World religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam both today and throughout history have been directly linked to inspired scriptures. It is from these scriptures that observers can derive a sense of inspiration and a force of divine authority, with the parables and teachings of the holy doctrines pronouncing the will of God. This is the simple proposition that begins this difficult discussion on the different ways that we may understand, interpret and ultimately deduce truth in the experience of engaging the scriptures.
Given that the subject of this discussion is the true to be verified in the Bible, the Christian faith, and to a lesser extent the Jewish faith, will be used for consideration here. In divining ‘truth,’ we must first recognize that an understanding of religious scriptures varies across a great spectrum of Christians, with the shared experience of inspiration giving way to an underlying diversity of opinions on what is being instructed or to what extent ‘facts’ reported in the Bible may be accepted as such.
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These opinions concern such things as the authorship of the scriptures, the role of the prophets and the certainty held in the words of scripture themselves, which when held together establish a degree truth which is itself often in the eye or heart of the beholder. All of these issues are related to the point of view from which one approaches the content of the Bible, whether it be one of conservative interpretation or of liberal understanding.
For those who take a conservative perspective on the scriptures, Achtemeier (1980) identifies these as individuals who generally believe that the authority of the scriptures descends from the fact that they were inspired directly by God. This is to say that to the conservative Christian, the source of the text appears to be God’s direct intervention in human events through those that are identified as prophets, predisposing assumptions to recognize an incontrovertible degree of truth in the words of the Bible. The logic is generally held that inspiration “implies that the Bible is authoritative for all humanity in all aspects of life.
Unless the Bible is truly inspired by God, there is no reason why it should be considered any more authoritative than any other book. These are said to be endowed with the divine inspiration which allows them to offer dictation of the events. ” (Kulikovsky, 1) This is a view which resonates with the historical and biblical conception of prophecy. Prophecy would play a very important part in the early development of the Christian philosophy. Such a claim is supported by Longman (2007), who states that “the prophetic role in public evangelism grew from the Old Testament prophecies of an outpouring of the Spirit.
Prophets are consistently valued highly among the churchly 'offices' or roles, and prophecy is rated chief and most prized among the gifts. The New Testament-era church was more dependent on the prophetic gift for giving it direction (Acts 13 and 15). ” (Longman, 1) This is because prophecy is seen as carrying the direct word of God, the distinct source of inspiration, authority and truth. However, there are some interesting considerations which come through in the textual analysis that warrant further scrutiny.
In particular, the conceptual issue of inerrancy helps to provide some new insights into the ways that we should understand the history of the Bible and its aspiration toward the reflection of truth. Inerrancy is the theory which states that the divine inspiration conservatively believed to be at the base of the bible’s words determines that all of these words are inherently true. This means that the scriptures’ report on history, both mortal and divine, is to be understood as true to the last letter. This is a view that modern scholars have come more frequently to reconsider.
A developing liberalism in the interpretation of the scriptures allows that even if it is believed they have been produced by human observation and interpretation of events, their value is no less great as a reflection of some higher truth. This is to say that it is no longer necessary to assume that every word of the bible must be understood as factually perfect but must instead be understood as authoritative in demonstrable intent, and therefore answering to a higher truth than simply that which is suggested by a proper detailed report of history.
This view does allow a reading of the Bible which is more enabling to the modern observer, entitling an acceptance of the important truths concerning morality and divinity, without enforcing an unflinching approach to the historical report of the bible. This opens the floor for the divining of truth even in the presence of critical scrutiny. This is an idea which seems appropriate, with great individuality determining the way that inspiration is received and the way that truth is understood and, thereafter, manifested. This refers either to the prophet, the author or the reader of the scripture.
For each, the receipt of inspiration from God many take any of an infinite number of forms. This is an appropriate maturation in the accommodation of Christian discourse to the needs of modern Christians, who come from many different lifestyles and dispositions to receive the words of God. This holds truth to a high standard that is nonetheless absent of rigidity. Still, there are reasons to concern ourselves with the danger to core Christian beliefs of too liberalist a stance on that which may be defined or read as truth.
This is to say that “the risks of individualism and illuminism, an exclusive reliance on the authority of ‘inner testimony’” should be seen problematic to important cardinal tenets. Specifically, conservative Christians worry that “anything which suggested that Christ’s life and death were only, so to speak, a dramatized projection of the self’s inner history would be hard to reconcile with an orthodoxy concerned to defend the idea that God assumes real and particularly human existence in Jesus.
” (Richardson, 304) As this constitutes a core belief, it is important for many Christians that even the origins of the scriptures reflect this same idea. Thus, historical truth must be taken in distinction, with so many of the details of the Bible based on allegorical narrative, with morality and lifestyle practice deeply couched in not just the words and principals, but even in the incidences and landmark moments of biblical account. Still, the liberalist perspective allows one to consider that it is not required to think of the scriptures in this way to find a defense of the concept of Jesus Christ as the son of God.
It is less constructive, that is to say, to think of the scriptures as having been offered by direct inspiration than to think of them as demonstrating the inspiration of early Christianity. Historically speaking, there is an inherent truth to that which is implied by narrative accounting, with interpretation allowing us to at least reflect on inspiration for such major narrative moments as the path of Jesus. This is a functional achievement even without achieving the mark of inerrancy.
To this end, our outside reading helps to support the case that the bible does not need to be considered a historical document in the way that we might look at a textbook (though even here, the field of historiography does ask us to define and contextually consider what ‘truth’ is. ) Instead, “the truthfulness of the Bible should be evaluated according to its own ‘usage and purpose. ’ Yet its purpose rarely includes details of history and science. ” (Morrison, 1) These elements of history and science are usually considered byproducts that are revealed within the context of a larger story drawn from a specific time and place.
This seems, increasingly a suitable way to understand the place from where our scriptures draw their authority as well, with very real truths about the Bible’s cultural origins emerging through even a skeptical reading. Achtmeier (1980) is particularly convincing on this subject because of the way in which his analysis treats the conservative view point. The author seems to be guided by the intent to show that conservative interpretations that demand an inerrant perspective actually do a disservice to the truthful value of the text.
The grace of God and the way that this inspires the people are both hidden behind discussion about the accuracy of dates and details. This critique shows that this may not be the authority that was intended by the scriptures, which illuminate far more important truths about human spiritual history than physical history. Ultimately, this discourse establishes the rather liberal sense of the origin of the scriptures as relating to certain inherent truths which are visible now to a broad array of observers, whether spiritually connected or not.
This is to say that the discussion here suggest that the truth that we find in scriptures is not a result of the direct intervention of God in the process of writing and also not as a result of being a perfectly accurate reflection of history. Instead, its relationship to truth shows that the scriptures are a suitable way of understanding how authority and inspiration translated faith in the early development of canon. This is a perspective which will help to ground an understanding of the core value of the Bible while also illuminating new and developing ways to understand their origins and history.
Works Cited Achtemeier, Paul. (1980). Inspiration and Authority. Hendrickson Publishing. Kulilovsky, Andrew S. (1996). Inspiration, Authority and Interpretation. Kulikovsky Online. Ret. 4/22/08 http://www. kulikovskyonline. net/hermeneutics/inspirat. htm. Longman, Robert Jr. (2007). Prophecy in the New Testament. Spirit Home. Ret . 4/22/08 http://www. spirithome. com/prophist. html#ntproph Morrison, Michael. (2002). Inspiration, Authority, and Reliability of Scripture. Worldwide Church of God. Richardson, Alan & John Bowden. (1983). The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology. Westminster John Knox Press.
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