Friday, April 09, 2021

Eyewitness Vs Dictation

Fundamentalists treat the scriptures as if the words were dictated by God directly to the ears of a chosen scribe, who recorded them exactly. If you pay attention, there are in fact sections of Isaiah that are like this, and other sections of various books. It's usually pretty easy to tell, because God says explicitly "write down these words" or some such.

But most sections fall better into the category of "eyewitness account." If you look at Mark 1:5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. I don't think the entire population of Jerusalem or the Judean countryside went out to see John the Baptist.  I'm betting a few people stayed behind. Just a guess. It was a figure of speech from an eyewitness.  "Oh, everyone was going out to listen to John in those days.  He was all anyone could talk about for the whole year." My faith is not harmed in the slightest by this.

Nor is anyone else's.  If you go look at fundamentalist studies of Mark, they breeze right by this - as they should. Yet in other sections they will insist that accounts are to be taken literally, as if God had dictated word for word. 

Allowing this much flexibility, in and of itself, opens the door to close examination of every other verse, and Lord knows that people will come up with wild interpretations on their own. Yet there is no other choice. We are told to trust in the Holy Spirit and that there is no private interpretation, so some others must be consulted. That's about it.  Yet that is an enormous amount.


james said...

IIRC Jesus did both close reading ("God of the living") and skipping over things ("Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing")

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