Interpretation 6: The Problem of Consistency

Many moons ago, I posted several blogs concerning biblical interpretation.  Those posts, though not verbatim, were taken from Fee and Stuart’s book, “How to Read The Bible For All It’s Worth.”  After many weeks off from this, I hope to resume some posts about this.  For those of you who have read the book, please excuse me for using so much of their material.  This book has opened up a whole new world for me in the realm of interpreting the Bible.  That’s why I’m sharing this material.   for those of you who have not read the book, I suggest you buy a copy.  It’s life changing information that I shelved for many years.  Don’t make that mistake.

Last post I brought to our attention the idea of inconsistency.  Some of this material may be a repeat, but that’s OK for us to review.  I hope you enjoy this. 

The Problem of Consistency

Hermeneutical problems concerning culture and meaning of biblical texts are numerous. However, all problems concerning hermeneutics stem from on thing–our lack of consistency.

Without meaning to, we all bring things to the table of interpretation like theological heritage, church traditions, and our own cultural norms. When we come to texts of the Bible with all of this baggage, we tend to try and get around harder to understand texts.

We skirt the real meanings of texts in order to simply try and make them fit into our way of thinking. This causes a great amount of inconsistency. Here are a few inconsistencies worth noting.

1.  In the 60’s when the hippie movement was strong, churches said that men were a disgrace for wearing long hair based on 1 Corinthians 11:14. Yet, at the same time, allowed women to cut their hair completely ignoring verse 15.

2. In some churches, women have been forbidden to speak based upon 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, yet all other things in that chapter are dismissed as being cultural and limited only to the first century, i.e. tongues speaking and prophesying.

3. While 1 Timothy teaches that there was a plurality of leaders, many churches do not follow this rule.

4. Very few churches enroll widows as instructed by Paul in 1 Timothy 5:3-15

5. Some churches find support for infant baptism in passages like 1 Corinthians 1:16, 7:14 or Colossians 2:11-12.

Fee and Stuart make the following statement that explains much of the reason for these inconsistencies. “Indeed our experience as teachers is that Students from these traditions seldom ask what these texts mean; they want to know ‘how to answer’ these texts.” (Fee and Stuart 60)

How true this is! We come to a text, know that it can’t mean what makes me uncomfortable, therefore we give an explanation on how to answer the text rather than letting the text teach us.

Maybe you know of other things where interpretation has left folks looking less than consistent.  In the next post I want to give some of Fee and Stuart’s principles for being more consistent.

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13 responses to “Interpretation 6: The Problem of Consistency

  • Greg England

    One comment they make (I think … or I got it in a class in grad school) that has helped me work through some problematic verses (due to my theological heritage) is: A passage cannot mean to us something that would have been an impossible meaning to the original readers. Case in point the “that which is perfect” in 1 Cor. 13:10 was taught to me as the perfect Word of God (the canon as we know it). That would have made no sense whatsoever to Paul’s readers. Most everything the popular writers / televangelists have come up with to explain Revelation would have been ludicrous to the first centuries readers.

    Good stuff, Keith. Like you, I allowed this material to sit on a shelf far too long.

  • Keith Davis

    Greg, That comment (A passage cannot mean to us something that would have been an impossible meaning to the original readers) will be in the next post about this. It’s the single most inspiring statement they make. Along with so much more they have helped me see the scripture in such a refreshing way. Thanks for the post.

  • cwinwc

    I love this series Keith and I promise to get the book. I was reading in 2 Sam. 6 where Uzzah touched a falling Ark and was killed. I had a note in my Bible from the mid-90’s where a preacher appealed to this passage in an attempt to say that if we didn’t do things “decent and orderly” God would destroy us.

    Yet, if you keep reading you read:
    2Sam. 6:14 And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod.

    The note I had written in my Bible read, “If you appeal to the O.T. to make a point as a prooftext then you need to be prepared to accept the entire text.”

    I’m sure when this preacher spoke on worshiping in a “decent and orderly” manner he didn’t intend for us to dance wearing thongs in praise to God.

  • Greg England

    Cecil: It might be okay if it’s a linen thong!! But I’ll let Keith work this one out for us.

  • cwinwc

    Greg – Thongs in church or at least the kind we can see? Shocking. I might have to get a wax job.

  • Connie Lard

    I can remember the first time I visited a Methodist Church and opened their hymnal. On an introductory page was the verse about “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” How could that be?! I looked at my fellow CoC’er who was sitting next to me and said, “Hey, that’s our verse!” I had always heard that verse used as the basis for our rule of acapella style congregational singing use during worship. And these people were using “instrumental music” during their service! Just an example of inconsistencies in the way scripture is applied when you look at Christendom as a whole. Folks who are not Christians must think we are totally nuts! What kind of witness to the world does this give?!

  • Keith Davis

    In one of our songs we sing,
    “Oh, that with yonder sacred ‘thong’
    We at His feet may fall….”
    If it’s good enough for heaven….

  • Keith Davis

    Wait a minute, that’s “throng” not “thong” My bad.;)

  • cwiwnc

    Man Keith – you had me going for a second.

  • Steve

    What is this blog and who is this thong of people?

    Check out real live preacher for his thoughts on interpretation today:

    http://www.reallivepreacher.com

    Peace.

  • Donna

    I have enjoyed this series of post….but maybe the little conversation between you guys even more…reminds me of a van ride in Malibu….

  • cwinwc

    Donna – Those conversations are the best part of the trip besides the tri-tip.

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