Sunday, September 11, 2011


As I mentioned yesterday, today we started our Bible class. After I talked about what I posted yesterday, I posed this light, easy question:

Is a literal reading of the first chapter of Genesis necessary to our faith?

I think the discussion that followed was a good start for the first class. Our church has people from a wide range of backgrounds. There are people who believe that the 6 days of creation were literal. There are people who believe that evolution was God's mechanism for creating man. I think it's going to be an interesing study.

A few things that I didn't realize - the idea that the first chapter of Genesis may not be literal isn't a new idea.

Origen, the church father, scholar, and theologian who was born about 150 years after Jesus died, wrote:
Now who is there, pray, possessed of understanding, that will regard the statement as appropriate, that the first day, and the second, and the third, in which also both evening and morning are mentioned, existed without sun, and moon, and stars— the first day even without a sky? And who is found so ignorant as to suppose that God, as if He had been a husbandman, planted trees in paradise, in Eden towards the east, and a tree of life in it, i.e., a visible and palpable tree of wood, so that anyone eating of it with bodily teeth should obtain life, and, eating again of another tree, should come to the knowledge of good and evil? No one, I think, can doubt that the statement that God walked in the afternoon in paradise, and that Adam lay hid under a tree, is related figuratively in Scripture, that some mystical meaning may be indicated by it. (On First Principles, Book IV)
Many medieval rabbis (and Torah scholars) considered the creation story to be symbolic rather than literal. From The Jewish Virtual Library:
Maimonides, one of the great rabbis of the Middle Ages, wrote that if science and Torah were misaligned, it was either because science was not understood or the Torah was misinterpreted. Maimonides argued that if science proved a point, then the finding should be accepted and scripture should be interpreted accordingly.
This can be found in the The Guide to the Perplexed written by Maimonides. See also the Maimonides entry in the Stanford Philosophical Encyclopedia.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Tomorrow morning I'm going to start teaching a Bible class. I'm stepping into this with a bit of trepidation. I'm not qualified. And if I'm on a journey of faith, who am it to be teaching others about God's will?

So, maybe it'll be a chance for a number of us to start a discussion. To really look into what God says, and think critically about it. I'm nervous, but I'm praying I'm moving in the right direction.

I'm going to open tomorrow with my vision:

I want this to be a collaborative Bible study. That means that I want us all to be able to contribute to the discussion. I don't believe I'm qualified to be teaching - to impart my knowledge of God and God's word to you. We all have a lot to learn, and we all need to be better students of the Bible.

So, I'll lead the discussion. I'll tend to read and research, and guide the discussion. And keep us on track when we need to be focused. But, if we want to get off-track, and follow where the Spirit leads us, that's fine, too. I don't want to be all over the place, but if, when we're taking a specific path, you find that you've got something you want to understand, research, or discuss, bring it up. Maybe that can be our next discussion.

I'm hoping we can use this to jump-start some Bible study in our own lives. In addition to coming here and discussing these things, we all need to be able to go back and do our own reading and research. If I had a Ph.D. in New Testament Theology, maybe I'd be qualified to share the depths of my knowledge with you, but as it is, I think we all need to be studying and teaching each other. I hope that's ok.

So, we're going to use the Bible as our primary source. But - we all know that we all read the Bible a little differently. The greatest Bible scholars have read the Bible differently. And what we're working with here is a a translation of a copy of of a copy. So I think we need to be able to disagree, and have discussion, and read other sources.

If you've read something that contributes to the discussion we're having. - in a book, or a blog, or a Facebook status - feel free to bring it. I think that reading outside sources is important and necessary. Regardless if we disagree with them or not. They may be more important if we disagree with them - that will make us study harder and dig deeper into God's Word. And God's Word says that teaching is a spiritual gift - and I don't see anything that says that teachers can't be writers, bloggers, or friends on Facebook. Always keeping in mind what Paul said to the church at Thessalonica: "Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good."

St. Augustine (in the 5th Century) wrote something that I really like:

"In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture."


Back from the dead? I need to stretch some of my writing muscles. It's been too long. I'm back, as the creepy girl from Poltergeist might say.