How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth

I once taught a hermeneutics class for a Christian college using a book titled "How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth." In a comment to a friend recently, I wish I would have taught them to do this:

Here's how you should read the Bible. You need to read it as if you're listening in on a phone conversation where you cannot hear the person on the other end. You know they're saying something, so you have to reconstruct it from listening to the person you can hear.

Think of it this way. In all my days debating the Bible no one wins any debate with just a comment or two. Yet this is what we repeatedly see in the gospels in the case of Jesus. He always wins all of his debates with just a comment or two. In a few cases we read where his opponents walk off grumbling, so they were obviously not convinced. From this we know the gospels don't tell us the whole story. What is their story? We must reconstruct it. What would they have said in response? I think in many, if not most cases, I know. The same goes for all of the epistles, including Paul's authentic ones. When Paul argues against others who claim to be Christians you can bet they had their responses. What were they? In many cases I think I know. Can you do this? Have you ever tried? You realize these were smart people who had intelligent answers, right?

Look at the OT in the same way when it my comes to the prophets who denounced people. You realize there were other prophets who said different things and who denounced each other, don't you? How would people living in those times know which ones to believe? It would be very difficult for them. How do you know that the prophets who eventually won out were the true prophets of the true god?

When it comes to the destruction of whole peoples and the slaughtering of their babies, what would these people say to such a holy war? Have you ever seen the need for a complete genocide? Do you know any people worthy of nothing but slaughter?

Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.

My main point is that it was not obvious to the people of that day which god is the "real" one. The "real" god or gods surfaced later as more people grew to believe in them (just as some religious groups are larger than others, the largest one being the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages) who were retrospectively written back into what you now read in the Bible.