Interpreting God’s Word

Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Creative Commons License photo credit: tiffany_stone

Buried somewhere in the growing list of things that annoy me:

People who will tell you that God didn’t really mean what he said.

For me, it’s kinda like Superman. I don’t actually believe that there’s a guy who wears a cape and flies around, but if you set up the story that way, I’ll go along. Just let it be consistent.

In other words, don’t have his powers change depending on the circumstances. Either he can see through lead or he can’t. Right?

Don’t say he CAN see through lead if it helps the storyline, but he CAN’T if it would be inconvenient.

Same thing goes for God.

If you want to say that the Bible is the word of God, then fine. It’s fine with me to say that God doesn’t want us to commit adultery, ’cause it says so right there.

But then don’t tell me that he didn’t really mean other stuff that was stated just as clearly.

An example

I was reading an article about taboos and how we break them.

The article mentioned how a lot of people get all hung up on Leviticus 18:22 (guys shouldn’t have sex with other guys), but then ignore Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11 (don’t wear clothes that mix linen with wool).

In looking up those passages, I came across a web site for “born again” Christians. This site said:

You need not throw away materials made of mixtures listed above. The materials are NOT sin in themselves. God simply does not want manufacturers to create low-quality products and take advantage of—and deceive—consumers.

Here are some words that are missing from the quote:

“might” “may” “possibly” “could” “probably”

Instead, we get a capital NOT (the materials are NOT sins), and no reference to any evidence whatsoever.

And the same site says this about the gay thing:

These verses are clear. They do not need interpretation from men.

These people are nuts.

See:

Article about taboos

Several translations of the wool and linens commandment (note how clear the commandment is)

The article interpreting the wool and linens to mean something else completely

16 Responses to Interpreting God’s Word

  1. Danielle June 24, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    And isn’t there something in the Bible about loving all people, and that love makes up for many sins, and providing hospitality to all people? I’m obviously not an expert on the Bible but it seems like that’s kind of important too…

  2. admin June 24, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    Probably.

    But I can see getting to choose what you want when there’s a conflict. Why people would choose the nasty rules over the nice ones is a whole other post.

  3. Kevin June 25, 2010 at 8:50 am #

    I won’t defend the obvious dorkiness of trying to pretend it doesn’t say something it clearly says. Shatnez is forbidden, and it’s pretty darn clear.

    However, there’s a pretty big difference between Leviticus 19 and Leviticus 20 (but not Leviticus 18). 18 and 19 just say “don’t do that” most of the time. That’s where the “linen wool blends” thing is. Leviticus 20 gets a little more specific:

    “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

    I can’t find a similar passage saying that disobeying the Shatnez rule is going to get you killed or stoned or even have God turn his face against you, which I’m guessing is pretty bad, too. Same goes for shaving the corners of your beard.

    So are there biblical misdemeanors? Pay a fine, still get to heaven?

  4. BruceS June 25, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    I’m not much of a Bible scholar either. Can anyone tell me what the punishment is for disobedient children? What about the punishment for enslaving other people?

  5. admin June 25, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    Kevin, that’s really a whole other discussion. I’m using the linen/wool thing simply to show how these people pretend that it’s not saying what it’s saying.

    If I wanted to show how the gay thing is really hypocritical, then I’d point out the following crimes for which the punishment is to be stoned to death:

    Being a medium

    Being a blasphemer

    Being a stubborn and rebellious son (That’s for your question, Bruce)

    Being a woman who has never been married and isn’t a virgin

    Being an adulterer

    Here’s something the Lord detests:

    A woman wearing man’s clothing

    Here’s an interesting law:

    If a man rapes a virgin who is not pledged to be married, he must marry her.

  6. admin June 25, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    Oh, also cursing your father or mother. Death.

    Slavery is cool, and you can beat your slave with a rod, just as long as he or she can get up within a couple of days.

    Exodus 21:20 – 21:21

    “If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, 21 but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.”

  7. Margo June 25, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    I’m sticking with a bible is was verbally (or symbolically given) and then written by humans. However, that logic is a whole different post too!

    However, I agree with your post, Rob. The justifications for why some words need to be listened to littearlly and others don’t can be very frustrating.

  8. McE June 25, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    Leviticus is chock full of good advice about what to eat, too.

    http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?passage=Leviticus+11%3A1-47

    Eagles, camels, rock badgers = bad!

    Locusts, crickets = good!

  9. admin June 25, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Millions of people follow those eating guidelines (adding a few extra) and call it Kosher.

    By the way, giraffe meat and giraffe milk is kosher, so feel free to dig in next time you’re offered a giraffe steak or smoothie. (But not BOTH a steak and smoothie at the same time, of course.)

  10. Kevin June 28, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    I don’t get that the other offenses eligible for stoning make the gay thing hypocritical. I’d assume (maybe I’m wrong!) that if one believes that gayness is a sin they’d also believe that being a medium or a blasphemer or an unchaste, unmarried woman is a sin. To the extent you’d want to stone gays you’d probably stone those other folks, too.

    However, the more important question – Why not a steak and smoothie at the same time?

  11. admin June 28, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    What makes it hypocritical is that they’re not out there protesting rebellious sons, or trying to make it illegal to be rebellious.

    They don’t spit on mediums, or lobby against them.

    I notice that you specifically are talking about the the offenses eligible for stoning. So maybe that means that you do see how the other stuff makes the point. Women wearing ties and rapists marrying victims.

    As far as the smoothies:

    The Bible says that the kid shouldn’t be boiled in the mother’s milk. Kosher Jews take this to a completely illogical extreme. They’ve decided that you should never eat ANY meat within several hours of having anything made with any milk product.

    Many have different sets of plates: one for milk-based stuff and one for meat-based stuff. Cheeseburgers are out of the question.

    • Kevin June 28, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

      And I didn’t know smoothies had milk in them. I thought it was all bananas and juices. I need to read your blog more often so I can keep abreast of this stuff!

  12. Kevin June 28, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    But in the countries where they still protest against and outlaw homosexuality, don’t they also protest against and outloaw infidelity? Or do they still protest that stuff in the US? I don’t count Fred Phelps, as he’s kind of the exception that proves we’ve passed a certain point of acceptance, isn’t he?

  13. admin June 28, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    The platform of the Republican party of the the state of Texas includes outlawing sodomy, refusing custody or visitation of homosexuals to their own children, and the following statement:

    “Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.”

    Lots of smoothies are made with yogurt or milk. Some probably aren’t. 🙂

  14. Kevin June 28, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    Yeah, well, I think the platform of the Republican part of the state of Texas probably endorses “Country Hip-Hop” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr7VinDUCm4), too.

    This part is probably true: “Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.” I wouldn’t want to be a rebellious son or a fortune teller there, either!

  15. BruceS June 29, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    Rob, thanks for clearing up the rebellious-son bit. Since my child is a daughter, I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t kill her for talking back. I’m glad slavery is OK, as I’ve been thinking about getting some help around the yard, and don’t really feel like paying market prices for it. I just need to remember that if I beat my slave badly, I should be ready to beat him some more if he refuses to get up before the second day, so my Godly neighbors will see that the earlier beating wasn’t too severe.

    Kevin, thanks for the “Country Hip-Hop” link. I’d never heard of that before. I’m amused, but disturbed.

    If you take the Biblical prohibition literally, wouldn’t it be ok to boil a kid in the milk of some other goat, or another animal entirely? What about grilling kidburgers and having them with cheese made from their mother’s milk? Let’s keep to the letter of the law. And for Christians, didn’t Jesus revoke and/or amend all the OT laws, so a good Christian only needs to keep the NT commandments? Kill you neighbor if he seems to be coveting your ass, but do it without ill will. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

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