Friday, September 7, 2007

Interpretations of the Bible – Part I

What we Christians call the Old Testament is the Holy Scripture of two religions, Judaism and Christianity. Islam bases some of the Qur’an on its stories (albeit modified), and Christianity has what we call the New Testament in addition. There are differences in the way people interpret the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. The first few chapters of Genesis have become controversial because they seem to contradict scientific evidence.

What I would like to do is examine four different ways of viewing, interpreting and understanding the Old Testament, particularly the creation stories and other events such as The Flood and Jonah. These ways of interpreting that I have identified are milestones along a continuum. The purpose is to help you understand how you view the Old Testament, how it might affect your thinking, and the risks involved with that method. I will start with a discussion of the completely literal interpretation of Old Testament stories.


Events occurred exactly as described, so Bible is to be taken absolutely literally. There is no room for any other interpretation. Bible is without error and is divinely inspired.


Creation occurred over six 24-hour literal days, and every other detail is to be believed literally. Everything happened exactly as described over 144 hours.


There was a worldwide flood that destroyed all life on earth except those preserved on the ark. Sedimentary strata found around the earth confirm this.


Can tend to get hung up in details rather than what the story is communicating to us. Some have trouble believing these stories, so whole Bible can be placed into doubt. Many unanswered questions: dinosaurs, etc. Literal interpretation often at odds with scientific evidence (although science is evolving as new discoveries found, so can’t place our faith in ever-changing science). Advantage is that this way of interpreting can give comfort in that there is no other way of understanding what the story is telling us.

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