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  #11  
Old 17-04-2012, 04:23 AM
Animus27 Animus27 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mary Baker
Most great literature is translated from the original language so many people can enjoy or benefit from it. So what? If the subject interests one should that prevent one reading a translation?

As for Westboro "Baptist" Church they seem to me to be a one man sect which no other church organization will touch because of a blatant disregard of the most fundamental beliefs of Christianity, such as love, compassion, non judgmentalism, etc.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have eternal life."
The problem with a literal reading of the Bible is that people apply those literalist readings to absolutist beliefs, and ignore the simple fact that a text like the Bible will say multiple, often contradictory things; not even counting the ambiguities and natural limitations of translation from one language to another that further obfuscate the range of interpretations.

Groups like WBC are certainly black sheep, but they've found reasoning for their appalling beliefs from the Bible. Christians who emphasize love and non-judgment tend to only extend those niceties to people who don't offend their beliefs; and those who don't exercise judgment will scriptures that rebuke them for not practicing the rejection of certain people and ideas. The Bible is like a giant ink-blot at times, people can find what they want in it; some people have just established monoliths of Right Interpretation that they hold over others. Marcion read the Old Testament and concluded that the God of Eden, the Flood and so forth, was a false creator god, and Jesus' Father he spoke of, was a completely separate god, eager to save humanity from the demiurge. Hardly the loving Creator more orthodox Christianity asserted.

My point is, people can believe whatever they want, but just because they find a validation for their beliefs in scripture doesn't mean there's not another piece of scripture that undermines it.
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  #12  
Old 17-04-2012, 04:49 PM
Reverend Keith Reverend Keith is offline
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It's a particular problem because Jesus' teaching style DEPENDED on being non-literal in several different ways.

First of all, as has been pointed out, Jesus tended to teach in parables and stories, and the meaning of these was often an inner secret teaching.

Secondly, Jesus used a method that has been called "semetic hyperbole". I have no idea if this term or method actually exists apart from Jesus or if someone just coined it as a description of what Jesus did, but it consists of making wildly exaggerated statements just to get the listener's attention. A verbal slap in the face to wake people up.

Quote:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26, NET)

Quote:
Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? (Matt 7:3, NET)

Quote:
If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell. (Matt 5:30, NET)

Thirdly, there's not a small amount of humor and even sarcasm in the Bible. Humor is particularly difficult to read outside of the original context. Let me give a possible example that really opened my eyes. I was listening to a talk by a messianic Jewish author who is also an anti-tax activist. He mentioned the incident in which Peter tells the tribute tax collectors that Jesus pays taxes. After explaining that he doesn't really OWE any taxes, Jesus says:

Quote:
But so that we don’t offend them, go to the lake and throw out a hook. Take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth, you will find a four drachma coin. Take that and give it to them for me and you.” (Matt 17:27, NET)

To this author, what Jesus says here is actually easily recognized as Jewish humor. He compares it to his uncle, who used to say "Sure, and if I bite my butt, I'll get borscht". In other words, what Jesus is saying is something like this:

"I don't owe taxes, but we wouldn't want to offend the poor tax collectors, so I tell you what. You go catch a fish, and open its mouth. Whatever money it has in its mouth, THAT'S how much tax we owe".

The possibility of this interpretation is strengthened by the fact that there's no record that Peter ever actually went and DID what Jesus (jokingly?) suggested.

Here's another one that I can't help thinking is completely sarcastic:

Quote:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation, for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be in fear, for it does not bear the sword in vain. It is God’s servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience. For this reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants devoted to governing. Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. (Rom 13:1-7, NET)

Here is Paul, who has been beaten, stoned, arrested, imprisoned, run out of town - NUMEROUS times, almost always with the cooperation or even at the instigation of the "governing authorities", saying that if you do good, the authorities will praise you?!? Here's Paul, who knows very well that it was governing authorities who crucified Jesus telling us they are God's servants, worthy of honor because they only punish evil?

This really only makes sense to me as sarcasm - possibly a sarcasm used to protect himself and his writings from those very authorities. Something like me saying "The United States government is perfect in every way. I'm SURE they would never get involved in a war just to protect their oil interests, or support dictatorships. And I'm absolutely positive that they would never tailor legislation for the benefit of special interest groups who contribute lots of money. No, the government always acts impartially for the greatest good of all."

Obviously sarcasm. But if these words were ever printed out, buried in a vault, and one day dug up by someone who decided they were the word of God (hey, you never know) - they might very well miss the sarcasm and assume I really and truly thought that the U.S. Government was indeed perfect and godly in every way.

So taking everything in scripture literally can send you down the wrong track in several different ways...
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  #13  
Old 17-04-2012, 07:01 PM
TeeHee TeeHee is offline
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Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation, for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be in fear, for it does not bear the sword in vain. It is God’s servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience. For this reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants devoted to governing. Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. (Rom 13:1-7, NET)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reverend Keith
Here's another one that I can't help thinking is completely sarcastic:

Here is Paul, who has been beaten, stoned, arrested, imprisoned, run out of town - NUMEROUS times, almost always with the cooperation or even at the instigation of the "governing authorities", saying that if you do good, the authorities will praise you?!? Here's Paul, who knows very well that it was governing authorities who crucified Jesus telling us they are God's servants, worthy of honor because they only punish evil?

This really only makes sense to me as sarcasm - possibly a sarcasm used to protect himself and his writings from those very authorities. Something like me saying "The United States government is perfect in every way. I'm SURE they would never get involved in a war just to protect their oil interests, or support dictatorships. And I'm absolutely positive that they would never tailor legislation for the benefit of special interest groups who contribute lots of money. No, the government always acts impartially for the greatest good of all."

Obviously sarcasm. But if these words were ever printed out, buried in a vault, and one day dug up by someone who decided they were the word of God (hey, you never know) - they might very well miss the sarcasm and assume I really and truly thought that the U.S. Government was indeed perfect and godly in every way.

So taking everything in scripture literally can send you down the wrong track in several different ways...

I've read sarcasm in the Scriptures before, and also noticed the humor side of Scripture, but have always questioned from where the sarcasm and humor is coming from, whether or not it was I who was projecting upon them. When in doubt though I remember, God is not an author of confusion.

Paul's teaching does come as a surprise initially, at least on my part when reading Romans. Given Paul received much persecution and faced many obstacles. Remembering that Paul was juggling between his Roman citizenship and receiving protection at the hands of impartial Roman justice, it really then, comes as no surprise. And neither too does this neglect consistency throughout scripture in way of obedience being given to, and prayers made for civil powers, even when under the hands of someone like Nero.
1 Timothy 2:1-2
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Titus 3:1
Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

1 Peter 2:13-17
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
Overall, my thoughts are that those that lack virtuous lives always feel as if they are being oppressed by governing authorities, at least from my perspective. However, the governing authorities should be transparent in the lives of the virtuous and righteous.

This takes me further into questioning when should we not obey governing authorities, God before men, and when is force considered just means, even if we then will face division, in consideration of the differing views of an activist, pacifist, and selectivist. But perhaps it was Paul's final thought that God would not be helping the Jews if they partake in an action that's bloody and violent, so even in this day and age this may be relevant. Maybe, its just not the correct timing, or maybe he knew that we cannot disassociate ourselves from society.

Just as Paul received benefit from Roman citizenship, we too enjoy much of the same benefits, juggling between our countries citizenship/identity and our Christian identity...

Can't wait to start this Biblical Herm. course, thanks for your wonderful insight thus far Rev. Keith.
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  #14  
Old 18-04-2012, 03:11 AM
Mary Baker Mary Baker is offline
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Quote:
The problem with a literal reading of the Bible is that people apply those literalist readings to absolutist beliefs, and ignore the simple fact that a text like the Bible will say multiple, often contradictory things; not even counting the ambiguities and natural limitations of translation from one language to another that further obfuscate the range of interpretations.
I do not find it so and I think the way to avoid this confusion is to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as one reads, to read the whole Bible through several times ABSORBING it.
take into consideration the time and culture in which different parts of the Bible were written, and not confusing various and progressing human concepts of God with God himself.

Probably a clear understanding is most likely for one who has experienced God personally.

The central message is that we need to love God with our whole being, love our neighbor as ourselves, love, pray for and do good to our enemies, and of course to love ourselves else it would be no favor to love others as we love ourselves. If we do these things all else will naturally fall into place.
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Old 18-04-2012, 03:43 AM
Mind's Eye Mind's Eye is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Animus27
The problem with a literal reading of the Bible is that people apply those literalist readings to absolutist beliefs,

But aren't those who think they have an iron clad case against the Bible and how it should or should not be read giving in to their own absolutist beliefs?

I see a lot of people here making absolutist statements about all Christians based on the actions of a few. We have to remember, fundamentalists and off the wall sects are out there... and they love to be in the limelight screaming out their fear laced, hateful messages; but they in no way represent the whole of those who believe in the message of Christ and view the Biblical writings through a more literal lens.

I like the people on this forum; but I think some of them need to stop jumping down the throats of others every time they mention Christianity or the Bible.

Would not you be upset if every time you posted a bunch of people replied by saying what a fool you were for believing what you do, and insinuating that all your beliefs came from bad and faulty sources?.... I think anybody with half a heart would feel kind of crumby if that happened.

Lighten up folks... This is the Spiritual Forums, not the He-Man Christian Haters society.
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Old 18-04-2012, 11:35 AM
LIFE LIFE is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mind's Eye
But aren't those who think they have an iron clad case against the Bible and how it should or should not be read giving in to their own absolutist beliefs?

Not really, and I'll tell you why? Making a absolute positive statement is radically different from making an absolute negative statement. Deductive (eliminative) reasoning is predicated on the formation of decisive statements of negation.

An absolute statement about the inerrancy, literality, and "divine inspiration" of a particular religious book cannot be made identical to absolute statements to the contrary.

Example: If I happen to find some really large animal tracks in the woods- something completely unknown and unlike anything I've ever seen- negative statements about the identity of that animal can be decisively made, while positive statements cannot. For instance, I will know beyond any doubt that those tracks were not formed by a sparrow walking along the ground, a snake slithering, etc. In other words, I cannot tell you what that animal IS, but I can tell you what it IS NOT.

Similarly, if there is a "God", then I cannot make an absolute concretist statement about what "God" is, but this does not mean I cannot make statements about what "God" is not, or cannot be, for that matter. The two should not be confused. The inability to make a positive statement does not preclude the ability to make a negative statement. They are not direeclty correlative in this way. (see: apophatic/negative theology, which can be found in all spiritual traditions).

For instance, we may not be able to agree on what or if "God" exists, but we can almost certainly agree that it is not a gigantic pink elephant that lives in the clouds. Am I right? We can probably safely deduct that.

In the same way, I don't know what God is (or more specifically, what is represented by the term "God") but I do know that it is not the tribal diety that is described in the bible, interpreted in an orthodox manner through a literal reading. That much can be decisively said, in my opinion.
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Old 18-04-2012, 04:14 PM
Mind's Eye Mind's Eye is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LIFE
Not really, and I'll tell you why? Making a absolute positive statement is radically different from making an absolute negative statement. Deductive (eliminative) reasoning is predicated on the formation of decisive statements of negation.

An absolute statement about the inerrancy, literality, and "divine inspiration" of a particular religious book cannot be made identical to absolute statements to the contrary.

Example: If I happen to find some really large animal tracks in the woods- something completely unknown and unlike anything I've ever seen- negative statements about the identity of that animal can be decisively made, while positive statements cannot. For instance, I will know beyond any doubt that those tracks were not formed by a sparrow walking along the ground, a snake slithering, etc. In other words, I cannot tell you what that animal IS, but I can tell you what it IS NOT.

Similarly, if there is a "God", then I cannot make an absolute concretist statement about what "God" is, but this does not mean I cannot make statements about what "God" is not, or cannot be, for that matter. The two should not be confused. The inability to make a positive statement does not preclude the ability to make a negative statement. They are not direeclty correlative in this way. (see: apophatic/negative theology, which can be found in all spiritual traditions).

For instance, we may not be able to agree on what or if "God" exists, but we can almost certainly agree that it is not a gigantic pink elephant that lives in the clouds. Am I right? We can probably safely deduct that.

In the same way, I don't know what God is (or more specifically, what is represented by the term "God") but I do know that it is not the tribal diety that is described in the bible, interpreted in an orthodox manner through a literal reading. That much can be decisively said, in my opinion.

What you are saying is true in its context, and also differs from a frontal assault launched by someone because they are ticked off at religion. It is a different animal to say, I disagree with some of your concepts about God because... as apposed to; you are a fool or an uneducated redneck for believing the way you do. Name hurling and blanketed judgmental statements have no place in apophatic/negative theology as far as I am concerned; and neither do statements that teeter on the threshold of being intolerant or insulting.

And as far as the tribal deity of the Bible goes; most folks who use such terminology or view the Biblical God as a blood thirsty tyrant, are generally folks who have never read the Bible, or do not understand it. The writings of the Bible are actually layers deep and it takes years to uncover some of its hidden meanings and mysteries. There are also so many passages that harken back to or explain other passages that one cannot grasp, nor even remember such complex theologies in a casual reading of the book. This alone is why someone can't read a book written by someone who can't stand the Bible and then go about spouting what they read in that book as fact... because those facts are often lacking in real substance and are just being presented buy someone who was the victim of a lop sided church.

Education is the key, and you can't get that by taking casual glances at a subject, taking as gospel what someone else says about it or looking at toothless numb skulls handling poisonous snakes. Nor can we leaf through the Bible and read a few gruesome stories in it and think we comprehend the wider picture as to why that gruesomeness took place... If most folks understood what the book was presenting, they would have a better platform from which to speak... and then they could enter into a more appropriate dialogue over the subject. And then they could agree to disagree on certain subjects that are based on the facts, not just on hearsay and personal prejudices.
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Old 18-04-2012, 05:49 PM
LIFE LIFE is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mind's Eye
And as far as the tribal deity of the Bible goes; most folks who use such terminology or view the Biblical God as a blood thirsty tyrant, are generally folks who have never read the Bible, or do not understand it.

I have read the bible. In terms of understanding- that depends on how one was taught to understand it.

Yes, it is a blood thristy tyrant IF read literally. Remember, I said: "as interpreted ...through a literal reading" in the previous post.

When people read religious books in the context of a religion or any a priori belief-system (self imposed or otherwise), their interpretation is delineated according to the confines of the belief system. They read the text and are "fed" the interpretation they "should" have, and this all happens simultaneously and rather seamlessly. In the end, the confuse the objective text with the subjective interpretations imposed upon them. Keep in mind that for the vast majority of people involved in orthodox religions of all kind, this occurred during the highly impressionable years of childhood. The combination of an exclusivist insular belief system with a developing mind is truly frightening, but I digress. That is another topic entirely that could be spoken at length about. Needless to say, many adults that truly feel as though they are freely choosing their beliefs have no idea that they are the product of indoctrination.

Anyways, people understand a text according to how they are taught to understand a text. Hence, hermeneutics. Most of the time the teaching of interpretation is subtle and goes rather unnoticed. People are not able to distinguish the text from how they are being taught to interpret the text. These become fused into a single process.

Is a truly objective reading of the bible possible. No, not to anyone exposed to culture of any kind (which is everyone). Yet, this is not to say that some interpretations are not more objective than others.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mind's Eye
The writings of the Bible are actually layers deep and it takes years to uncover some of its hidden meanings and mysteries.

I agree. But "hidden meanings" is anathema to the literalist. Everything is face value to the person who interprets the bible literally. It prevents them from truly having to think about what something may really mean. If the bible is primarily interpreted in a literal fashion and read as a historical record of actual occurrences, then all you is take those occurrences as face value. For instance, for those that interpret in this manner, the story of adam and eve doesn't have alterior meaning other than it was a historical event. They are not concerned with metaphorical, allegorical, symbolic meanings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mind's Eye
Education is the key...

That depends on what the education is.
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Old 18-04-2012, 06:51 PM
Mind's Eye Mind's Eye is offline
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Originally Posted by LIFE
I agree. But "hidden meanings" is anathema to the literalist. Everything is face value to the person who interprets the bible literally. It prevents them from truly having to think about what something may really mean. If the bible is primarily interpreted in a literal fashion and read as a historical record of actual occurrences, then all you is take those occurrences as face value. For instance, for those that interpret in this manner, the story of adam and eve doesn't have alterior meaning other than it was a historical event. They are not concerned with metaphorical, allegorical, symbolic meanings.

Oh, I agree... The literal fundamentalist is a hard nut to crack; they have thrown out everything from Christianities beginnings that dealt with the mystical and metaphysical and replaced it with their own literal interpretation of things. Thus they have created a Christianity that is absolutely judgmental, biased and riddled with prejudice and contradictions. And I state the above not to name call, but rather to point out that they have numerous slices of the pie missing and are therefore cheating themselves out of some very beautiful traditions and practices.

The strange thing is that a fundamentalist will say, "If you don't have Jesus as your savior, even if its through no fault of your own... you will absolutely burn in hell."

But then even the Catholics, who do hold to many more of the older beliefs and traditions of Christianity will say, "If you do not acknowledge Jesus as the savior, God will judge you according to the way you lived your life." Hence it matters not what religion you are, or even if you have no religion at all... as long as you were a kind, caring and decent person, you will be granted salvation. It all hinges upon the law of love.

I don't think a lot of people know that The Catholic Church teaches that; and I respect them for their opinion on salvation... It seems much more fair and loving than the all or nothing of the literal fundamentalist view.
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Old 18-04-2012, 07:14 PM
TeeHee TeeHee is offline
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I get the feeling that a non literal interpretation is being given in an dishonest way in regards to selectivity. Also, it seems that many don't want to put in the leg work, and instead form an interpretation from a sort of superficial knowledge, while often the interpreter finds excuses or reason's to reject the literal one, IMO.

Here's some examples that show that the Bible encourages a literal interpretation.

Creation of the universe....
Exodus 20:10-11
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Creation of Adam and Eve....
Matthew 19:6
Therefore they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
Noah's flood
Matthew 24:38
For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
Jonah's experience
Matthew 12:40-42
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.
Also, more than a hundred prophecies about the Messiah were fulfilled literally. And although the Bible has the presence of parables or an allegory, the ordinary meaning is a literal one as Jesus provided the literal interpretations of His parables, and rejected those who did not interpret the resurrection literally.

These principles will lead us to being more accurately able to interpret the Bible:
  1. Seek the author's intended meaning instead of superimposing a meaning onto the text. The meaning of a passage is fixed by the author and is not subject to alteration by readers.
  2. When the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense. A literal hermeneutic is best.
  3. Pay close attention to the context. Individual verses are not isolated fragments, but parts of a whole. Interpreting them includes discovering their relationship to each other and to the entire passage.
  4. Make a correct genre judgment. The Bible contains a variety of literary genres: history, drama, poetry, wise sayings, apocalyptic writings, each of which has certain peculiar characteristics to consider when interpreting the text.
  5. Consult history and culture. Step our of a contemporary Western mind set and into first century Jewish mind set. What did the biblical words mean tot he original readers.
  6. Interpret the difficult verses in light of the clear verses.
  7. Interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament.

Last but not least, an Esoteric method of interpreting Scriptures seeks hidden or secondary meanings in Bible verses. This type of methodology is illegitimate for many reasons...
  1. Scriptures tells us not to distort its meaning.
  2. Each verse of Scripture has only one correct meaning, not multiple pliable meanings.
  3. The basic authority in esoteric interpretation is not Scripture, but the mind of the interpreter. Consequently, esoteric interpretations have irreconcilable contradictions.
  4. Esoteric interpretation relies on inner illumination, no the Holy Spirit.
  5. Esotericism super impose meanings on Bible verses instead of objectively seeking the biblical author's intended meaning. But the author's meaning is fixed and is not subject to alteration by readers.
  6. Esotericism ignores issues of context, grammar, history and culture.
  7. Jesus always interpreted the OT Scriptures literally.
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