on !

    I’m a pretty young Christian myself and still struggle to make the differentiation between prescriptive and descriptive

    And frankly, not all theologians agree. This is a well-educated forum, in general, and even here you can see people disagree about the passage in Acts. Not to mention the discourse that is generated on creation.

    I have found it helpful to approach things from a historical perspective. What would the author think ? Was what is described a custom ? 1Cor 11 is probably the best example. In Roman Catholic and Orthodox worlds, women will cover their head to this day. It has become a “Prescribed” passage. In other, mostly protestant and more modern Roman Catholic countries, the custom has been dropped and therefore is has become more “Descriptive” in nature. I think it’s a good example where culture and historical perspective play a role in how a certain passage is interpreted. Paul used it in context as an example of women who were not so modest. In that culture at that time, modest women would cover their hair. Hence his advice as being prescriptive to them. Nowadays, no one in the US thinks a woman with uncovered hair cannot be a modest person. Hence it becomes more descriptive for us.

    As Michael Bell pointed out, our experience, be it cultural or other, does influence our theology. But also as Jacob pointed out, I have not found a great disagreement amongst Christians on the core passages and ideas on whether something is prescriptive vs. descriptive. We may interpret Gen 1-2 as descriptive or not, yet we all believe in a theistic creator God. Without that core belief, Christianity drops.

    As always, great post CMP. If now you could point us to who’s right in calling a passage one way or another, that would settle it once and for all ;-)

    In Him
    Mick

  20. Excellent post, Michael. I don’t mean to be nit-picky (or maybe I do) but you said in #5 concerning Satan’s temptation of Christ:

    ” ‘All of this I will give to you if you will worship me.’ Out of context, that looks fine. God will give us many blessings if we worship him. The problem is that this is a quotation from Satan when he tempted Christ! This verse is in the Bible, but it is not true.”

    You’re right that this is taken way out of context but wouldn’t you say that the verse in context was true? It wouldn’t be much of a temptation if Christ knew that world domination wasn’t Satan’s to offer. It just doesn’t apply to anyone else.

    Del

  21. Truth Unites... and Divides September 28, 2009 at 12:53 am

    CMP: “Sometimes the author does not want you to take him literally.”

    Whaaaaa…? Ya mean like John 6:53-56??

  22. 5. Sometimes the Bible records falsehood.

    Romans 9 comes to mind. So does the false interpretation the Catholics of Ireneaus day interpolated into Matthew 13 giving a false interpretation of the parable of the tares and putting it into Jesus’ mouth. The parable of the tares comes along with other parables about seed = word, including the parable of the sower. The parable of the tares is about two seeds (two words), the word of God and the word of Satan (not about some dualistic fantasy of God and the Devil sowing their people in the world). The wheat is the word of God, and the tares are the word of Satan. Both are sown in the same field (scripture) and the servants are told not to try and remove the tares (don’t mutilate the Bible) while the reapers (readers) are told to first bind the tares to be burned (rejected) and then and only then gather the wheat into the barn. The meaning is that such passages as Romans 9 must be rejected before we can gather the truth in to be believed.

  23. To prove the above, go look at Isaiah 7, by which I mean READ THE WHOLE CHAPTER for the first time in your life. Then read Isaiah 8 too, WHOLE thing. Ok. In context the virgin birth is a sign to Ahaz of when God will send the king of Assyria to run off the two kings (Rezin and Pekah) who oppose Ahaz! The child will be born of a virgin, and before the child is old enough to know good and evil, God will send the king of Assyria against Samaria and Damascus. That’s the prophecy! Then in chapter 8, God points out the fulfillment, the child who is born of the prophetess virginally, who God tells Isaiah to call Mahershalalhashbaz because before he is able to call for mother or father the prophecy will be fulfilled and the king of Assyria will come take the spoils of Damascus and Samaria! The application of this prophecy to Jesus in Matthew is false, and is a tare, a Catholic addition to glorify Mary. Everything else relating to Jesus’ birth is the same, namely the rachel weeping prophecy in context is about Babylonian exile for God comforts her saying “thy children will come again to their own border” meaning that “for they are not” means “for they are not (in the land of Israel)” not that they were killed by a wicked king. This prophecy was twisted to form the basis of a fictional guess-work narrative about Jesus’ childhood. So also the Bethlehem birth prophecy in Micah 5:2 is in context about a physical deliverer to bring the Israelite out of Babylonian captivity and defend the land against further Assyrian attack. Misapplied also in Matthew 1-2. Again, the prophecy “out of Egypt I called my son” is a twisting of a historical statement in Amos “When Israel was young (i.e. at the Exodus when God had Moses say to Pharaoah ‘Israel is my firstborn’) I called my son out of Egypt.” This is not prophecy, but the Catholics add it to Matthew as one! Again, “he shall be called a Nazorean (or Nazarene)” (Matthew 2:23) is not even found in the OT but is attributed in Matthew by Catholic interpolation as a prophecy. None of the material about Jesus’ birth/early years is true; it is all interpolation by Catholics trying to guess their way through something all the gospel writers left out originally. Matthew and Luke both used to begin exactly like Mark, with Jesus being baptized by John, and not like they now begin with this fiction of a virgin birth.

  24. rey jacobs,

    If you believe there are whole sections of the Bible that are falsehoods (tares), how do you propose that we are supposed to know which is which? And how did you come to the conclusion that Romans 9 is such a passage?

  25. By the way rey, even Ignatius, as early as about 105 AD spoke of Jesus being born of a virgin. And he was the disciple of at least one of the Apostles. Therefore the idea that this idea was added by the Catholics to give a higher status to Mary doesn’t seem really likely to me. Do you have source material to prove this to be true?

  26. Ignatius was merely a pen-name for Polycarp, not a real person. And although it is asserted by some ‘church fathers’ that Polycarp knew the apostle John, other ‘church fathers’ reject that claim and assert that Polycarp only knew an elder named John. And how do we know what passages are tares? Those that make God evil (like Romans 9 or the claims that God commanded genocide in the OT or that God gave express permission to Moses’ armies to commit rape against foreign women in Deut 21) are obvious cases. He that does not love has not known God for God is love, John says. He also who cannot tell when Satan is lying on God in the Bible itself does not know God, for if he did he would be able to tell these were tares. Also, obvious attributions of prophecy fulfillment which have a clear Catholic agenda to them are certainly tares. Will you really argue that there is a prophecy in the OT that says “he shall be called a Nazorean” (or Nazarene as English translations normally render it)??? Even though for the past however long this claim has been in Matthew 2:23 nobody, (not one ‘church father’, not one modern theologian, not one layman) has been able to find this prophecy in the OT? If not, you must admit that there is a tare right there. And what is the motive for adding it? Namely to discredit the Nazoreans by making their sect-name the Greek word Nazoreaos mean ‘from Nazareth’ so they can be derided as calling themselves after a place name, but also to produce a fictional prophecy pointing to Jesus’ hometown to connect him more strongly to the OT so the Catholics could sure up their case against Marcionism. When there are such obvious twistings of the OT (or just plain fictional creations of OT prophecies that don’t even exist) in the NT, it is Catholic polemic against some opponent sect, and not God’s word.

  27. rey,

    Just off the top, you said, “Ignatius was merely a pen-name for Polycarp, not a real person.”

    Since there seems to be a letter from Polycarp to Ignatius and and a letter from Ignatius to Polycarp, I don’t see how that can be true.

    And I find it very interesting that you have named most of the people that read this blog and most of the Christians in this world today as people who do not even know God!

  28. Polycarp could just as well write letters to himself from ‘Ignatius’ and back to ‘Ignatius’ from himself as he did with Mary and Ignatius. In the Ignatian corpus there are letters of Ignatius to Mary and Mary back to him. Nobody in their right mind would consider them authentic, however.

  29. “And I find it very interesting that you have named most of the people that read this blog and most of the Christians in this world today as people who do not even know God!”

    If you think God commands genocide or ever has or that God condemns people to hell on a coin-toss or for another man’s sin, or that God really gave Moses’ armies permission to rape foreign women so long as they shaved their heads, then you do not know God.

  30. Rey,

    As a young Christian beginning to learn more about how to properly understand the Bible, I would love to know more about how, beyond our own personal discretion/opinion, we are to decipher which passages are tares? Could you go into a bit more depth as to how an inexperienced Christian such as myself might do so? What criteria do you suggest a believer use beyond their heart? What about two people who’s hearts offer conflicting perspectives?

    Also, what non-tare verse or scripture might you use to support this perspective of having to sort through the Bible to find the pieces introduced by Satan beyond the parable mentioned? While I also struggle with some of the prescriptions of God from the OT and hope someone with more wisdom than myself might respond to your comments about genocide and raping foreign women (and why those are from God), could you explain what you meant by “condemns people to hell on a coin-toss or for another man’s sin,”?

    Thanks for offering your thoughts as they are definitely new to me. CMP any chance you could weigh in with your thoughts?

  31. Rey, this is getting very off base and filled with emotionally charged cliche arguments against Christianity (some of which are very bizzare).

    This is not the place for it.

    I can’t interact with old threads as there is simply not enough time for me to do so. However, I do like to keep threads open for good, well-thought, conversation about the topic. Right now, you are not qualifying for any of these.

    Your problems with Matthew and the virgin birth are understandabe from a hermeneutical perspective, but they are far from giving a valid alternative in the Christian worldview.

    I would suggest you going through sessions 9 and 10 of The Theology Program. In session 9 we deal with Matthew’s use of the Old Testament.

    In the end, such prophecies could be part of the sensus plenoir or contained in the original in a far-near paradigm. The virgin birth is not only part of Gospel history, but part of the Great Tradition itself.

  32. In the end, keep things on track and no sound bite shots at the faith. We all get a little anxious believing that we need to respond to each on ;) every time. This is not a forum.

  33. Thanks so much CMP! Sincerely appreciated. I know I’ll be looking forward to sessions 9 and 10 now and eventually getting through the program so I can understand all the terms you just threw out! =)

  34. Matt, as Paul tells us the purpose iof scripture is to equip the man of God to every good work, we can be sure that thos things which equip the man of God or any other man with excuses to embolden him in his sins or make him pass the buck to Adam or worse blame God and say “God controls all things, so when I sin its because God made me,”–these are clearly not from God and not inspired of God, unless they are perhaps inspired in the sense that God allows the devil to sow such things as a test to see who will greedily snatch such things up and live by them to their destruction, that he might weed out the chaff which he will burn with unquencheable fire (as John the Baptist says) for his winnowing fan is in his hand.

  35. Matt, I would like to recommend a couple of useful books regarding reading and understanding the Bible and how to interpret it.

    1) How to Study the Bible for Yourself by Tim Lahaye
    2) Basic Bible Interpretation, Roy Zuck

    I’ve also heard really good things about a book called The Hermeneutical Spiral, by Grant Osborne. I haven’t read it but peaked at the contents and it looks worth checking out.

    I would also recommend these basic systematic theology books to use as reference as you learn and navigate through basic Christine doctrine:

    1) Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem
    2) Basic Theology, by Charles Ryrie
    3) Mosaic of Christian Belief, by Roger Olson

    Hope that helps

  36. Hey Michael! I’m linking you in my Friday blog post: http://www.infinitlove.blogspot.com. Just wanted to let you know. I didn’t quote anything, just recommended my readers to connect with you, and gave the link.

  37. Headless Unicorn Guy November 19, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I was at a website the other day that had a daily Scripture at the top of the page. This particular day it had Matt. 4:9 “All of this I will give to you if you will worship me.” Out of context, that looks fine. God will give us many blessings if we worship him. The problem is that this is a quotation from Satan when he tempted Christ!

    Ah, the cluelessness of single-verse Twitter Tweeting.

    Kind of like that “We Are The World” Celebrity charitable fundraiser song back in the Eighties, with its Biblical reference of “we can change these stones into bread”…

  38. “The Bible says it, so it must be true” is not a stupid statement. I want the manuscript evidence for the statement “and other stupid statements”. We do have manuscript evidence for the Bible. I also want to know how a materialist proves the statement (“The Bible says it, so it must be true and other stupid statements”) itself. The physical letters that make up the statement don’t prove the statement. How then does the physical prove the metaphysical? Shame on the people who say that the Bible is not the ultimate authority. If the Bible is not the ultimate authority all that is left is relativism and arbitrariness (Proverbs 3:5) (and with those as your authorities you have already admitted defeat). 2 Corinthians 4:2 warns against deceitfully handling God’s Word. Also 2 Corinthians 13:8 says ‘for we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth”.

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