Why are some parts of the Bible so confusing?
All meaningful human expression must be interpreted to be understood. This
is true of a film, or novel, of a cartoon or a racing form, of a letter from
a friend or a facial expression.
There is no such thing as reading a text "at face value,"; that is, without
interpretation. To refuse to interpret is one way of interpreting, namely, literalism.
It does not deliver the "real unvarnished meaning" but condemns the reader to
a superficial (at best) or erroneous reading.
Given that interpretation is necessary for genuine encounter with the word
of God through Sacred Scripture, how is such interpretation to be done? Three
connections are foundational.
First, we must be convinced that God does indeed desire to communicate with
us and that the Bible is a privileged form of that communication.
Second, however, we must realize that the Bible is not a crystal ball. It is
a text, and like all great texts it grows in meaning as our life experience
expands. But texts are themselves also products of the times, places, cultures
and circumstances in which they were written.
Third, we readers are limited human beings. If we require preparation and effort
to read the stock market report, we must expect interpretation of the biblical
text to require effort: study, prayer, discussion.
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