A Book of Rules—Not

“I don’t understand how anyone can argue about it. Here it is in black and white,” moaned a guy at a Bible study who had just lifted a few words from a sentence of a letter from Paul the Apostle which was compiled together with other writings as part of the teaching document of the new movement called by some Christians.

He was, of course, reading it in English translation from Ancient Greek totally in the context of his own political beliefs.

Has this been done before?

Of course. Anyone who has read widely in the literature of the past 2,000 years has seen attempts at lifting phrases and making an entire theology or political philosophy from them.

But actually understanding the text takes considerably more work and thought than that.

St. Augustine taught us that not reading the New Testament in the light of Jesus two commands to love God and to love our neighbor brings the reader to error.

NT Wright has written “If you try to read the New Testament as a ‘how-to’ book, which sadly is how some people approach it, you may end up frustrated, thinking it would be better if the spirit had given us something more like a car manual or railway time table.”

It is so tempting to read the New Testament with an eye toward discovering how we are good and they are bad. But that would be an injustice both to the writers and to the they.

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