A process for getting at that question… (Is the Bible True? Part 3)
Taking a dimensional view of scripture
So the image above contains the Hebrew word בראשית (Berashit) which most English bibles translate as In the Beginning. The fuller english phrase In the beginning God created is the Hebrew phrase בראשית ברא אלהים (Berashit bara Elohim). Funny story though, this Hebrew phrase could also be translated as When God began to create amongst other things that I don’t particularly want to get into here.
Now we have a conundrum to deal with. We’ve gone from an English translation to the actual Hebrew that Genesis was written in. So was there something going on before the beginning (as the phrase When God began to create implies) or are we talking about the very beginning of everything (as the phrase In the beginning God created implies)? Which one is true? Are they both true? Is there a way of looking at this where one is more truer than the other? Uh oh…
Or maybe there’s a third way of looking at this where the first two aren’t the point. Maybe God as Creator is the point of it all and we got lost in the literal translation of Hebrew words and missed the point to begin with — all from the first three Hebrew words of Genesis. It happens…
And maybe we do the same thing with the Hebrew word יום (Yom) which is our English word for day. Maybe the point of Genesis 1 isn’t how long God took to create the earth and maybe the point is that God created the earth and called it good. There are greater implications for my life knowing that God created the earth and called it good than how long God took to create it.
So how do we get at whether something is true in the Bible or not? Many people have proposed many different things. I don’t have an answer that’s better than anyone else but I want to offer up a process that most people who are serious about answering that question for themselves can employ (what they’ll quickly discover is that the question isn’t about figuring out if the Bible is true but instead what the truth of the Bible is).
So first step. Learn Greek and Hebrew…
I say that tongue and cheek but I’m actually serious. It’s hard to answer the question of whether the Bible is true or not without knowing the original languages it was written in. All you can do is rely on others and at that point you’ve introduced another level of possible human error in interpretation. Anyone that’s absolutely convinced they know the right way to interpret a passage without being able to interpret the original language it was written in should back up a little. They’re standing on the shoulder of others and that means there’s at least 2 layers for human error already.
Considering the fact that a majority of us will never learn the original languages, there’s a 3 step process I follow when I study scripture and I’m trying to figure out whether something is true or has truth I can live by. It’s not flawless. It’s not perfect. But it’s better than just accepting what everyone else tells you to accept because guess what, they could be wrong.
So if you will, 3 things to apply when studying the scriptures in 21st century America. I’ll cover each one in upcoming posts.
Is the Bible true?
- Part 1: Or maybe the better question is, “How is the Bible true?”
- Part 2: Are we retelling these stories with the same motivation the original storytellers did?
- Part 3: A process for getting at that question
- Part 4: Donkeys, Elephants, and Poems
- Part 5: Wild boars are the key to unlocking it all
- Part 6: Onions in PaRaDiSe
- Part 7: The God and Satan Contradiction
- Part 8: Creation to New Creation
- Part 9: Answering the question