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Montaic Potpourri

Rhetoric of the Adjective “Biblical”

When you see titles such as “The Biblical Case for…” or “The Biblical Case against…” both assume a univocality of the Bible, a book that contains one voice.

(Edit: I will explain how the New Testament came into being in a later post)

How does the “biblical” adjective work? I see it working in two ways:

  • a stamp on one’s own position
  • a foil to be trampled in light of one’s own position

The same book that contains this passage: “If you do not diligently observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, fearing this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will overwhelm both you and your offspring with severe and lasting afflictions and grievous and lasting maladies. He will bring back upon you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were in dread, and they shall cling to you. Every other malady and affliction, even though not recorded in the book of this law, the Lord will inflict on you until you are destroyed.“(Deuteronomy 28:58-61)

also contains this:

“In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4)

Lest it be construed that I don’t know what I’m doing in juxtaposing texts outside a context, let me note that I am highlighting the danger of prooftexting without respect to context (or the rhetoric particular biblical authors used).

Next time you see someone say “The Biblical Case for,” think of it in these terms: this is my perspective with some Bible verses thrown in to bolster my case.

How can one know what the Bible says? There are tons of free resources easily available in the digital age. One of the best is biblegateway.com which allows you to read straight text from multiple translations. It also allows you to do word searches.

One of the greatest antidotes for terrible Bible teaching is simple familiarity with biblical literature. Read it through 3-6 (edit: times) and you should feel pretty comfortable holding your own in a conversation.

Just please, please don’t take authors at their word that they know what the Bible says, especially in an election cycle. There’s too much reason to present one’s own position as the Bible’s in such a time…if the Bible presents one voice on an issue. Cursory reading reveals that the Bible doesn’t have a unified voice on all things and that’s why we have theology: attempts at explaining “seeming” paradoxes/contradictions/”difficulties” in the text.

A Children’s Story

Once there were three bears. One bear made them some oatmeal. The oatmeal was too hot, so they went for a walk while it cooled.

Meanwhile, a trespasser, Goldilocks by name, thought it would do her well to eat this cooling oatmeal.

The first bowl was too hot. She let it lie.

The second was cold, shittily cold, so she also let it lie.

The third bowl not only was just right temperature-wise, but perfectly seasoned with salt and cinnamon, and just enough sugar. She finished the bowl.

The bears came back. Little Bear cried because his breakfast was gone. Papa Bear fumed since his salary at Bear Factory scarcely covered essentials. Mama Bear’s face contorted unnaturally due to Little Bear’s tears.

So she mauled the intruder. Goldilocks learned a valuable lesson just before her painful death: don’t mess with a mama bear’s cub.

The bears were later happy at this turn of events, for had they not been robbed they would not have been able to have meat for breakfast, meat they could ill afford on Papa Bear’s salary.