Interpreting the Bible
#1
I just read its a condemned view to hold that Scripture is only without error in faith and morals and not other things. But there's a whole debate it seems about how to interpret it and  what parts are true as events and what parts are true as parables. A lot of people seem to wonder if we can interpret Old Testament events as parables of a type... I'm wondering g the opposite. Can we take anything that sounds like an event as a literal event? In either Testament. Then of course there are parables that are clear and imagery language in the Apocalypse etc (like "the beast" not being an actual beast). But all is true and without error not only in faith and morals. Any thoughts? Can we believe in the Flood etc as real events?
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#2
Very perspicacious questions, you little-flower. I would have asked them myself if I was more reflective and less involved in more pragmatic and contemporary issues.

I'm getting close to the bottom of my gallon of home brew just now so I'll not pontificate as I'm wont to do... just suggest that this is one of the many instances of where the interpretation of Scripture has to do with the "tongues of fire" at Pentecost.
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#3
(07-17-2015, 12:00 PM)little_flower10 Wrote: I just read its a condemned view to hold that Scripture is only without error in faith and morals and not other things. But there's a whole debate it seems about how to interpret it and  what parts are true as events and what parts are true as parables. A lot of people seem to wonder if we can interpret Old Testament events as parables of a type... I'm wondering g the opposite. Can we take anything that sounds like an event as a literal event? In either Testament. Then of course there are parables that are clear and imagery language in the Apocalypse etc (like "the beast" not being an actual beast). But all is true and without error not only in faith and morals. Any thoughts? Can we believe in the Flood etc as real events?


http://beauty-in-education.blogspot.com/....html#more

That's a nice little reflection touching on this issue.

As for the Flood, it was pretty much universally considered a real global event by the Fathers of East and West, not to mention in many stories from primitive cultures throughout the world. It was only with the dawn of the new religion of modern science and its atheistic naturalistic ways of viewing the world that biblical scholars started trying to say it was a local near east deluge or simply mythological pious fiction.
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#4
(07-17-2015, 12:00 PM)little_flower10 Wrote: I just read its a condemned view to hold that Scripture is only without error in faith and morals and not other things.

This is called "limited inerrancy". It was condemned by Pius XII in Divino Afflante Spiritu.

This makes a great deal of sense, since while human authors put pen to paper (or whatever they decided to use), they were inspired by God Himself. As Leo XII writes in Providentissimus Deus: The human authors "expressed in apt words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture."

And Dei Verbum, the decree of the First Vatican Council tells us (my emphasis):
Quote:Those things revealed by God which are contained and presented in the text of sacred scripture have been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church itself.

But let's not go too far.

When we say inerrant (because inspired by God), we're limiting ourselves to the original texts written by the original authors, not any particular version of the Scripture we have today.

We know from various decrees that the Vulgate is substantially free from error, but that it, in itself, is not inspired, so we can admit translation errors, additions by scribes, the famous Johannine Comma, and etc.

However, we now have quite good manuscripts and parts from very early centuries, and we know that while it is probable that there are some minor textual errors, the scriptures as they exist today in the best editions are substantially the same as Christ's age. And this has far better physical proof than any other similar ancient document -- it is much more certain than even the Homer's Illiad which is one of the best ancient manuscripts.

(07-17-2015, 12:00 PM)little_flower10 Wrote: But there's a whole debate it seems about how to interpret it and  what parts are true as events and what parts are true as parables.

Yes, this is the whole field of exegetics. It's been around since the Old Testament times (the "Doctors of the Law" and "Scribes" in the Gospel were just that -- academics who interpreted the Mosaic Law). The major sources for Christians are the Fathers of the Church and the Magisterium.

But there's more than just "parables". There are many literary forms. Look at the Psalms for instance. We see there prophecy, history, prayer, instruction ... many different elements. We have to treat these much differently than, for instance, Joshua, which is history.

Steinmueller in his A Companion to Scripture Studies gives the nine types of literary forms possible for Scripture: (1) fable, (2) parable, (3) historical epic, (4) religious history, (5) ancient history, (6) popular tradition, (7) liberal narrative, (8) Midrash (commentary), and (9) prophetical/apocalyptical narrative. So, we're talking about a wide variety of types of literature, not just "literally true" and "not literally true" as some would like to simplify it.

Even in the "history" divisions we have to think of history as it was told to the audience it was written form. Today we see "history" as a scientific narrative of minutely detailed facts. Earlier times, however, treated history much less scientifically. The narrative did express truly the occurring events, but as they would be understood to the audience. The first several chapters of Genesis are a perfect example of this. Real history, but not told in the manner of modern history.

(07-17-2015, 12:00 PM)little_flower10 Wrote: A lot of people seem to wonder if we can interpret Old Testament events as parables of a type... I'm wondering g the opposite. Can we take anything that sounds like an event as a literal event? In either Testament. Then of course there are parables that are clear and imagery language in the Apocalypse etc (like "the beast" not being an actual beast). But all is true and without error not only in faith and morals. Any thoughts? Can we believe in the Flood etc as real events?

Events recorded in Scripture as real events are real events. To say otherwise is to say that Scripture is false -- that it is in error. That cannot be admitted.

The question is not then, "are these events real," but rather, "does Scripture give or intend to give a scientific/modern history of this event when it speaks of this event?"

Take Genesis 1-3. Scripture does intend to tells us of a real event: Creation. It does not intend to give a complete history in the form modern people are used to, but instead communicate to it's original audience (an ancient Mediterranean Semitic people) the history of Creation in a way understandable, and memorable to them. While not a perfect comparison, it's somewhat like a modern movie which while "historically accurate" is only "based on a true story". It tells part of the story in such a way that it is understandable and will be understood by the audience. It is not meant to be a substitute for a full scholarly account of an event.

That is why some hold a literal 7-day (24-hr days) interpretation, while others like St. Augustine do not. Some think the division is a logical one (describing different eras, or a step-by-step process) and "day" means this logical period. St. Augustine eventually though that Creation happened not in a chronological order (over time), but all at once given Sirach 18.1.

As long as it does not contradict Scripture or the Magisterium, any of these interpretations (supported by reputable exegetes) are perfectly acceptable.

The Flood is very much the same. It was a real event, because Scripture records it as a real event. Beyond that, there are a variety of opinions on the exact nature of the Flood. For instance, many orthodox and traditional Catholic scholars do not think the Flood was a worldwide event or what is called "geographically" universal. Rather it was an "ethnographically" universal -- it wiped out all the other human beings aside from Noah and his family.

In the end, the Catholic understanding of Scripture is not the same as the Fundamentalist. We see it as only a part of the whole of our Faith -- one of many way God has given us His truths. But by its very nature, it needs to be explained by experts and ultimately if these differ, a teaching authority which has God's guarantee of infallibility (i.e. the Catholic Church).

The Catholic wisely follows St. Augustine's advice from his On the literal interpretation of Genesis :

Quote:Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.
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#5
Hmm. Mr Music Teacher doesn't leave much to be added, does he?

Anyhow, my take on the issue is, perhaps, a little more worldly and pragmatically anti-Protestant.

Essentially, Christianity is not a product of Scripture; Christianity was alive and kicking for about 400 years before what we now as the Bible was even put together. Then, for about another 1200 years it existed only as a few hand-written copies in universities and monasteries. Even after the invention of the printing press it remained pretty rare and only able to be read by the literate few for another couple of hundred years.

Even then, it is not given to everyone the necessary wisdom and holiness to correctly interpret some of its more obscure passages... some of which only become clear with the benefit of hindsight.

Jesus taught in parables for a good reason; I'll see if I can dig up a rather scholarly article I've read on why that is so if anyone is interested.
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#6
(07-19-2015, 10:11 PM)Oldavid Wrote: Essentially, Christianity is not a product of Scripture; Christianity was alive and kicking for about 400 years before what we now as the Bible was even put together. Then, for about another 1200 years it existed only as a few hand-written copies in universities and monasteries. Even after the invention of the printing press it remained pretty rare and only able to be read by the literate few for another couple of hundred years.

Even then, it is not given to everyone the necessary wisdom and holiness to correctly interpret some of its more obscure passages... some of which only become clear with the benefit of hindsight.

An excellent point!
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