Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Elevator Hermeneutics—A Rant

Ginny and I spent a weary, weary Friday hanging around various doctors’ offices for routine but, they say, necessary stuff. Were we not healthy to begin with, the ghastly waiting rooms would have done us in for sure.

Part of the time we spent enduring in the waiting rooms, we talked about a tv program we’d watched the other night on PBS about sources of the Bible.

Whoever put the program together cheated.

Either they were misinformed, or they deliberately cheated.

If they had billed their program as “Why we believe the Bible is a crock” I’d have no problem with their right to free speech; but they didn’t. They promoted their program as an impartial examination of how the Bible came to be written, and in that, they cheated.

That was really sad because it was unnecessary. Their program could have been just as effective had they not misconstrued facts, distorted ideas, and founded their ideas on preconceptions.

For instance, they began with the premises that in ancient times the people of Israel came up with the unique idea that there is only one God. The tv producers treated this as a novelty. With beautiful photography they showed a variety of idols proving that ancient people honored many gods, then the announcer said that the Jews came up with the idea that there should be only one God, a purely human fabrication.

The preconception presented is that there is no god at all except in the human mind and that thinking of one god instead of many gods represents some improvement or advancement in human thinking.

How so?

If there is no God to begin with, then how is thinking of one god any improvement over thinking of 436 of them?

The tv producers expressed surprise that archaeologists have uncovered idols in peoples’ homes in Israel; had they read the very first book in the Bible they would have seen that Rachel, Jacob’s wife, stole idols from her father’s house to take home with her.

When her dad came looking for his household idols, she hid them under a camel saddle and sat on it. When he came to search the tent, she claimed to be menstruating so he would not check under the camel saddle.

Rachel, a mother in Israel, knew the one true God, but she hedged her bets.

All through the Old Testament the prophets condemn idolatry as the people mixed it with belief in the one true God.

Why should the tv present this fact as a new startling discovery?

It’s old hat.

Another thing that stuck in my craw—it’s the same thing actually—is that they presented Wellhausen’s documentary hypothesis as a startling new discovery!

Hadn’t they done any research?

Wellhausen first published his theory of destructive criticism in 1878!

Not last week.

In 1878!

How is this “new” (to tv) discovery supposed to shake biblical scholarship to its foundation?

Back a 120 years ago, German scholar Julius Wellhausen noticed that sometimes the writer of the first five books of the Bible used a Hebrew word for God beginning with the letter “J” as in Jehovah. Other times the writer used a Hebrew word for God beginning with the letter “E” as in Elohim .

Wellhausen figured that no writer would ever use two different names for the same God, therefore there must have been at least two different writers whose work got combined to make the Bible text.


Using that strategy, I look back over the pages of my own diary and see that in referring to the Godhead, sometimes I say “Jesus”; other times I say “Lord Jesus”; other times, I say, “Christ the Lord”.

Obviously I did not write this diary—three different guys did.

And they published it under my name… They owe me royalties.

Anyhow, back to the tv program, the section on radiocarbon dating was also skewed. And the section about Ashtaroth idols (female fertility symbols) concluded that the one God, who does not really exist, had a wife, who does not really exist either.

Perhaps I do the tv program an injustice because I did fall asleep part way through the program, but I think the program would make great fare for any hospital waiting room.

There is another way to approach Bible hermeneutics, that’s what they call the science of interpretation.

If the plain sense of Scripture makes sense, that is the sense.

For instance if the text says, “Jesus sat down in the boat” that means that there was this boat and Jesus sat down in it.

Big mystery.

But scholars have to make reputations or they don’t get awarded grants.

Of course there are sections of Scripture that we don’t understand.

Skip ‘em.

Go on to something you do understand.

If “Thou shalt not steal” is too hard, then move on to “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. I keep on going down the list of the Ten Commandments till I hit on one that fits. A section of Scripture that rings a bell.

Therefore, I’m proud to announce that never once in my whole life have I ever coveted my neighbor’s ox.

What the hell would I do with an ox?

See why I need a Savior?

Why we all do?

What’s so hard to understand about that?

I think it was Mark Twain who said, “It’s not the parts of the Bible that I don’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand all too well”.

Well, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

And the love of God is shown towards us in that while we sere still sinners, Christ died for us.

When it comes to biblical hermeneutics, a sign from an elevator helps me remember how to interpret what I read in God’s holy word:

One further note about biblical archaeology—remember how two weeks ago (on October 30th in my blog archives) I wrote about all those fascinating King Herods?

Well, last Wednesday (November 19th), Reuters News Service reported that Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer of Jerusalem's Hebrew University has uncovered the palace and the tomb of Herod The Great. You’ll find the Reuters’ report at http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSTRE4AI7S920081119

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 8:15 AM


At 12:27 PM, Blogger along the way said...

Just to let you knows Donald has gotten me back on line! I really enjoyed your anniversary week photos. I did n0ot watch this tv show. I have seen others like it and decided to give this one a pass. Your opining was much better!


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