Deriving Literal Truth from Symbolic Passages – does truth matter?

Throughout the history of the Christian church we have seen many doctrines developed. One only needs to go to a Christian bookstore or a bible college library to find the diversity of interpretations on biblical passages. What is the reason for such a diversity of interpretations?
What is so difficult in interpreting biblical passages? Don’t all authors claim to have the Spirit of God, yet they produce such a jungle? Where is God in such a theological confusion? And where is God from the resulting church movements that condemned or excommunicated, and in the past slaughtered each other. Some of history’s darkest hours make Christianity one of the cruelest and bloodiest religion in history. Christians who struggle with guilt about past and present cruelty declare that those Chriastians were not really Christians, for if they had been Christians, they would not have committed such crimes.

Perhaps you could look at the pictures in the following site:

Are you shocked? I was when I first saw them. However, what changed? Christians in the West are still as supportive of militarism as ever before. Just look at who Bush’s greatest supporters are. The Christian Church.

But I do not intend to get into politics here. All I am asking is that you seek answers to the “why”.

Do you see why correct biblical interpretation is vital? Calvin believed that the image of God, that was lost at the fall, was only restored in the believer, and thus, it was not sin to kill unbelievers. He, along the other “great reformers”, was directly or indirecly responsible for the murder of many.

Enough of history. Now I want to deal with a few passages. The first is Proverbs 8. You look up commentaries and many claims that wisdom in that passage is Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter that wisdom is a feminine word in the Hebrew and she builds a house and has children. This is a fine example when a wrong concept is applied. We come up with an idea, namely that we are to see Jesus in all the Scriptures, and force that meaning on the books of the Tanakh (i.e. OT). So what is the correct interpretation? Wisdom is not a person, rather, it is personified; the Jewish authors often use such
language. We see it when reading about trees clapping with their hands. Such a language is also used regarding the operations of the Spirit of God. This concept is so often ignored by theologians.

Another example is the ideas built around the term “word of God”. Don’t we call the bible by that name? This led to confusion at the bible college I attended, for students asked how come both Jesus and the bible were the “word of God”. Then they were told Jesus was the living word while the bible was the written word. Sure. Except that in Hebrews the “word of God” is refferred to as the “living” word, and it is certainly not Jesus who is meant there:

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Now let’s consider the following passage:

Rev 19:13 He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.

Rather than deriving literal truth from literal passages and try to interpret symbolical passages by the literal truth, theologians look at symbolic passages, derive literal meaning and force that meaning on other symbolic passages. Wow!

So they don’t seek the definition of the term used in the NT from the Tanakh where it also appears, but from a very late apocalyptic writing called Revelation, and the nature of apocalyptic writings is that they are written in a symbolic way, they describe visions of the end times with dragons and beasts fighting against the people of God. So theologians declare that Jesus Christ is “the word of God” and insert this definition into John 1.

If they sought the definition from the Tanakh, they would have realised that it is the law or commandments of God, and “the name” in Jewish thinking is a title a person deserves, not a literal name. Therefore, Jesus is referred to as “the word of God” because he was totally devoted to fully keeping the laws of God. If we derive the meaning of the term from the Tanakh, then John 1 gains its true Jewish meaning.

Does truth matter? I know many Christians who don’t think so. They rather talk about “personal relationship with Jesus”, and I challenge you to find that idea on the pages of the NT.

So what is so difficult in interpreting biblical passages? One must first of all understand Jewish mindset to understand the Jewish book. The knowledge of history, culture and language is also required, just as being aware of the difference between natural and grammatical genders. So it is a very difficult task. The knowledge of the method of four levels of ancient Jewish interpretation, PaRDeS, is also a must, for it is extensively used in the NT. But beyond these one gets nowhere unless he gets the concept right. Always interpret symbolic passages in the light of literal truth, not the other way around.


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