Biblical Interpretation, the importance of being “right”/”wrong” and who knows what the Bible has to say.

Lots of people had a lot of things to say about the Pope and his understanding of scripture today.

Not all of it was correct (and I’d hate to assume I’ve got a monopoly on truth or being right- I don’t) and some of it felt quite wrong really.

My particular favourite moments from around the web were where the atheists lectured various people about forgiveness, correct readings of scripture and what the pope really meant to believe.

I think it’s interesting that lots of people quoted the bits of scripture they felt spoke against or in favour of gay people. I think it’s interesting to see people searching for meaning in the Bible. Elsewhere on the blog I’ve quoted Schopenhauer who says “A book is like a mirror. If a fool looks in, you can’t expect a genius to look out.”

The Bible is also a very reflective book, you’ll get out of it what you read into it. There’s various critical methods of approaching the bible (which I won’t go into any detail here) but the key question people ask is “How do I know I’m reading the bible correctly/right?”. (With the corresponding question of “How do I know if they’re reading the bible correctly?”)

A number of people defended the Pope’s statement about homosexuals and transsexuals but the question behind all of that is “Is his interpretation of scripture correct/right?”.

The really simple straightforward answer to all those questions is- you don’t, you never know. When we have that urge to ask that question we should stop and ask ourselves “Why do we need to be right in our interpretation of the bible?”.

I think some people want to be right so they can gain some of the perceived authority the bible has and therefore you can’t argue with me. (And if you’re an atheist I know you don’t hold any authority with the bible, maybe it’s similar if you can quote what you think Richard Dawkins thinks on a given subject?)

At Greenbelt this year I heard Paula Gooder speak about interpreting the bible and she said “we should be trying to work out how to read the bible well rather than reading the text right.”

She also said that people often appear to approach the bible with a question that needs answering “What does the bible say about…?” and get frustrated when it isn’t clear cut. The bible isn’t an encyclopaedia with a set of answers. She posed a question that asked what would happen if we didn’t ask the bible questions and allowed the bible to ask us questions.

I always find it a little galling when people who’ve never read the bible before or closely tell me what I believe and what’s in the bible. I also think there’s some people on here (and who comment on the blog) enjoy trying to rile people. If you’re interested in reading the bible more (seriously doubts anyone really does want to) I’m more than happy to chat it through with you, drop me an email.

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