My attitude toward the Bible is a positive one. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and infallible, even though our human minds are fallible and therefore the Bible is subject to misinterpretation. I have studied the Bible before on my own, with the help of commentaries, with the guidance of wise men and women, and participated in many years of Precepts Bible studies which helped me to understand exegesis and hermeneutics. I was raised in very conservative churches where the focus was on understanding the Bible properly and ensuring that I had a high view of God and a low view of myself. This viewpoint did not help me to understand social justice concepts. What I have read in the Bible is much more about love and grace than what I saw from the actions of my fellow church-goers. Their practical mentality was much more of a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” attitude, than lending a helping hand to their neighbor. In this way, justice was served as if the lower classes deserved the lifestyle they were in.
But what if our neighbors do not have any “boots”? As Christ communed with those who were in difficult situations and were considered “less-than” in their culture, we should commune with all our neighbors. We should not have thousands of people in a church tossing money in a basket to support one missionary who is actually doing the work of communing, discipling, and loving those in need. I am thankful for the church I belong to now, since these attitudes are not prevalent, and the pastor preaches about what love toward our neighbors truly means.
It is important to learn how to interpret scripture because if we take it at face value, we are likely to misunderstand. Exegesis is “the careful, systematic study of the Scripture to discover the original, intended meaning,” (Fee & Stuart, 2014, p. 27). When we exegete properly, we understand what the original writer meant to convey to the original audience.
There are several questions we should ask of the text. We need to consider the historical context, which is “the geographical, topographical, and political factors that are relevant to the author’s setting,” (Fee & Stuart, 2014, p. 30). Literary context is the second consideration. The literary context means “first that words only have meanings in sentences, and second that biblical sentences for the most part have full and clear meaning only in relation to preceding and succeeding sentences,” (Fee & Stuart, 2014, p. 31). The third consideration of content has to do with the “meaning of words their grammatical relationships in sentences, and the choice of the original text where the manuscripts… differ from one another,” (Fee & Stuart, 2014, p. 32). Hermeneutics interpret the text according to its meaning for the “here and now” (Fee & Stuart, 2014, p. 33) rather than the historical meaning. Hermeneutics allow us to interpret the relevance to our lives as believers.
Textual criticism is “the science that attempts to discover the original texts of ancient documents,” (Fee & Stuart, 2014, p. 39). Some of the variables textual criticism deals with include the quality as well as the age of the copies, and the errors within the documents themselves that the copiers often make (Fee & Stuart, 2014).
Of the various problem areas posed by historical distance, the most crucial to address are the issues of vocabulary. Language changes rapidly, and the connotations attached to words can change the entire meaning of a sentence or even a parable. Much of the meaning can be lost or cause confusion when the original connotations are not clear or are not understood by a translator.
People were and are created in the image of God. Keller says, “the Bible teaches that the sacredness of God has in some ways been imparted to humanity, so that every human life is sacred, and every human being has dignity,” (Keller, 2013, p. 83). Human life has intrinsic value, because we were created by God and He breathed eternal souls into our bodies. Because of this, I believe that Christ-followers should fight for justice for the oppressed and marginalized in our society.