I will start by saying I have never been overly interested in a deep study of the Bible. Â Free Jinger has given me a new perspective on this, as I have watched members go toe to toe with various fundies proof text for proof text. Â For those that don't know what a "proof text" is:
Proof texting is the method by which a person appeals to a biblical text to prove or justify a theological position without regard for the context of the passage they are citing.
It is pretty amazing to watch some of our members who are either self-described non-Christians or considered non-Christian/the "wrong kind" of Christian know more about the Bible than people who supposedly live their lives by the inerrant word of God . Â The ability these members have has intrigued me for some time and I have considered starting some threads before, but have never gotten around to it.
Recently, our good friends Ken and Lori Alexander, at Always LearningÂ posted that the Bible was "black and white." Â This was just the push I needed to get me started on the FJ Bible Study series because it made me think "whose definition of black and white?" Â Â Because I tend to be verbose, we are going to start with one verse at a time for now. Â If we get some guest posters that can put a thought on paper without using ALL. THE. WORDS. then we might do more than one at a time in the future
Since I am not a Bible scholar and don't think I know everything just because I exist, I went to the library and checked out several different study bibles and a guide on how to study the bible. Â I also read various webpages that had different translations of the Bible. Â I know the fundies stick with KJV, but I like to doÂ well-rounded research so I looked at a few different ones.
For this post, I mainly used the MacArthur Study Bible. Â Lest we think Mr. MacArthur is some biblical poser, he says this in the personal notes:
I have always been committed to the scriptures as inspired, inerrant, infallible, sufficient and eternal.
He is no slouch when it comes to reading the Bible either, Â His suggested method for basic bible study is to read the Old Testament at least once per year. Â For the New Testament, you should pick one book and read it every day for 30 days. Â He suggests dividing the longer books into sections and reading each section every day for 30 days. Â For example, John has 21 chapters, so you could break it up into 3 sections of 7 chapters. Â In a mere 90 days, you will have mastered the Gospel of John. Â Using this method of bible study, you will read the entireÂ New Testament in less than 3 years!
Mr. MacArthur also lists 3 errors to avoid when studying the bible:
1. Do not draw any conclusions at the price of proper interpretation. Â That is do not make the Bible say what you want it to say, but rather let it say what God intended when He wrote it.
This is obviously great advice and in my experience and opinion an error we tend to see a lot. Â How many times have we mentioned that God seems to feel the same way that the person quoting him feels and not the other way around.
2. Avoid superficial interpretation. Â You have heard people say, "to me, this passage means," or "I feel it is saying..." Â The first step in interpreting the Bible is to recognize the four gaps we have to bridge: language, culture, geography and history.
I'm not sure we see the first part of this too much, but failure to recognize the 4 gaps that need to be bridged? Â That happens. Â A lot! Â Â There was a whole section on the gaps, which was interesting and I'm going to do a separate post on them at some point, since I don't want this post to be another novel.
3. Do not spirituallize the passage. Â Interpret and understand the passage in its normal, literal, historical, grammatical sense, just like you would understand any other piece of literature you were reading today.
This is another error we see a lot, in my opinion. Â A distinct failure to read the passages in a normal way, without reading a bunch more into it and failure to take historical meanings into context. Â Verses with the "rod" anyone?
So with these things in mind, we will see what Mr. MacArthur has to say about fundie favorite Ephesians 5:21:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ
(I do want to note that some versions of the Bible use the word fear and not reverence)
Interestingly, according to Mr. MacArthur, this passage is not even specifically about married couple, but about how Christians are to treat each other . Â Marriage specifics start at Ephesians 5:22.
I'm interested to hear (read) what others have to say about this given how this verse is generally treated. Â This post will be open for comments for 5 days and the forum thread will stay open after that. Â Next up in the FJ Bible Study will be Ephesians 5:22 and maybe a bit more since there won't be so much intro information.