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Sunday, September 3, 2017

There is nothing new under the sun

I have often been accused of being a nontraditional, modern or liberal Christian. And, while I don't mind any of those adjectives being used to describe my religious views, those who have employed them may wish to reconsider their use after reading an article over at The Daily Beast.

That website published an article by Candida Moss this morning entitled "Interpreting the Bible Just Got More Complicated. (http://www.thedailybeast.com/interpreting-the-bible-just-got-more-complicated). In the piece, Moss takes a look at the research of a scholar from the University of Salzburg regarding a Fourth Century commentary on the gospels by Fortunatianus of Aquileia. For those who are interested in reading an English translation of the original work, you can find it here:  https://www.degruyter.com/viewbooktoc/product/469498

For those who don't have the time to invest, here are a few quotes from her article:

"What’s especially striking about this new discovery is that Fortunatianus is commenting on the content of the Gospels, the central component of the Christian message. This seems strange to modern readers because so much modern religious Biblical interpretation, especially among conservative Christians, assumes that Bible should be read literally. Houghton notes that literal interpretation did not become de rigueur until the mid-15th century, when the invention of the printing press brought precise uniformity and conformity to the Biblical text. Prior to this point no two manuscripts of the Bible were identical to one another, and literal reading of the text was just one (and not even necessarily the most important) interpretive method."

"Of course, allegorical readings of the Bible pre-date Fortunatianus. One of the most celebrated ancient interpreters of scripture, the third-century theologian Origen of Alexandria (who is a likely source for Fortunatianus), argued that the Bible could be interpreted literally (what he calls the “letter”) and spiritually (allegorical interpretation)."

Moss concludes with:

"For most people invested in the religious authority of the Bible none of this will be too shocking. After all, as Houghton himself points out, reading the Bible as allegory can actually solve some of the difficulties that readers encounter when they read the New Testament: “There's been an assumption that it's a literal record of truth – a lot of the early scholars got very worried about inconsistencies between Matthew and Luke.” What writers like Fortunatinus and Origen show is not just that you don’t have to read the Bible literally all the time, but that for most of the Christian Era nobody thought that you should."

Maybe some of the posts on this blog are more traditional and conservative than they've been portrayed by others? What do you think? Minimalist, are you still out there? 

1 comment:

  1. I think that Bible writers would have wondered why they were bothering to be precise if their meanings were allegorical.

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