Rewriting the Bible

I read an interesting post from June 26th on Irene Q’s blog the other day that really got me thinking and feeling. Since then I have really been dwelling how right or wrong it is to re-interpret the Bible in story form. I don’t see a person can re-interpret the Bible and make it better. Or how they can re-interpret the Good Book without making assumptions. Alot of Irene’s readers were really excited about her interpretation. One, a pastor even encouraged her to continue her saga. I am not going to pick apart her post here (I already did that on her blog, and I don’t think it needs to be done again), but I am really shocked at how nobody sees where I am coming from with this. It hurts me to read that because, I see it as borderline blasphemy. I believe with all my heart that my God has feelings, but not weaknesses…such as depression and uncertainty, and remorse. I know that God does not delight in punishing His people, but I can’t see how He could feel remorse for doing so. God never does wrong. And…the wages of sin…is death. The whole reason I am dragging up Irene’s post again, is to hear what my friends have to say on this matter. Am I (other than my husband and Jerry) the only one who sees this kind of interpretation as wrong? Many of you who read this blog are what I believe to be devout Christian people, and I would REALLY love to hear what you have to say about this. I may be wrong in my opinions, but I REALLY don’t believe I am.

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  1. I concur with you, Melissa. Personally, I believe that doctrine shapes our view of God, and if that goes astray, our notion of God, how He relates to us, and how we pray to Him, is affected. I’m thankful that my God, the God, is greater than anything I can imagine or perceive.

  2. I personally don’t agree that it is possible for one to re-write the Bible and make it better. To even think such a thing is arrogant and wrong.

    However, I do believe that the Bible lends itself to interpretation in certain places and needs to be interpreted in others. I understand that even that statement will garner some interesting replies as I know there are a lot of people that disagree with me. If anyone wishes me to expand on that, I will do so.

  3. The Bible definitely needs to be interepreted at times. Sometimes I think God designed it that way just so that we would have to study and dwell on Him before certain points become clear to us. I think that is how we grow by reading His Word.

    Some attempts and interpreting can go too far though when the individual begins to make assumptions.

    And Neal, I TOO am thankful that our God is greater than our puny minds can fathom.

  4. I actually read a book that purported to be “the bible as a novel”… really it was just excerpts from, but the guy really tried hard. I don’t know why I read it, perhaps some sort of morbid curiosity. The point is, not that it was terrible, but… well, ok, it was pretty terrible. The bible is already an amazing story, and some of the translations (and near-translations, if you want to be a stickler) are ‘readable’ enough to be enjoyable at that “I want to read a novel” level, if not the “I want to get to know the creator” level.

    I don’t think that God’s going to drop the hammer on those that write and read such things… being fascinated with the word of God isn’t a bad thing. On the other hand, I can imagine he’s a little dissapointed that we feel the need to rewrite his word to make it more ‘entertaining’. Of course, if you follow that to its conclusion, we all need to take some language classes…

  5. Mikey: Interpretation is unavoidable. The question is, is the interpretation correct.

    To others: I think Irene’s goal while laudable was missed by a mile. It makes God out to be well… not God. It makes God a mistake riddled diety that stumbles along with His own Creation. The laudable goal is the one that has been done by many “Biblical Theologians.” Others, take Geerhardus Vos as an example, have tried to tell the story of Scripture in a unified manner so that it’s culmination with Jesus makes sense. Irene’s efforts fail because they ignore vast portions of Scripture.

    Her interpretation of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, alone, shows how shallow her understanding of Scripture is. Her understanind of the Old Testament is very poor.

    And two thousand years later, only a handful of peopel have gotten the message. I guess if you can hold a billion in a handful…

  6. I agree with Jon. Anytime you translate something from its original language and culture, you make assumptions and add your own biases and interpretations to it. I like the NASB because it is very literal and while it sometimes doesn’t make sense, I’m okay with that because I realize I’m not an ancient Semite. Grr, I’m digressing as usual. Sorry.

    Melissa, you are right. I didn’t read Irene’s post but I know that God is not a human. We are made in His image, not vice-versa.

  7. We are coming from totally different directions, Melissa.

    1. I never said I was re-interpreting the Bible, or trying to “make it better”.

    2. I was also not trying to re-write His Word to make it “more entertaining”.

    3. I agree that God is greater than our puny minds can fathom.

    4. As the story was never intended to be a document for people to base their faith on, I glossed over many things – such as the OT’s sacrificial system.

    5. I used many words very loosely because I was aiming for overall effect, not for detailed accuracy. (this is probably where I went wrong)

    6. The main thing I wanted to convey was how God feels towards us and how He has always been the one to reach out to us, calling us into a relationship with Him.

    That’s all…

  8. I would like to remind everyone involved (especially friends I know from real life, I know you guys can be harsh! 🙂 to please keep this conversation as civil and loving as possible, if it turns into an ongoing discussion of any sort. Second commandment, or something. I’ve seen some flame-fests in blogdom, and I don’t want this thread turning into one. (I’m certainly not saying anything is wrong up to this point. Just please keep it that way. I’ve no doubt that Irene is a sister. Please treat her like one.)

    That being said, I’m going to wait till morning (at least) to respond with more. I’m quite tired, and need sleep. Good night all.

  9. Creating controversies

    I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that my own story would set off a controversy. I see it as borderline blasphemy. – from a post at Bloggenspiel She mostly feels that my story makes God too “human” or “ordinary”….

  10. I’ll respond to Irene statements in order and in a CIVIL manner…

    1) Never saying your goal is to re-interpret the Bible and actually re-intrepeting it are two different things. You have offered a reiterpretation that is radically different than any orthodox view of God and biblical history

    2) Nobody accused you of doing anything “entertaining”. The closest I have read is that some people got “excited” at your story.

    3) Good. The stop guessing what God might be privately thinking. If He thinks it privately, then we have no access to it.

    4) But stories (true stories, albeit) are precisely what we place our faith on. Your retelling of the story either strengthens or weakens the real story. The point is your story drastically reduces the picture of God that Scripture tells. By glossing over (I would argue ignoring) details the picture you draw is woefully inadequate and thus some accuse you of blasphemy. I sympathize with such charges and find them wholly on the mark.

    5) You used the word “probably” too loosely.

    6) There are many ways to accomplish this that don’t make God appear to be a fool in His dealing with His creation. It’s as if the god you portray suddenly invented the idea of Christ. Or that history has no real purpose and just kind of meanders along. I could not tell by reading your story that the notion of redemption through Christ started with an explicit promise given in Gen 3.

  11. I’ve been finding variations on this conversation popping up all over the Christian blogosphere.

    Its an interesting discussion. Interesting for me, as a pastor/minister/priest, because I believe that each time any of us preaches we do what Irene did – we create “commentary” on scripture. In fact, each time one reads scripture, one does that. Eact time we read scripture, we filter it through the experiences that shape us. An example: if I were a man living on the streets of Toronto, I would hear the words of the beatitudes quite differently than one who has a home and food.

    Hopefully, our commentary – our filters – our visulaizations are guided by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

    I know that’s my prayer every time I open my mouth (or sit at my keyboard).

    Blessings and peace – Richard

  12. I hate to harp on it. But I feel the compulsive need to respond to Richard…

    Most of us have NO problem with interpretation. In fact, I explicitly said that it was unavoidable. We have a problem when we disagree with the interpretation. This pits “our” interpretation against “theirs” and begs the question, “whose is the correct one?” And the fact is, all of the posters here (minus Irene) seem to think that Irene is in grave danger in her interpretation of Scripture.

  13. Well said, Jonathan. That is the difficulty with interpretation.

    Sadly, in many of our cultures we label something as “right” or “wrong”, without recognizing that *both* can be contained within. While many of the posters here believe that Irene’s interpretation was incorrect, blasphemous even, there are a number individuals who have read her words and found the presence of the Holy Spirit in them.

    Her description of God as being “lonely” fits in with my understanding of human beings being created both in the image of God – and as relational creatures.

    Positing God in such a fashion helped me to explore some of my own feelings of relationship (or non-relationship) with God. This is one example of how the story has been a God given gift to me.

    Truth comes in lots of different forms. Perhaps something one of you writes will cause me to go away thinking and saying, “Hey, God? Talk to me about this… I’m not getting it.”

    I would offer another poem/creative work to look at (and comment upon, of course). I wrote it after reading Irene’s work and the work of a couple of others:

    I appreciate the chance you’ve given me to do some thinking and writing about this…

    Blessings and peace – Richard

  14. I have no trouble believing Irene had only the purist of intentions when writing her account. It’s clear that she’s trying to cut through all of the trappings of religion to get to the guts of something that a “non-religious” person could respond to.

    However, it is said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

    I do come out of the story with the nice feeling that God loves me and wants me to love Him. So far so good.

    Unfortunately, you end up with a God who’s something like the father played by Jim Carrey in Liar Liar. He wants to be a good father, and he really wants his son to love him, but he keeps screwing it up.

    That said, the God that I worship has never screwed anything up. He has this Plan, you see. We, the human race, all of creation, are part of the Plan. We weren’t some weird purposeless whim that God had one day that turned into some major project that requires all this maintanence that He wasn’t expecting when it went outside the bounds of His control.

    This article seems to have taken as its premise the axiom God’s nature is a mystery to man only reversed.

    I appreciate Irene’s sentiment, but what I think everyone’s getting at is – in her words – “My God is not like that!“.

  15. My 1.3 cents:

    Interpretation per se is not wrong and, in fact, necessary. However, Irene’s interpretation is waaaaaay way way way way off base.

    a. We don’t know why God created the world, actually. As God is Trinity in Unity and Unity and Trinity, God has relationship within Himself. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, I don’t really comprehend the Holy Spirit’s role in there to well, but He loves both as well. So he certainly didn’t need to create us in order to have love. God lacks nothing.

    b. God is not an “ordinary person” on the inside. In the Incarnation, God became an “ordinary person,” so you can say Jesus is a person like you and me, but not the entire Trinity.

    c. Your interpretation of God’s action at the Fall is completely wrong. Jesus Christ is not God’s last-ditch attempt, but God’s fundamental response to original sin. The Crucifixion was not an unfortunate event that just so happened to have positive ramifications, but was Christ’s mission.

    d. God is not my girlfriend. I do not “fall in love” with God. After all, isn’t “falling in love” the superficial, flighty kind of thing that we warn people shouldn’t be the basis of relationships and marriages?

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