The Sacred Text
I heard a fundamentalist Christian warning of the dangers of reading the Bible without having an experienced member of “his” church there to help you interpret. After all, it was the true and real word of God and so there’s no way just a simple layperson could possibly understand the subtle nuances embedded in the holy scripture.
I was so shocked at his comments that I had to actually ask him what he was talking about.
I was shocked at how similar this fundamentalist sounded to the Muslim fundamentalists explaining how just because the Koran says to cut off the hands and feet of thieves, it doesn’t really mean that and you have to have an imam interpret the text for you.
That was a big warning flag for me and it should be a big warning flag for anyone relying on others to interpret their religious texts. Here is why.
There are two possibilities. Either the text is the real word of God or it’s not. So let’s look at the two options:
Your religious text is the true word of God
If this is the case then you can be positive that God knew how to produce the text in such a way that they can’t be misinterpreted. Surely God could do something as simple as that. God would not produce scriptures in code that only those who think they know how, can interpret them. That would destroy the value of having the word of God at all.
Your religious text is not the true word of God
If, on the other hand, the text is not the true word of God but rather a written history written and transcribed and interpreted by many over the years, then the text has already been interpreted by man, by error prone man with a purpose to spread the word. In other words, it has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Worse yet, the text may be interpreted one way but a century later may need to be interpreted again as languages change over time.
Another issue, still, is the condition of the original writings as preserved over time. The original texts were written is a way that they could not be interpreted without error. The original text had no breaks between the words, no spaces in the text. This means that the original text could have been interpreted many different ways and each way would be correct.
If these are the true words of God, then He wants us to read them as a guide, not as laws.
Beware whenever you encounter someone telling you that you can’t interpret the words, yourself. If you can’t, then your god isn’t much of a god. He can’t even write so average people can understand it. Not too likely, now is it?
Now, since it’s obvious that you should be reading the texts yourself, go out there and start reading. I suggest grabbing a Bible and reading the New Testament if you’re so inclined. It is so much easier than trudging through the books that even Jesus took with a grain of salt.