Yesterday @ 11:55 PM post located here
It has been my observation that many (though by no means all) of the atheists on this forum insist that the Bible means what it says, based on a literal reading of the text with the mindset of a 21st century Western reader (ie, they are "fundaliteralists"). I created this thread specifically with Jim Eisele in mind, after his efforts (or lack thereof
) at debate in the “Jesus' false apocalyptic prophecy” for Jim Eisele
) - however, there will undoubtedly be others here who might benefit from this thread.
In the interest of fairness, I will also note that many Christians suffer from this same problem - unfortunately, many of the more fundamental denominations seem to promote the view that the Bible should be read in this literal manner. This thread will apply to them as well. Incidentally, it has been my anecdotal experience on this forum and elsewhere on the web that these fundamental denominations produce more than their fair share of ex-Christians-turned-atheists - and that these atheists are generally of the same "fundaliteralist" persausion as the denomination they spawned from. Is this high percentage of representation among atheists coincidence...?
People in this "fundaliteralist" category insist on reading the Bible exactly as it is written, and interpreting it as a 21st century reader would interpret it. Any attempt to understand the text by taking into account information about the societal background of the author and intended audience is dismissed as "playing games to distort the plain meaning of the text".
Anyway, if you fall into any of the above categories, here is a homework assignment for you: Consider the meaning of the following passages:
1. "Gay people are entitled to a $500 government rebate."
a) if it was written in the year 2000?
b) if it was written in the year 1900?
2. "Naked bums should not expose themselves in public."
a) if it was written in the US?
b) if it was written in the UK or Australia or New Zealand?
Now for the answers (no peeking!
1.a) "Homosexuals are entitled to a $500 government rebate."
b) "Happy people are entitled to a $500 government rebate."
2.a) "Naked homeless people should not expose themselves in public."
b) "Naked backsides should not expose themselves in public."
Here we have two examples of passages in which the meaning changes, depending on the time they were written (case 1) or the place they were written (case 2). Failure to take this information into account will result in misinterpreting the text.
These are just two factors (time and geography) that can affect interpretation. There are many others that need to be taken into account (eg subtle differences in meaning between source language and translated language, if they aren't the same language). Taking these factors into account is not
"distorting the meaning" of the text - in fact, it is necessary
in order to obtain the true meaning of any
text (as the above examples illustrate). Apologists are not giving the Bible special treatment when they take societal context into account - they are merely giving the Bible a fair
treatment, in order to understand its true meaning.