Friday, March 17, 2023

The Simpler Reading

It seems to me - and remember, I'm just a person of faith, not an academic (although, oh wait, I do have an MDiv) - that all of the "trouble" that academics and pastors with a pet perspective have with Scripture can be solved by the simplest reading. 

They won't tell you that. In fact, the foundational principle for all academic/historical studies of the Scriptures is "the harder reading is usually the right one." This stems from the fact that they believe that an editor would have changed a reading to make it easier, not harder, so if you find two scraps of scroll with the same passage on it and one is all tangled and hard to figure out, it's likely that the other guy tried to simplify it. 

Yet, these are the very same guys who spend their lives trying to complicate the Scriptures for you and tell you that they can't possibly mean what they clearly say. So...(do you see the contradiction?). Church folk have, through much of their recent history, been gatekeepers. Are we really to believe no one ever wanted to make it harder for others to come to God? We're making it hard more often than we care to admit. 

Anyway, I digress.

The simple reading of the Scriptures is the one taken by faith: that the Bible is the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and simply recorded by men. Taking this reading, all of those other questions disappear. 

Was Genesis written by Moses on the edge of the Promised Land or was it written later after exile as an explanation story of Israel's origins? If God inspired the Scriptures and intended them to teach us something, the question is irrelevant. Because it's no stretch of the imagination to believe that an eternal God could have inspired an eternal Word. 

Can we relate to the passages that talk about the culture of the times, that address a people living in a particular place under a particular circumstance? Academics and scholars will tell you that we need to look at all such Scriptures under a microscope and figure out the real point for the real persons and extrapolate from there and not put too much stock in it because their world was so different from ours. The easier reading, by faith, says that God can speak a Word that makes as much sense in 2000 A.D. as it did in 2000 B.C. and as it will 2000 more years from now. Again, we're talking about an eternal God. 

We could say that we know that God condescends to let us use Him in our human means. Or we could say that God uses our human means as an access route to Him. 

It's all perspective. But the truth is that if I believe what faith tells me I should believe about God and take that as my starting point, all the "questions" that academics have fade away. Because I know my God can do that. I know my God does do that. I know that's who God is, and I don't have to tear apart every single word of every single verse to try to prove that He did it again there, too. If I take that for my granted, I can start putting human involvement into perspective instead of starting from the human perspective and trying to fit God into it. 

And hey, sure, Genesis might look a lot like Babylon's own origin story, but how can you say with any definitive proof that Babylon's came first? Maybe Babylon copied Israel after the people of God went into captivity there. They say that the Babylon scrolls are older, but we're talking about a people with an oral tradition. It's not unfeasible to think that Israel had an oral origin story long before Babylon did, that Babylon heard it and was impressed and made their own version, and that Israel then worked in captivity to record their own story so that the Babylonian version didn't too much overtake it. Just because the scroll is older doesn't mean the story is. 

See what I'm saying? You can do all kinds of mental gymnastics and appeal to all kinds of authorities if your starting point is wrong - if your starting point is the wisdom of the world and what we're so sure we "know" by nature of our own human advancement. But God's people have always started with faith (or at least, we should have). And if you start with faith, the questions really aren't as big as they seem. 

In this case, the simpler reading is also the most complete one. 

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