Pete Enns wrote an excellent article over at Huffington Post entitled "3 Ways Jesus Read the Bible That Evangelicals Are Told Not to Do." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pete-enns/3-ways-jesus-read-the-bib_b_5902534.html?utm_hp_ref=religion) According to Mr. Enns: 1) Jesus read the Bible with a "creative flare" that often went beyond the intent of the original human author, 2) Christ cherry picked Scripture - choosing which parts of the Old Testament to accept and which ones to reject, and 3) Jesus read the Bible from the perspective of a First Century Jew, not as a Christian Evangelical. While this blogger thinks that Mr. Enns is spot-on about the ways that Christ interpreted what he read in Scripture, I also understand what he's saying about how many Christians are instructed to interpret the Bible.
In an article entitled "7 Principles of Biblical Interpretation" by Wayne McDill on LifeWay (http://www.lifeway.com/pastorstoday/2014/03/12/7-principles-of-biblical-interpretation/), we read that Christians should "consider the context of the passage for a better understanding of its meaning." He goes on to tell us that we should "read the text for its plain and obvious meaning," and that we should "try to discern the writer's intentions when he wrote the text." When considering these principles, I am immediately struck by the irony of the fact that Christ often violated these principles as he was "dividing the word of truth."
To demonstrate his point, Mr. Enns points to Christ's quotation of God's introduction to Moses in the form of the burning bush. Jesus was in the process of answering a challenge to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead by the Sadducees. Luke informs us that Christ told them: "But now, as to whether the dead will be raised - even Moses proved this when he wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, he referred to the Lord as the 'God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' So he is the God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to him." (Luke 20:37-38) In the verse that Jesus was quoting (Exodus 3:6), it is very clear that God was telling Moses who "He" was. There is no indication here that God or Moses was thinking about the resurrection of the dead! Moreover, when Christ was finished making his point with this verse, we read that his Jewish listeners were impressed with the way that he had used Scripture to answer them (apparently the Jews of that day approved of creative interpretation).
As has also been done on this blog in previous posts, Mr. Enns points out that Jesus Christ modified, deleted and/or expanded upon certain teachings of the Mosaic Law. Read Matthew 5:21-48. In this passage recounting some of Christ's teachings from his "Sermon on the Mount," we read that he expanded the meaning of the commandments against murder and adultery. He also deleted the Mosaic teachings about Divorce and Vows and changed the instructions relative to how to treat one's enemies! The stark difference between the Mosaic teaching on divorce and Christ's statement of God's original intent in that regard is further underscored in yet another passage. (Matthew 19:1-15) In similar fashion, Christ challenged the prevailing interpretations regarding proper Sabbath observance (Matthew 12) and the notion that all calamities and physical impairments were the consequence of sin. (Luke 13:1-5 & John 9:1-3)
Hence, in the light of all of this evidence about the way that THE Word of God handled the Word of Truth, maybe we should reevaluate the way that we read the Bible and interpret its meaning. It is clear to me that Christ had a vision of God's will and character that often superseded what had been written on those ancient scrolls. What about you? Do you think that literalists have anything to learn from Christ's example in this matter?