We’ve often said that there are 3 important questions every thinking person should regularly ask: (1) What is? (2) What matters? (3) Then what should I do?
To Christian believer, the Bible is a significant source of important information. Of the Bible scholars¹ sometimes called higher critics, who are specialists in Bible languages, Bible history, and/or Bible interpretation, information can be learned to help people understand Bible text, God or God myth, and/or ancient human response to such texts.
There are 4 other questions, however, you should ask such scholars.
For more use the DOOR.
(1) Is the Bible categorically different from other books?
Or, is it simply one good² book among many worthy books?
Further, if it is categorically different, in what way is this so?
(2) If the Bible, and the specific information contained therein, was never recorded or orally passed down through history, would humanity be missing critical information for optimal individual human existence?
Or, could other existing religious information–that does not directly derive from the Bible–fill the gap? Or, to say it differently, Is the Bible just one package of “good moral advice” and other useful information that other religions offer but wrap differently?
Or, do you find “optimal individual human existence” to be an illusory notion or nonsense, or further, do you find “religious information” that goes anywhere beyond your own thinking to be essentially irrelevant to you?
(3) Do you feel a personal responsibility to share what you know about the Bible to others?
Why or why not? Is such a responsibility irrelevant to your work, or not part of your job?
If you do feel such a responsibility, to what sort of people would you share your knowledge with?
Interpretation of the Bible varies greatly. Some confuse “literal” and “myth.” Some misread Bible history. Some struggle with Bible language and translation issues. Some treat the Bible as a “magic book,” by “hijacking” portions of Bible text to support their personal agendas, etc. Do you, if asked (or not), feel a responsibility to “set people straight” about what your special knowledge about the Bible has taught you?
(4) In your thinking, does the possibility of supernatural intervention, or “tinkering,” seem to be the best way to properly interpret, or describe, parts of a Biblical text?
Or, is considering the possibility of supernatural intervention³ never a legitimate part of your scholarly work?
¹ First, “Bible scholars,” who are specially trained in languages and ancient history, are usually not the same people as pastors, preachers, priests, teachers, or church officials who have no such specialized training. Such Christian workers often depend on the conclusions of those whose training tell us how to look at the Bible. Second, Christians are worshipers of God, not a “good book,” even a “God-inspired” one. Some have even called worshiping the Bible “bibliolatry.” And we certainly don’t advocate doing that! Bible scholars, like everyone else, have a worldview, whether they express it or not. One must realize that not all Bible scholars are Christians who have a “high view,” or commonly accepted traditional view of the Bible. Some do not even profess to be Christians. Many Jews, agnostics, and even atheists have an academic interest in the Bible and contribute to our understanding of it. We think that considering a scholar’s worldview is worthwhile. Possibly it will impede fair treatment of what he presents.
² A book considered only “good” among several others, offers little authority in deciding important issues. Many Christians as well as non-Christians, when pressed, treat the Bible as as flawed, out-of-date book of advice that leads to bad thinking.
³ If a person cannot accept the possibility of supernatural intervention, or who thinks such possible intervention is irrelevant to what the Bible text reports–such as resurrection of the dead, miracles, and prophecy, in particular–that person must force himself to ignore or reinterpret the Bible to fit a naturalistic pattern unfamiliar to centuries of Biblical interpretation.