Comment: Interpreting the Word of God

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Interpreting the Word of God

Where in the world did you got the idea that my point was "that interpreting the Bible is a hopeless task". I did not say that anywhere. What I said was that the task of interpreting of any text or any meaningful phenomenon and in our case the Bible is much more difficult task than we normally understand. I never said that it is 'a hopeless task'. And in a sense it is not a hopeless task as everybody already understands the Bible in some way; even if not most probably in a way that some others would accept as right kind of interpretative understanding, but still understanding nonetheless in some sense as even misunderstanding is always a form of understanding. This is because human being is a being of meaning, a being who always understands everything in someway, in some sense. Okay, that is the human condition and a point of departure for any human endeavor to interpret something. For example, we could not have this exchange without both of us having a certain kind of understanding of the biblical texts. So in this sense already "interpreting the Bible is [not] a hopeless task", but then the crucial question is why do we happen to have a certain kind of understanding of these texts and why do we interpret them in a way we do and why does that differ between us. From which kind of background does our interpretation arise is an important question and it is important to recognize this interpretative background.

I can say that I am not Christian, but I am neither atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew nor anything like that. I do not identify myself with any of these labels, because each label gives one a certain kind of framework and vested interest in one's mind. Talking about Christians it is of course important to remember that Jesus and Paul were not Christians because the whole term was not yet even around during their life time. More labels one identifies oneself with less free one is in general and less free to see different interpretative possibilities in particular as every conceptual framework, for example, Christian or atheist narrows one's capability to see clearly. You might most probably disagree with that, but already that you wrote to me "And if Christians cannot rightly interpret the Word of God, then who can? Am I to trust Buddhists or Atheists to do that for me?" tells to me that you didn't think that there could be an opening to interpretative space which is not Christian, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, or some other label. I am like a child who has not been given any belief-system to believe in and to defend. Atheism is also a belief-system. And as you know even Jesus says that one should become like a child to enter into the Kingdom of God (whatever he meant by the expression of 'Kingdom of God', 'Reign of God/Heaven'). But then what does it mean to be childlike in this context is highly difficult interpretative dilemma as well as what is meant by the Reign of God/Heaven.

First of all, already it is an interpretation of the most of the Christians that the Bible is "the Word of God". How is it possible that the Bible is 'the word of God'? You would most probably answer by quoting Paul's words: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," (2 Timothy 3:16) But already with one sentence of Paul we are in a deep interpretative dilemma and this is only one sentence of so many sentences of the whole Bible. So what is the dilemma? Well, there is plenty of dilemmas here. First one is are we to take seriously Paul's statement. Okay, let's in a name of argument do that as you seem to take it seriously. This means that you already as most of the Christian community interpret the Bible from Pauline perspective at least in some sense. But what does Paul mean by "All Scripture"? Does it mean 'All Scripture' which existed during the time that Paul wrote Timothy or does it mean also the Scripture to come in the future which "is breathed out by God"? None of the Gospels or Acts for example had not been written yet when Paul wrote Timothy. During that time only the Old Testament texts existed plus some of the Paul's Epistles, but there was not even an idea of something like a 'New Testament'. So then when the Gospels where written under the inspiration of God (already a certain kind of interpretation based on Timothy) there where a LOT of texts and Gospels about the life of Jesus and sayings of Jesus as well as stories about the disciples of Jesus, but why were only certain kind of texts chosen to the Bible. Why, for example, the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John were chosen, but not the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Mary? Now you (and the Christian Community) might answer that these others are heretic texts or false gospels of which Paul warns us of in some of his Epistles. (But does he warn us of these texts as he never mentions any of these texts by name?!?) Why would these texts be heretic or not part of the Bible? You (and the Christians in general) might answer that they are not "breathed out by God"? Well, how do we know that something is 'breathed out by God'? Who is able to make this important judgment? The Bible (what you would call the ALL Scripture) is of course quite late compilation of texts. It got its final form some 300-400 years after the death of Jesus and during those 300-400 years there was many different interpretations of the message of Jesus who held different texts as authentic, as 'breathed out by God'. Some groups valued the Gospel of Thomas, some the Gospel of Mark and others the Gospel of Philip and so on. Also they who were thought of by some Christians as heretics called themselves Christians and thought themselves as Christians during those few first centuries. Certain kind of interpretation of the teaching of Jesus as well as certain texts were chosen to be the authentic texts, the ones 'breathed out by God'. But seriously who can make this decision? It was made by some Christians and other Christians were not invited to this process of deciding the authentic texts and after this decision of the Orthodox texts was done other texts which were not chosen as the true ones were seen as wrong, dangerous, satanic and so on and for this reason they needed to be destroyed as was done by many so called TRUE Christians. Sounds more like Nazi Germany than Kingdom of God and if these same people who wanted to destroy these so called 'heretic' texts were the ones who decided which texts to interpret as the ones 'breathed out by God' can we even think of them as trust-worthy to make these crucial judgments concerning what is authentic and what is not. One could ask were was so called Christian LOVE when these so called heretics and their texts needed it the most?

So the major question is who are the wise enough people to make this crucially important judgment with huge historical consequences of which texts are really 'breathed out by God'? How can you trust that these people in the powerful Christian positions made the right decisions?

Then also if 'All Scripture' came to mean also the texts that were written after Timothy, then why wouldn't it be possible that new texts could be added to the Bible still today? Maybe there has been texts written after the Bible which were also 'breathed out by God'; who knows?!? Shouldn't they be part of the 'All Scripture' also? If there isn't any other texts 'breathed out by God' after the Bible, then why would this be the case. Did God lost His inspiration? Could he get His inspiration back? Is it possible that actually there has been written texts after the Bible which were 'breathed out by God', but the Christians haven't noticed them? Can you see it possible that after the New Testament there could STILL come out 'the Latest Testament' or 'the New Testament 2.0: the Last Testament'? Maybe the Christians who made that crucial judgment about which texts to include to the Bible made mistakes and for this reason you have missed a lot of the wisdom of Jesus because you have not studied the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary or the Gospel of Thomas, etc. as well as you have studied the Establishment version of 'All Scripture', that is, the Bible as we know it. We do not even know if Paul himself would have accepted all the texts of the New Testament part of 'All Scripture' which were written after his death and we will never get to know the answer to that.

We have gone so far, but we have not even yet thought of the meaning of 'breathed out by God' as we have just taken it with some kind of average understand thinking that we all know what it could mean. If the Bible is 'the word of God' because it is 'breathed out by God' then what kind of implications this idea could have? If We the People, that is, all human beings have gotten our life from our Creator and it is He who has given us life and it is He who keeps us alive in the fundamental level doesn't this mean that we are all 'breathed out by God' in some similar way as God breathed into Adam in the Genesis to give him life. If this would be the case, then isn't there a possibility that anybody of us if properly attuned could breathe out the word of God and expand the so called 'All Scripture'? If God breathes life into me, then what is it that comes out of me as I expire/exhale or speak/sing as forms of exhalation? How do you know that what I am writing to you now is not 'breathed out by God'? How can you make that judgment or how can somebody else for example, a priest make that judgment?

My whole purpose is just to make questions? To open myself to the mystery of life which does not have any labels in-itself. No child who is born into this world will tell that he is Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Atheist, or whatever. The Bible is such a jewel that to interpret it one needs the innocence of a child, the open mindedness, freedom to wonder and more one identifies with any labels less free, innocent and open one is. Interpretation is difficult because people have so many prejudices. These prejudices can be Atheist, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, etc. prejudices. One should wash ones eyes clean from all prejudices to see clearly, to interpret clearly without any prejudgments, and vested interests. PERHAPS that was what Jesus meant by becoming again childlike to enter the Reign of Heaven. And childlike is a person who still has free, innocent and open mind, that is, a person who is not yet a Christian or Atheist or any other label that narrows one's existence. Perhaps a person who experiences the breath of God in one's each breath running through one's body and if this is the case, then perhaps this person can toss 'All Scripture', that is, the Bible away, because now this person has himself/herself become the living Scripture (breathed by God) as he/she can with each inhalation feel or experience the God's breath inspiring him/her and with every exhalation this person expresses the word of God.

HOW ABOUT THAT for an interpretation GoodSamaritan?

"Air is the very substance of our freedom, the substance of superhuman joy....aerial joy is freedom."--Gaston Bachelard--