COMPELLING TRUTH  



Was Jesus wrong?

By Robin Schumacher





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Understanding the Bible as Literature

In a previous Christianpost article, Gungor described how he does not take the Bible literally, which is a position every skeptic takes on Scripture. However, I maintain that the proper interpretative position to hold is that of the literal-historical-grammatical method, which aims to discover the meaning of a particular passage as the original author would have intended and what the original hearers would have understood. This stance necessitates understanding two important things.

The first is a realization that the Bible is a collection of literature, and as such will contain different genres and employ various literary techniques. Certain books of the Bible will be historical and be of the narrative genre, while others will be biography (e.g. the gospels [3]), didactic teaching (e.g. Romans), poetry (e.g. Psalms), prophecy (e.g. Revelation), and some may be a mixture (e.g. Daniel). Recognizing which books reflect which genre is one of the keys to understanding them.

Further, literary methods such as hyperbole, metaphors, personifications, symbolism, and more will be found throughout each work, however their usage does not negate the use of the literal-historical-grammatical system of Biblical interpretation.

Take, for example, one of John's visions chronicled in Revelation (a book that belongs to the prophecy genre) 12:1-6. He describes a woman with a crown of twelve stars who gives birth to a male child, along with a red dragon who wants to kill the baby.

No reader of that passage thinks that a literal woman with such a crown or a real red dragon exists. It takes little effort to understand that the woman represents Israel, the Child is Christ, and the dragon is Satan.

But here's an important point: the symbols point to literal people/things that are real. They are not something like what is found in fairy tales.

The second thing to understand about the literal-historical-grammatical method of Biblical interpretation is that a technique oftentimes referred to as the analogy of Scripture is relied upon. This practice says that Scripture should be used to interpret Scripture and that obscure passages should be interpreted in light of clear passages and not vice versa.

When examining the book of Genesis and both Old and New Testament references to events like the Flood and persons such as Adam, Noah, and Jonah, you will find: (1) While symbolism may be employed at times, the overall genre of Genesis is that of historical narrative; [4] (2) The events and people spoken about are always done so in a manner that conveys they actually occurred/existed.

On the latter point, if McHargue and Gungor are correct that either Jesus lied or was wrong about such people as Noah and Adam being fictitious, then so was Paul (Acts 17:26), Luke (Luke 3:38), Peter (1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5), and the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 11:7).

If one chooses to embrace that conclusion, the troubling question is: if they were wrong about those things, what other errors are they passing along to us? Or, as Jesus put it: "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" (John 3:12).

The Heart of the Problem

The errors made by McHargue and Gungor do not seem to be put forward in a deliberately malicious way, however they do underscore a very real problem in the Church today: believers are woefully uneducated in systematic theology. [5]
McHargue and Gungor's errors do not show malice, but an ignorance of systematic theology.tweet
Theology proper (the study of God), Christology, Soteriology (the study of salvation), Hermeneutics (the science of Biblical interpretation), and other related disciplines of the Christian faith are foreign words to Christians today and are not taught in churches, with the end result being a faith in many that is based more on emotion and preference rather than on fact.

Until Church leaders take doctrinal education seriously, and until mature believers assist and correct other believers who don't have their facts straight (much in the way Priscilla and Aquila did Apollos; see Acts 18:26), we will continue to have confused teaching and claims being made by Christians that only undermines Christianity's foundations and undercuts the Bible's credibility.



[1] Leonardo Blair; "Christian Musician Says Jesus Could Have Been Wrong About Creation Story or Lied About It; Calls Genesis 1 a 'Poem'"; Christian Post.
[2] For a general discussion of Christ's two natures, see R. C. Sproul's work, Discovering the God Who Is: His Character and Being. His Power and Personality, chapter six.
[3] For a thorough defense of the gospels being ancient biography, see Burridge's work, What Are the Gospels?
[4] For further discussion of Genesis being narrative and not myth, see Dr. Allen Ross's work Creation and Blessing, chapter 3, which discusses the nature of Genesis. Note also that reading Genesis as historical narrative does not automatically equate to the acceptance of a 6,000 year old earth and universe.
[5] For more on this topic, see my post here.




Image: Michael Gungor



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Published 9-17-14