Reta's Reflections

Problems with Biblical Inerrancy

“As someone who has loved the Bible since childhood and has devoted her life and career to better understanding it, I find this view of strict verbal inspiration incomprehensible. I suppose it can be held in the mind as theory, but not in practice. When even laypeople read the Bible carefully, they will run into impossible contradictions. First of all, our Bible is not a book; it is a library of 66 books written in three different languages over a period of more than a thousand years. And the early chapters of Genesis tell stories set in time periods centuries before writing itself was developed.” Continue reading

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A Brief History of Biblical Inspiration

“Bereft of their promised land, their temple, and their priesthood, the Judeans confronted searching questions about why their God had let this [their forced exile into Babylon] happen. Relying on oral memory and various texts they had brought with them, they then began shaping the material into a coherent history and theology. Through worship and study, the written word became divine revelation to them. By the time some of them returned to Jerusalem from exile (permitted by the Persian ruler, Cyrus, beginning in 539 BCE), they had a collection of writings that became guides for their priests, prophets, and all the people of Yahweh (see Nehemiah 8:1-12).” Continue reading

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Is the Bible Divinely Inspired?

“Is the Bible divinely inspired and thus authoritative? Discussions on inspiration often start by quoting 2 Timothy 3:16 from the New Testament. The NRSV reads, ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.’ This is the usual translation, but it is not the only one. A footnote in the NRSV includes this alternative: ‘Every scripture inspired by God is also…’ The difference is significant.” Continue reading

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Biblical Interpretation: Can We Get It Right?

“This new series of lessons in Reta’s Reflections will not be a book study, as earlier studies have been. Rather, it will deal with the broader issue of hermeneutics, the science of interpretation as it relates to how we understand our Scriptures. The question of how we interpret authoritative texts becomes acute when current social, economic, or political issues divide believers who look to these texts for answers.” Continue reading

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The Perils of God’s Mercy—Jonah 4:1-11

“The story of Jonah teaches us that God cares about those we perceive as our worst enemies. Jonah’s dilemma was the opposite of Job’s. Job’s agonizing question to God was, ‘How can God let bad things happen to good people?’ Jonah asks how God can allow good things to happen to bad people. Both of these books challenge other scriptures that promise blessings for those who obey God’s laws and curses on those who don’t. In both cases God responds with open-ended questions with which we must wrestle.”
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Changing God’s Mind—Jonah 3:1-10

“Having disobeyed once to dire consequences, Jonah figures he has no choice; so off he trots, eastward over the desert until he arrives in Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire (now in Iraq). In 3:3 we see both contrast and repetition: instead of a raging sea, Jonah finds a huge urban center. The city is so large it takes three days to walk across it, paralleling the three days Jonah had spent inside the fish (1:17).” Continue reading

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Going down to Sheol: Jonah 2:1-10

“But now, rescued by the fish, Jonah ‘gets religion.’ Sort of. He’s grateful to be saved from ‘the belly of Sheol’ after all. But he blames God for ‘casting him into the deep’ (v 3)—when it’s his own fault for fleeing from God’s presence and then requesting to be thrown into the sea. Now, suddenly, Jonah longs to worship in God’s holy temple (v 7), even though he has not repented of his behavior nor promised to visit Nineveh.”
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