Monday, 12 August 2013

The meaning of scripture

From a Facebook thread, concerning the mutability of scriptural interpretation:
  • Paul Jenkins You're at liberty to interpret the Bible any way you want. There's enormous scope for this: along with different translations and appeal to context, there's also the option to claim that something that is superficially nonsense is actually quite sensible and profound — if only we were party to God's ineffable intentions. It's a bit like when a novelist goofs in the plotting and gets mail from fans asking how can such-and-such be, since it appears to contradict something in the early chapters. The novelist merely replies that it does actually make sense, and all will be revealed in the sequel.
  • Ian Taylor "Mark 16:17-18 - King James Version (KJV)
    17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

    18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
    Come on Paul, reinterpret this for me.
  • Ian Taylor Oh yea, "...they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.", clearly means that they'll put gramma's quilt back over her when they're done the 'laying hands' bit!
  • Paul Jenkins "Come on Paul, reinterpret this for me."

    OK, I'll have a go. But I don't know the original language, so I'll leave that aspect.

    "Mark 16:17-18 - King James Version (KJV)

    17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;"

    Well, when signs _follow_, it means that these are evident later, not necessarily at the current time (which would explain why believers may not be able to do these things now). Casting out devils could mean anything, but speaking with new tongues simply means they will be inspired to great oratory.

    "18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

    Anyone may "take up serpents" — the text doesn't actually state that the serpents won't kill them. As for drinking deadly things, this will likely cause them to be poisoned to death, but it will probably be a relatively painless death (without hurt), despite the grimaces on their faces (which God probably makes them do for the sake of discouraging others from following suit).

    Laying hands on the sick is merely a symbolic gesture — the recovering refers to the multiple times they do it.

    That's just off the top of my head. With some time devoted to it I could probably twist it into something completely unrecognisable. (I shan't be doing this, by the way.)
  • Paul Jenkins "...and they shall recover.", clearly means that they'll put gramma's quilt back over her when they're done the 'laying hands' bit!"

    I think you're getting the hang of this.
  • Ian Taylor Well, we've all heard this kind of apologetics, sure, which amount to caviling. Not really the kind of thing GOD, as Jesus, would bother telling us, and not really the kind of thing a believer would believe Jesus meant to tell us.
    The Gospels really should come with a warning, you know, for the kids and the stupid, maybe even the faithful.
  • Paul Jenkins This matter of interpretation reminds me of a story I heard about a group of Plymouth Brethren who needed pews for their Meeting House. Someone alerted them to pews being salvaged from another church, but when the Brethren saw the pews they said they weren't suitable because there was the shape of a cross formed in fretwork in the back of each seat. (Plymouth Brethren eschew crosses).

    However, the Brethren were satisfied when it was explained to them that the pews did at one time have crosses carved into the backs, but they'd since been "cut out".
  • Ian Taylor how pragmatic of them.

It's ongoing, so there may be more...
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