Difficult Verses and Bible Interpretation

I was exhorted in a comment to make my purposes clear in my posts. The apostles, I was told, always had a call to action. That thought led to this post, but I don’t know what my call to action is in this post.

I think that our modern doctrines create many contradictions in the Bible. Especially in our interpretations of Paul, we draw conclusions that make other apostles and the Gospels very difficult to understand.

Many years ago, I was very nervous about expressing alternative interpretations of Paul’s writings. Who am I? Why should anyone listen to me?

All I had 20 years ago was the ability to show people interpretations of the Scripture that took away most of the verses we would consider “difficult.” I got there by struggling over verses that didn’t make sense to me, the goal being to wind up with no “difficult” verses that seemed to contradict conclusions I’d drawn from other verses. I didn’t even know if that was possible, but over a few years, things started clicking into place.

Then someone gave me a book to review, called Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up. It was a review of the writings of 2nd and 3rd century Christians, writings I didn’t even know existed.

It was supposed to be a shocking revelation of the ancient church. The things David Bercot revealed in his book contained many ideas that modern Christians would call heresy (thus the title).

Not to me. To my surprise, I had finally found a group of people who agreed with me across the board.

Now I’m not just a guy with some Bible interpretations. At one time, my Bible interpretations were the norm.

I have this idea–maybe I’m fooling myself–that I can help others read the Bible without difficult verses.

Difficult Verses?

What do I mean by all this talk about difficult verses? Well, I’ll give you two examples.

I got the terminology, “difficult verses,” from two radio personalities, Hank Haanegraaf and Bob George, back in the 1990’s. Haanegraaf once compared John 10:28 and 2 Peter 2:20-21. He referred to John 10:28 as a “clear” verse and “2 Peter 2:20-21” as a “difficult” passage. Difficult passages, he said, should be interpreted in the light of clear ones.

The problem is that there is nothing unclear or difficult about 2 Peter 2:20-21. A child could understand what it says. The only difficult thing about that passage is that Hank Haanegraaf doesn’t agree with what it says. The other problem is that Haanegraaf can’t reconcile what it says with his interpretation of John 10:28.

Haanegraaf and millions of other Christians have the luxury, in that situation, of picking which verse they prefer and writing off the other one with a weak explanation.

I don’t have that luxury. To me, people like Haanegraaf are teaching Christians that it is normal for the Bible to say contradictory things.

My other example is from a systematic theology I read back in the 80’s. The book had a chapter on eternal security, and that chapter went through a long proof that anyone who is really saved can never lose their salvation. The chapter ended with a list of verses that “seemed” to contradict their conclusion.

The problem was that the list was somewhere around 50 verses long!

Do we really want to read the Bible this way? Is it really that difficult to find people who want their Bible to make sense, to agree with itself?

It’s not like I’m asking Christians to adopt some novel theology of mine. I’m talking about looking at the writings of people who grew up in churches started by apostles. I’m talking about doctrines that for 300 years after the time of the apostles were agreed upon by all Christians churches. I’m talking about history that is not alternative or hidden, but can be found in any Christian bookstore.

Well, this long plea and explanation of where I’m coming from is long enough that I will get to the point of my post tomorrow. I was going to give an example of interpreting the Bible without difficult verses using teachings of the early church. I still will, but tomorrow.

About paulfpavao

I am a church historian and pastor, but I do occasionally play APBA baseball for fun.
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