The Bible Stinks at Math

math-image

Well, not exactly stinks. It’s more the human side of the equation that bothers me.

The other day I saw some people debating this:

1611 is the year the King James Version of the Bible was produced. This nifty mathematical formula has randomly taken the year, split it up and multiplied it together to create a fictitious link to Psalm 119.

While not stated, the implication is that the 1611 King James Version is the true Word of God and all other Bibles are frauds.

This kind of math seriously aggravates me. There is nothing logical about it. I might as well say something like:

1611 KJV. 1+6+1+1=9. Genesis 9 is all about God making a covenant never protect and never destroy all humanity again.

It’s bogus. It’s assigning meaning to random numbers. There is nothing biblical about it. I’ve seen quite a few people talk about Bible codes and secret messages and meanings in the Bible. If you count every seventh letter (in the original Hebrew, of course) in the Book of ______ you’ll see a secret message from God…

Barf.

Here’s the thing – the Bible is special enough without secret codes and hidden meanings. The Bible is difficult enough without secret codes and meanings. Rather than making up bogus connections based on wonky math, let’s work on reading, interpreting, and applying the Bible to our daily lives.

How about that, huh? Let’s start there.

So next time you see someone posting about numbers in the Bible and making random connections, politely point out that such “interpretation” is full of…garbage.

This is me getting off my soapbox…

Related Posts:
The Bible Does Not Mean That! – Episode 1
The Bible Does Not Mean That! – Episode 2
The Bible Does Not Mean That! – Episode 3

The Bible Does NOT Mean That! – Episode 3

horrified-face

Here we are with Episode 3 in my series called “The Bible Does NOT Mean That!” The goal is not to tell you definitively what the Bible does or does not say. The goal is to talk about how we can look at the Bible with intentionality and understanding. Since it is God’s revelation to humanity it’s not supposed to be filled with secrets locked away to all but the elite. It’s designed to guide us ALL!

The problem is that many of us are simply never taught how to read it.

So today we’re talking about hermeneutics (her-men-oo-tics): the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation. It can be used with interpreting anything, really, but is often used when we talk about interpreting the Bible.

The other day I published a post about Feminist Theology and how it damages the text of Scripture. While there is a spectrum of thought within Feminist Theology, most of the thinkers within the movement tend to move away from affirming the authority of the Bible.

Long story short, I upset some people who thought I was marginalizing feminists. One went so far as to tell me:

There isn’t a singular interpretation of any religious text. It’s a 2000 year old comic book in my eyes. To say one reading is holy and another reading is “destroying the bible” is the most ridiculous, selfish, onerous thing [you] can say.

But here’s the thing. There is only one meaning to a text. Fee and Stuart say, “The Bible can not mean now what it never meant then.” That means that the author’s original intent is the foundational guideline for understanding any given text.

“What does this mean to me?” is not a valid method of interpreting a text. How I respond as a reader is not as important as what the author was trying to say. The author’s meaning is what we need to be looking for. In that sense, then, there is only one meaning to any text.

There are, however, multiple applications to a text. Era, culture, technology, and other elements all play a role in how a text is applied to our lives today, but the original meaning never changes.

In that regard, theologies that attempt to skew the original meaning of the text, whether they be feminist, liberation, systematic, whatever…all damage the text when they set aside the original intent in order to pursue their own agendas.

So the next time you read the Bible, the first question need to ask is, “What was God trying to say when this was first written?” Only then can you follow it up with, “How can I work to apply this to my life?”

Related Posts:
The Bible Does Not Mean That! – Episode 1
The Bible Does Not Mean That! – Episode 2

The Bible Does NOT Mean That! – Episode 1

sermon

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone over what a particular part of the Bible meant? Maybe you were talking about the meaning of an Old Testament story. Perhaps it was one of the Apostle Paul’s passages in his letters. The funny thing is that good Christians who take the Bible seriously as God’s revelation to humanity can arrive at different understandings.

The different understandings of what the Bible means does not mean that one person is a “bad” Christian and one is “good.” In fact, there are some instances where both understandings are valid – they simply represent different perspectives; different lenses through which we see things.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing a blog series called “The Bible Does NOT Mean That!” The goal is not to tell you definitively what the Bible does or does not say. The goal is to talk about how we can look at the Bible with intentionality and understanding. Since it is God’s revelation to humanity it’s not supposed to be filled with secrets locked away to all but the elite. It’s designed to guide us ALL!

The problem is that many of us are simply never taught how to read it.

So here we are – Episode 1. The buzzwords for today are prescriptive and descriptive. These words cause a lot of fights between faithful Christians.

Simply put, a prescriptive interpretive lens looks at a passage and says, “This is the way things are SUPPOSED to be.” The story prescribes the behavior or life we’re supposed to live.

A descriptive interpretive lens looks at a passage and says, “This passage simply describes how things are then.” The story is not saying how things are always supposed to be.
Let’s take an example from the Bible, shall we? Look at Gideon.

In one of the most famous stories from Gideon’s life is that blasted fleece. You’ve heard it. God told Gideon to go defend Israel and Gideon says:

“Look, if you’re gonna do what you promised, I’ll put a wool fleece out overnight. If the fleece is wet with dew tomorrow morning but the ground is dry, I’ll know that you’ll keep your promise.”

SO GOD DOES IT! But Gideon says again:

“Look, this time I’ll put out the fleece and you make the fleece dry but the ground wet with dew tomorrow morning.”

SO GOD DOES IT!

A prescriptive reading of this passage might say:

When you’re going through troubled and puzzling times and you’re not sure what God is telling you to do, throw out a fleece and seek God’s direction.

A descriptive reading might say:

Gideon’s kind of a blockhead. God has made promises, spoken to Gideon through an angel, and Gideon still is fearful and doesn’t trust God to keep his promises. Gideon should have had faith to trust what God already told him. This passage doesn’t tell us to throw out fleeces before God.

See the difference?

One of the difficulties in understanding the Bible is that it takes discernment. We need to ask: is this story/passage simply describing something to me or is it trying to tell me how I need to do things?

When we can ask that question every time we approach the Bible we come a long way in getting down to a proper understanding of the meaning of the text.

Even still, there will be times when we disagree on which lens through which we ought to read a passage. In those cases, as always, I advocate love and grace. We can disagree and still love each other. After all, we serve the same Lord.

Until next time….

p.s. If you are interested in additional reading, check out “How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth” by Fee and Stuart.

– Related Posts:
The Bible Does NOT Mean That! – Episode 2