How do you perceive the Bible?

(also originally written some months ago)
Warning: Potentially untheological and possibly heretical thoughts to follow.


I don’t think what I am about to share with you will be heretical in any way, but just so that I feel at ease to speak freely I figured I should start with that disclaimer. I should also say that most of what I am about to share with you is not my theological foundation that I would bank on and argue for, it’s just some of the thoughts that have come to mind over the years. If you do not agree with what I share then please discuss, do not argue with me.

When I started to form my beliefs (heavily influenced by my involvement in a church youth group in high school), I was from the beginning a strong believer in the inerrancy of scripture (“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”). If you doubt or call into question the reliability of the Bible then you could call into question the things recorded in the Bible, and then we’d have all kinds of problems. There is plenty of good arguments and evidence to put forth here, but I won’t bother you with that, if your interested you can find plenty elsewhere.

It wasn’t till later, after having taken Greek (more vested interest in believing in inerrancy), and spent a bit of time in some Bible classes, that I began to have some questions. Why all the male-centered, male-dominance of Scripture if it was God inspired? Why these letters and not others from the Early Church? And primarily, why so much time debating, expounding, and extrapolating on every dot and letter? I mean there is a lot of things in there that are pretty straight forward and clear.

First, the male-dominance of the Scriptures has come to bother me. It wasn’t always this way, I being a male did not have a difficult time seeing the Scriptures as meaningful and personal, but I have come to realize my sisters in Christ do not always have the same comfort.

How do you reconcile what you can see as inherent injustice of a patriarchal society with a book of “God Breathed” scripture? I’m not exactly sure.

What I’ve come to settle on, more then argue for or against, or spend time reading long theological academic journals, is that there are a number of things in the scripture that are clear as day to me. Jesus was real and the Sermon on the Mount is one of the most revolutionary texts I’ve ever encountered. I’m compelled to follow this leader. I could and probably will spend my whole life trying to put into practice the teachings of Christ in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, and I still won’t quite know how I perceive the Bible as a whole.

10 thoughts on “How do you perceive the Bible?”

  1. Ariah, those are all good questions. The “male dominated” stuff does not bother me that much because I understand it was all taking place in a certain cultural context, so that helps me understand “why” it is the way it is. The New Testament however puts women into a new light, with leadership roles and positions of authority, so we can learn from that as well.

    Also, I think your questions are natural and should not be viewed as “heretical” – we all have those doubts and questions, and as far as I am concerned, those who do not have them are simply just lying.

    1. The Bible is God's Holy Word, no matter what one's opinion is. The word " he" or the word "man" in the Bible does not bother me a bit. I know that God sent His Son Jesus for all of us. God calls men, women and children into His service and family. I do not question God's Word. Some things I may not understand, so I pray and ask Him for wisdom. Sometimes I ask Him why on some things, but I yield to His judgment because I know He knows best. I have experienced His love , having yielded my life to Him when I was three years old. I have been more fortunate than most because I was taught His Love from before I was born. I wish everyone could experience what I have experienced. God bless you. Juanita

      1. Juanita,
        Thanks for the comment, you obviously have some set opinions on the topic, but I appreciate you chiming in nonetheless.
        Curious what your take on this is (from the above post):
        "How do you reconcile what you can see as inherent injustice of a patriarchal society with a book of “God Breathed” scripture?"

  2. The term “patriarchal” has a negative connotation – it conjures up images of women being relegated to only menial positions at least, or being used and abused at worst.

    I would challenge your notion that what the Bible depicts as the correct and good relative positions of men and women is correctly deemed “patriarchal” in the negative sense I described above. Where does the Bible say that only men are good, or useful, or worthy? Where does it say that women should be beaten or used only for sex, etc.? Where does the Bible say that women are only good for cooking and cleaning and childrearing. Any command that I recall in regard to parenting is directed to parents, not to mothers or fathers – parents, together. Certainly there is no place that says, “women, you’d better have dinner ready for your husband on time, or else!” There are both men and women who do good and do evil, and who lead well or lead poorly in the Bible.

    The Bible sets out rules for the relationships between men and women, and rules for who should lead in the church. It does say that women should submit to their husbands, and that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. This is not license for men to use and abuse women, because the way Christ loved the church was to guard it, care for it, and ultimately die for it. Jesus does not abuse the church.

    The bad “patriarchalism” that we see and object to in the world is not biblically correct – rather it is either an invention of our own, or a perversion of what the Bible teaches.

    So, to put it short and sweet – don’t put “patriarchalism” in its bad manifestations off on the Bible, and then proceed to call in to question the rest of what it teaches on other topics based on that. You should not do that any more than you should put the blame the Wright Brothers for the fact that planes that they laid the groundwork for in their work later flew in to the Twin Towers.

  3. “Where does the Bible say that only men are good, or useful, or worthy? Where does it say that women should be beaten or used only for sex, etc.? Where does the Bible say that women are only good for cooking and cleaning and childrearing.”

    Hmm…where does it say that women should be treated in such ways? The Bible seems to be silent on every single thing you mentioned – the problem is not with the Bible…the problem is with the mistaken interpretations and with what folks got out of reading the Bible.

  4. Virgil – Yes, that is what i said – the bible does not denigrate women that way – i think you misread my post, or were you responding to Ariah?

  5. @Virgil: I appreciate the encouragement. Like I said I felt the need to say that preface so I could just write my mind. It didn’t come off to off the wall anyways so I think it’s okay.

    @pk: I agree with a lot of what you say. I think a lot of the negative things we see in Scripture have been people distorting what God really intended.
    However, like I said, my insight has come mostly from recognizing and attempting to listen to my sister’s in the faith, who have expressed a struggle with such a male-centered, male-dominated, and often times male abused text as the Word of God.

  6. “Where does the Bible say that only men are good, or useful, or worthy? Where does it say that women should be beaten or used only for sex, etc.? Where does the Bible say that women are only good for cooking and cleaning and childrearing.”

    Being a woman, I felt like I could respond to this a bit more clearly? I am not sure, but I will try.

    I feel that even where the Bible doesn’t directly say any of these things, it does not include details about the experiences of the women in many of its stories the same way it includes the details of the males’ perspectives. I feel that, as a woman, there are so many scriptures that talk to “brothers,” “man,” “men,” etc. and not enough emphasis put on the interpretation of these terms if they were really to mean all people. Does that make sense? Why not say, “brother and sisters,” or “people,” etc.? I agree with Ariah and Virgil that there are many things in the scriptures that have been interpreted in a way that is not exactly equal to all people.

    I think that I agree with you, pk, in that I feel this is not the true nature of GOD…and I didn’t interpret what Ariah wrote as writing off the rest of scripture based upon these interpretation issues. I do, however, believe that it is a step in the right direction that Ariah (a male) is coming to consider and recognize some of the ways in which the scriptures have been interpreted in the past which may need to be more carefully critiqued in terms of original language and cultural meanings.

    I hope that this makes a bit more sense. As a woman I truly long to know more details of the experiences of women who were following after GOD and to hear their tone and voice in scripture, and sometimes I am disappointed that there is some silence here. As a case-example consider the stories of Dinah…Hagar…the emotions of Leah and Rebekah (who must end up sharing a husband), and I could go on and on, but these are just in Genesis.

    Thanks for reading…
    Mindy

  7. Ariah, I bet you are a wonderful husband. Bless you for your perspective. My perspective is this..I understand that the Bible is a complex document or really, set of documents, written by numerous authors, superintended by the Holy Spirt,within the context of cultures different from ours and, yet, amazingly, the wisdom and truth is still contemporary. As a woman, I have never been concerned with the male ‘sponsorship’ in the Scriptures. I feel that we have a big G-d and He is very good and He loves us very much. I grew up in a Jewish home and my favorite Bible story of all was Esther. I wondered about details of her life that aren’t mentioned in the Bible, but I never was disturbed that all my questions weren’t answered. I don’t claim to understand the why’s and how’s of all of the Scriptures, but then faith wouldn’t be faith if it was easily understandable.

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