“Therefore, any interpretation of Scripture must be wrong if it causes us to fail in our duty to love God or our neighbor,” as “Augustine rightly reasoned,” Catholic theology professor James L. Papandrea notes in a new book. from Sophia Institute Press. your perception Reading the Scriptures Like the Early Church: Seven Insights from the Church Fathers to Help You Understand the Bible interprets the Bible through a law of love, in contrast to the often morally problematic biblical literalism of Islamic doctrine.
As discussed above, Papandrea reads the Bible in a scholarly and nuanced way. By contrast, any fundamentalism “tends toward an anti-intellectualism that often assumes that education is really an obstacle to correct interpretation,” he observes. This stems from the “idea that Scripture can be interpreted only from within itself”, or write onlya “major component of the Protestant Reformation”, having no basis in the Jewish faith of Jesus and the apostles.
write only recalls the Qur’anic proclamation that Muslims should emulate Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in everything. The canonical example of him thus establishes the Qur’an, the biography of him (Mrs) and recorded sayings about his life (hadith) narratives as the doctrinal basis of Islam, which received the Islamic orthodoxy interpreted literally. This has led to outrage such as that of Georgetown University professor Jonathan Brown, a Muslim convert, who refuses to condemn slavery outright, as slavery is historically Islamic, given that Muhammad himself owned slaves.
Whether in Islam or Christianity, Papandrea will have none of this, as indicated during a Conservative Casual Friday podcast interview with this author. The “doctrine of write only it is self-contradictory, because it claims that everything should be in the Bible, but the concept itself is not in the Bible,” he writes. John 21:24–25, for example, indicates that the “Bible does not contain everything that Jesus said and did.”
In particular, the “Bible doesn’t tell us which books should be included in the Bible,” Papandrea observes. “The question of which documents were to be included in the collection of Scriptures that the Christian Church would consider authoritative was a question that took hundreds of years to answer definitively,” she notes. Consequently, a “good way to think about all of this is that Scripture is really a part of Tradition.”
Such a rational approach to revelation is particularly important, because believing that “everything anyone needs to understand God’s revelation is within the pages of the Bible” morally “creates several problems,” Papandrea notes. “If the Bible were ‘complete’ in this way, we would be forced to conclude that polygamy is acceptable because we see it tolerated in the Old Testament and find no prohibition in the New Testament,” he writes. . However, as you discussed with this author, rational analysis of polygamy, both in the real world and as presented in the biblical text, where conflicts always arise between polygamous households, reveals the many problems of polygamy. Consequently, modern Jews find almost no justification in Jewish scripture or the Old Testament for polygamy, in contrast to still contemporary Islamic doctrines of polygamy.
Especially the horrors of slavery evoke the Biblical perspective of Papandrea: “Love is the key. The correct interpretation of Scripture will always lead to love of God and neighbor.” As Saint Augustine had pointed out, “the greatest commandment of Jesus is to love God, and the second greatest is to love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31)”, an imperative that no biblical interpretation can contradict. “This idea alone should have been a sufficient indication that any interpretation condoning slavery could never be correct,” Papandrea notes in examining historical debates on slavery among Christians.
Rather, the “very anti-abolitionists who tried to use Scripture to justify slavery were the forerunners of the fundamentalist movement that uses this same limited methodology to interpret Scripture,” Papendrea recalls. However, as others have pointed out when comparing Biblical and Islamic scriptures, the historical references to slavery in the Bible are merely descriptive. They are not prescriptive in the form of an eternal standard, in the way that jihadists have interpreted Islamic canons to justify holy war.
“It turns out that slavery was a very established practice in the ancient world. Few, if any, human cultures existed without some form of slavery,” Papandrea notes. The Apostle Paul in his New Testament writings “assumes that it is so embedded in the culture that he cannot even imagine a world without it.” But Papandrea does not grant any absolute value to the contingent circumstances of Paul’s life:
Thus, for example, although we can read in the epistles of Saint Paul that women must cover their heads, or that it is shameful for a man to have long hair (1 Cor. 11:5-15), or that women may not speaking in church (1 Cor. 14:34; cf. 1 Tim. 2:9-12), we recognize that this is advice that is specific to a particular time, in a particular place, to a particular culture… Therefore, there is nothing wrong with lectors or teachers, and we do not need to require that women in the church wear head coverings.
The cultural context also applies to Psalm 137, one biblical passage among others that falsely suggests to some that the Bible is just as violent as the Koran. Here, the exiled Hebrews under Babylonian captivity proclaim a “call for vengeance, and not only for vengeance on those who destroyed their city and captured them, but for vengeance on future generations of their enemies.” However, Papandrea does not extract any divine mandate from the Hebrew authors of the psalm, for
even if really believed that it was God’s will that some babies be killed, that doesn’t mean it was actually God’s will. In other words, the historical significance of this text is that the true Hebrew people harbored real hatred and resentment—and a desire for revenge—against their Babylonian captors.
“Remember that the Old Testament sometimes tells us more about the people who wrote it and their understanding of God than it actually tells us about God,” Papandrea concludes. “But God reserves the right of revenge only for himself (see Rom. 12: 17-21)” and Christians must “give priority to the New Testament, where we are told to love even our enemies.” This reflects another idea of Papandrea’s about hermeneutics: “The earlier Scripture is clarified by the later Scripture. Also, lighter texts are used to interpret darker texts..”
Contrary to the Islamic doctrine of abrogation, in which, chronologically, later verses of the Qur’an can override earlier verses, Papandrea describes a consistent message that runs throughout the Bible:
When we say that revelation is progressive, we mean that in the great trajectory of Scripture, God has ordained that meaning become clear over time. On the other hand, disclosure is also conservative, in the sense that what is revealed always preserves what was revealed in the past and builds on what was revealed before.
Throughout human history, God’s revelation improves with time. “Scriptures written earlier in time had the disadvantage of a limited perspective on the part of the human author, and from God’s perspective, they were given information on a sort of need-to-know basis,” Papandrea says. Therefore, he takes a broad view of the interpretation of Scripture, because “it is very important to let the clearer passages, the majority of the passages, and the entire consensus of Scriptures interpret the darker and fewer passages.”
Such logic and love exhibited by Papandrea make the understanding of God’s revealed relationship with man far more convincing than that received by Islamic orthodoxy. These doctrinal differences, in turn, repel Western secularists who, in their desire to overthrow traditional Western Judeo-Christian norms, dismiss all Biblical traditions as equally spurious. Judging by the God-given human conscience, not all scripture is sacred.