This book contains some decent insights on Biblical interpretation, but the author — member of the Jesus Seminar and all that — is always liberal in his conclusions, which becomes annoying and compromises his credibility (versus, say, N.T Wright, a liberal who nonetheless now and then will reach a conservative conclusion based on clear text). Random note: “Justification = acquittal (!)” (252). Also, I should note that I read, and so of course the book was written, long before Donald Trump made famous the phrase taking something “seriously but not literally.” The thoughts below were written as I read the book, but that doesn’t mean that they appear in the book:
- If God wanted to speak to all ages (including especially the ancients), he would be limited in the scientific sophistication His Scripture could have. If the ancient Jews all considered a whale to be a big fish, and had no other word for it, what else could the Book of Jonah call it?
- If the second Creation story in Genesis was originally written and understood metaphorically, that’s quite different — in terms of textual inerrancy — than if it was meant literally and we are trying to save it by a metaphorical interpretation. It’s a genre point.
- Some things we just may not understand.
- And bear in mind all that the Bible, including even the Old Testament, gets amazingly right.
- Think of the extent to which numbers are a problem with Old Testament credibility — people’s ages, the size of armies, and the like — and consider whether for some reason this ought to be discounted. Were there contexts in which numbers back then were intended not to be taken literally, but more as qualitative measures, given people’s more limited ability to be precise in all measurements? Just asking.
- The Bible is not economically egalitarian. There are good rich people, and indeed sometimes God makes them rich to show His favor (Job, Jacob); but the rich are not to oppress the poor, and indeed should be compassionate to them (Boaz).
- Can one book of the Bible (e.g., Proverbs) be tempered by another (e.g., Job, Ecclesiastes)? That is, is it fair and better to read two generalities that point in different directions not as simple contradictions but as two complementary and mutually tempering truths?