Tuesday, March 14, 2006

From Papyrus to the HP Pavilion

Times change… The last original manuscript of the Biblical material was written approximately 1900 years ago. 1900 years! In that time we have gone from people walking from Nazareth to Jerusalem to people riding in a space ship and walking on the moon. The struggle back then was the occupation of the Holy Land by the Romans. Today we have the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as well as the Israeli/Arab conflict. During the centuries the Roman Church split into the east and west churches (1000 c.e.). The Reformation would happen several hundred years later. World Wars I and II would become history. The sexual revolution would come and go. Times change…

In the midst of all the change we are faced with a challenge—how do we interpret the Bible in the twenty-first century? Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart have written a marvelous book on that very subject called “How to Read the Bible for All its Worth.” It has a companion book called “How to Read the Bible Book by Book.” They give some very helpful guidelines for Biblical interpretation.

To begin we have to ask “what does the text say.” That is always the first step. The next step is to determine what it meant to the original audience. The text cannot mean for us today something that was impossible for it to mean back then! Here’s the full of thumb for Biblical interpretation… let the Bible interpret the Bible.

How does that work?

The Old Testament tells us which foods in clean (can be eaten) and which are impure (to be avoided). Then in the Book of Acts we have Peter and the vision given to him by the Holy Spirit concerning food. So… the dietary rules were cultural. What about religious festivals and some of the Torah regulations? Again, the New Testament removes some of the regulations that the Jews were never able to keep. But let’s be honest—the topic here is sexual ethics, the Bible and the PCUSA. The New Testament does not remove the sexual holiness code. Jesus had the opportunity to change it… and didn’t! Peter had the opportunity to change it… and didn’t. Paul had the opportunity to change it… and didn’t. Why? Because the Holy Spirit didn’t direct them to. The holiness code as it relates to sexual ethics transcends time and cultures.


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