The PRIMARY difference between our "opinions" however is ---- the BASIS for my "opinion" is SCRIPTURE - which I accept to be EXACTLY what it claims to be - the very WORD & WORDS of our Creator GOD (b/t/way - the average intelligent 5th grader can understand both the Words & the claims of Scripture - the old "interpretation" argument you're using is totally bogus.... I could furnish you a dozen or more elementary school students who could pretty accurately "interpret" just about any passage of Scripture you might choose....YOU in fact would have been one of them 30 years ago!)....[emphasis in original]
I would think many pastors would be surprised to learn the hours they spend studying and preparing on a sermon could be easily whittled down to a five-minute conversation with a 5th grader.
Why do seminary students spend years learning about the Bible and how to interpret it? Shoot, all they need is a 5th grade education. Millions of books…millions….have been devoted to interpreting the Bible, from literally within a few years of the New Testament books being written and for two (2) millennium after.
All of which were a waste to time; shoulda asked a 5th grader. It boggles the mind to reflect on the books, the billions of articles, the trillions of words, the hours of television, radio, and internet, not to mention billions of sermons, bible studies, Sunday schools, classes, small groups, informal discussion--all a waste of time…because one merely had to ask a 5th grader.
I’m being a bit facetious, but to make a point. We wouldn’t expect a 5th grader to interpret Shakespeare—a writing in an early form of Modern English, let alone a writing in three (3) dead languages—Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.
By interpretation, we are looking for the original author’s motivation in writing it. What was the author trying to convey to his/her intended audience? If by “interpretation” we mean, “whatever I get out of a particular writing” then, yes—a 5th grader is adequate for interpreting the Bible. As is a 1st grader, a 10th grader or a person who hasn’t had a class in their life. Because each person can draw some concept from a writing--whether it is the Bible, Shakespeare or a telephone book.
(‘Course this doesn’t help your point, as you were arguing there is a cohesive interpretation, and allowing for individual interpretation is counter-productive to your position.)
This is a deep and insidious problem within the Church today. Because the Bible is so readily accessible (we have it on our iPods for goodness sake!), people simply read it and assume they are qualified to make whatever claims they desire about it. If two claims are in agreement, the two Christians heartily shake hands and proudly declare each other to be “True Christians.” If there is disagreement, each calls the other a heretic, banishes their belief as an incorrect interpretation, and brands the other a “Not True Christian.”
I am sure you can find 5th graders whose interpretations are agreeable to yours, and therefore you find them to be sufficient. I give far greater deference to the Bible and biblical scholars. I don’t see the book as something to merely grab off the shelf, read whatever passage strikes your eye, give it whatever convenient expositions suits one’s mindset, and then look for others with similar beliefs to give confirmation bias.
Focus for an instance on the New Testament. (The Tanakh has other concerns, which I can address at a different time.) How many Christians study the society of First Century Mediterranean culture? Do they know what an Honor/Shame society is? How one treated an in-group as compared to an out-group? What a patron was?
Do they understand the different Jewish beliefs at the time? Shoot—do they even know Judea and Galilee were two different countries?
No, they don’t bother with this. Because they can read it and give it whatever interpretation they want.
Do they learn the original language—Greek, and wrestle with its nuances, verb forms, translation problems?
No, they have a translation, and figure if their favorite Bible is the KJV or NIV or NASB…well…that’s good enough for them. They don’t even bother to investigate why there are different translations. They get their interpretation from whatever committee translated their favorite verse.
Do they learn about textual criticism, and the difficulties in determining the original divergent point from whence we have our copies? Are they even aware of the time between copies? Or the difference between Alexandrian and Byzantine? Do they know Acts of Apostles is different lengths, depending on the text, by up to 9%?
No, they can pick their Bible up and read it, with the “inner assurance of the Holy Spirit” (i.e. “good feeling”) that the Bible they have today is the same as what was written original. So what if we have lost the ending of Mark and the story of the Adulterous woman.
Do they study the various theories of authorship? Or even think of reading the books of Paul in chronological order? Or resolving the Synoptic Problem?
Or do they figure some other minds must have already done that for them, or it is not important (otherwise they would have heard about it from their pastor, right?), or God doesn’t care whether they know about it.
Do they look at the structures of the writings? The grouping, the deliberate placement of events, peoples and stories? Do they look at non-canonical gospels? Or how the early church fathers treated these works (and grappled over their interpretations!)?
One of the biggest problems I see is how churches fail to study the Bible; they do Bible study. The average person in the pew doesn’t know any of these things, because absent a very rare Sunday School class, they instead are hearing someone with extremely similar beliefs telling them what they want to hear. They barely touch a skimming off the thinnest surface of biblical text.
The tragedy here is that they DO treat it like it is a 5th grade writing, rather then dive into its depths and immerse themselves into the glorious complicated study of how the Bible (and the contents of the Bible) came into being.