“Literal Interpretation” is still “Pick and Choose”

16 Jun

The pastor of the Stedfast Baptist Church got a lot of press recently by saying the government should execute all gay people. This is based on a literal interpretation of the Bible… but is it? The answer is yes AND no.

First off, by giving this pastor any press, you have a) not discouraged him and b) gained him followers. From their Facebook page, they look like they may have fifty families, tops, attending this Fort Worth, Texas church. No one knew who the hell (pun intended) this guy was before Twitter blew up.

Second, his interpretation of the Bible is based on the King James Version. “Version” = interpretation, in this case “literally” from ancient Hebrew and Greek. This pastor doesn’t expect his followers to read the original languages, but the interpretation that is closest (in his opinion) to God’s will to His people.

Okay, let’s just take that at face value. So in that case, he’s right – Leviticus 18:22 calls homosexuality an abdomination. But verse 6 says not to uncover the nakedness of your family; so no swimming pool? Or next chapter, 19:19, no clothes made of two different materials… Where do you find all wool shirts? Do you wear them in a humid Texas summer? And you better not have any tattoos.

Also, better say goodbye to eating pork or shellfish. Or putting cheese on ANYTHING. Oh, but wait, there’s a line in Acts 10:15 that says, “What God has made clean, let no man call unclean.” Okay, that gets you off the hook for eating kosher, but then you have to ask yourself… Did God make a mistake in the Old Testament? Why would He say to do one thing and then change his mind a thousand years later? Isn’t Christ the same “yesterday, today, and forever?”

A journalist by the name of AJ Jacobs captured this problem best in the book “The Year of Living Biblically.” For a year, he tried a strict interpretation of the Bible. He never cut his beard, wore an all wool robe (with fringes), never ate pork, and at one point, got to “stone” an infidel (with pebbles and with their permission).

As you can imagine, that’s really hard, and completely incompatible with modern American life. So if you choose NOT to live like a Hasidic Jew, you’re picking and choosing what to follow in the Bible. Now it’s perfectly fair to say this is the “correct” or “best” interpretation, but it is by no means “strict.”

But why should I make the argument when others have done it better? Martin Sheen? Take it away…

3 Responses to ““Literal Interpretation” is still “Pick and Choose””

  1. Silk Cords June 17, 2022 at 6:14 am #

    What most “good Christians” overlook or deny also is that the Bible has been reinterpreted and retranslated so many times it not even funny. Even when they acknowledge it, they’ll claim to go back to the “original” Greek, lol. Uhm, yeah… Try Hebrew. Hebrew itself (like many other languages) is tricky to translate and quite nuanced as well (which is how the Pharisees came about) . That leads to misinterpretation at times. The verse about “suffer not a witch to live” can more properly be translated suffer not a whore to live. Harsh by today’s standards, but in ancient times, STDs could decimate villages.

    Throw in the Jewish tradition of teaching in metaphor (which did carry over to early Christianity) and you’ve complicated things even further.

    There’s also the argument against that pastor that Jesus said he came to fulfill the law and the one great commandment now was “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

    • albigensia June 17, 2022 at 8:35 am #

      I think you got my argument down. The Torah lists out several animal sacrifices; Hebrews 10 wipes out Christians need to make animal sacrifice. So… are we going with the revised law? What about Philemon, which condones slavery, even though you’re supposed to set your slave free after seven years. (Exodus 21)

      If you “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” (Matthew 22) and “Caesar” says slavery is outlawed, and being queer isn’t a death penalty, then the government SHOULD NOT put gay folks to death. In fact, you SHOULD be murdered if you kill another person, gay or not.

      So like I said, it’s not “literal,” it’s “pick and choose.” 🙂

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  1. Taking Civil Religion Too Far | Albigensia Press - June 28, 2022

    […] the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17) I wrote a whole thing about granting to “Caesar what is Caesar’s,” (Mark 12:17) but since the LDS […]

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