Saturday, 11 February 2012
Alleged Biblical Errors: Contextual and Exegetical Factors
The Bible, like all other forms of communication (both written and oral) in every language and culture throughout history, is filled with figures of speech. When two people living on separate continents "see eye to eye," no one envisions them literally facing each other with their eyeballs pressed together! Anthropomorphism is a very common literary device wherein human characteristics are ascribed to nonhuman entities (e.g. "The merciless tornado was tireless in its malicious tirade"). Since the spiritual realm is beyond the ability of the mortal mind to fully comprehend, God is depicted throughout scripture with imagery to which humans can relate ("face," "ears," "hands," "eyes," etc.). Thus speaking with God "face to face" is simply a metaphoric description of direct, intelligible, and intimate conversation (see Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:6-8).
Another favorite example among antibiblicists is the following. In Luke 11:23 (cf. Matthew 12:30) Jesus is reported as saying, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." Compare this with the seemingly conflicting words of Luke 9:50 (cf. Mark 9:40): ". . . for he who is not against us [you] is on our [your] side." While critics of the Bible cry "blatant contradiction," a sympathetic reading of the statements in their respective contexts proves otherwise. In the first passage, the Lord is speaking to antagonistic Pharisees who were falsely accusing him of doing the devil’s work. Enemies of truth, resistant to Christ’s message, are decidedly against him. In the second passage, the apostles were forbidding the good works of an apparent disciple of Jesus simply because he was not in their immediate apostolic circle. In this case, the Lord is addressing misplaced pride and unwarranted discrimination. The teachings of Christ call for both exclusiveness and inclusiveness, depending on the circumstances. Out of context, there appears to be incongruity. In context, the teachings are easily harmonized.
--Kevin L. Moore
Related Posts: Mistakes in the Bible?, Luke's Historical Blunder?
Recommended Sources: Eric Lyons' Answering the Allegations