Your View

Letter: Interpretation of the Bible is complex


A recent letter to the editor published in these pages is entitled “Hypocrisy is rampant, antithetical.” The author and I might agree on the issue that bothered him. However, his attack on Christians, including both those who might agree with him about that issue and those who do not, seems unreasonable. He implies that both groups are “hypocritical” because they base their positions on different interpretations of the Bible. While not revealing his position, he concludes the letter with the statement, “The hypocrisy in the Christian community is rampant, and antithetical to everything Jesus taught.”

A response regarding biblical interpretation seems appropriate. Correct interpretation of the Bible is complex and requires good judgment based on sound principles. Regarding the issue that concerned the letter writer, correct interpretation for Christians is based on distinctions between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament and between the Holiness Code in chapters 17-26 of Leviticus and other biblical materials. It also requires careful analyses of the historical and cultural context of biblical writings, including the letters of the Apostle Paul. Good interpretation, even if not perfect, requires careful study and discipline. Based on such diligence, one can reasonably share judgments, not just spout ad hoc opinions — to use a distinction Plato made centuries ago. Moreover, sharing judgments in a free and open society helps us expand our understanding. We are fortunate that our local newspaper facilitates such sharing.

The author of the earlier letter and I might eventually come to agreement about what he identifies as an important teaching of Jesus — “Judge not!”

Raymond B. Williams