A better approach to Bible interpretation

This was inspired by Alyosha’a post about the Book of Job.
When reading the Bible, one is better served by seeing it less like a revelation from God onto a person that then transcribes, submissively, what was passed onto him by Divine revelation, and more like a conversation, a dialectic relation between man and God.
As such, the Bible is a stratified work. How you distinguish layers will depend on the definitions you give to each one, but that they exist, that there are different interpretations to similar themes goes without saying. If this is accepted, then you can understand better the inconsistencies you find in the text from OT to NT and sometimes from the Torah to the prophetic literature and even between Psalm and Psalm.
The only true unity of the Bible is the subject that it treats- God. But what God is like is fluent through the text. From the raging war-god to the Love-god of the NT (which is why the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse, was controversial, because in it the war-god returns). As you can see, there are overlaps and no clear boundary. Every now and then there is an exaltation of a trait that is found in the subject of this narrative: God. Sometimes it is Love, sometimes it is His transcendence and incomprenhensibility, while other times it is His Justice, even if the contents of which seem to vary from age to age. This fluidity corresponds to the history of those in custody of this narrative. God is multi-faceted because the people who believed in this God were fractioned (economically, chronologically, geographically, culturally…). Each group gave God a different flavor, a different interpretation.

Do not misunderstand my words as an echo to Feuerbach, saying that God is just a projection of what is highest in us. Rather, I go with Buber and understand all this as a conversation with the Divine, or God as a Thou, a real, and personal God. “Personal” in the sense that God is understood by me as a person. In my relation to an ordinary person there will come in my mind an idea of that person that I have experienced, NOT projected. However real my encounter is, the ideas that I form afterwards, as I link the private encounter to a public discourse, will bring forth, by the limits of language, elements that I imagine, as I round up God to a set of possible meanings. I give God a certain flavor, just as I would with anything else that I encounter and wish to think about. The unmediated experience becomes the mediated idea of public exchange. And more than anything God is a social phenomena, shared by a group of individuals, or at least supposed to. Gods are not the gods of just one person but of a social group, a clan, a tribe, a people, and even humanity.

When interpreting the meaning of certain books in the Bible it is good to remember the human element that shaped their content. As the circumstances of a certain people change, so does the traditional answers given by their faith to the question of God’s will, what is expected of them and what they can expect of Him. The roles of enduring characters change as well if they help in the comprehension of their Sacred History.

The history of Satan is one of detachment from God. Initially, as we find in the poetic expressions of the Torah, like the song of Moses, God was surrounded by a Heavenly Host. It is a model found in other cultures like Mesopotamia. Part of this Host are angels that carry out missions for God. In the excecution of these missions these angels are stan-in’s for God. Satan is a fallen angel, but his role is still as an agent of God. Satan’s position is unique in that his actions are independent of God. In a sense, Satan was the first freewilling agent. In the Book of Job, it is Satan that incites and determines the actions of God. Sounds odd for an almighty being, but not if you see the Bible as a collection of books rather than as a single book. God’s role is relatively consistent only within each book and the references that each author chooses to highlight. The God of the author of Job is different, in certain respects, to the God of the author Revelation, because, as explained above, the conditions of these men influenced their encounter and the meaning they give, the public meaning they gave to their private experience.

And a question that comes to mind when considering all of this is: “So what is God in Himself, outside of the minds of the authors that wrote of Him?”
This question is a ruse, because it cannot be answered by it’s own presuppositions. To give an answer as to what God is outside of the minds of men, would require the responder to be non-human and speaks in a language that is incomprehensible to humans, to say what God is and remains to be outside of human mediation. Otherwise, God is lost and what remains is a mediation. But it is also the wrong question. The encounter we need is not with an In-Itself but with a Thou, with a communicating partner. Again, our human relations serve as a paragon for our relation to God. We can relate to one another, we human beings, yet we cannot know what each one of us IS within himself or in-himself. Our finiteness makes this a necessity. But beyond our finitude and fallibility rests a natural imperative to associate, an animal faith that makes relation possible, communication an exchange. It is our default presupposition that something is what it seems.

Enjoy the record heat.

My thinking is that God is not necessarily a male person, which is a particularly sexist kind of anthropomorphic projection.

You say this, and then proceed to absolutely prove it. Ergo, the “conversation” is certainly completely one-sided.

Jonquil,
The pronoun is only a manner of speaking and certainly does not refer to a set of genitalia. Are you a Christian though?

I do state possible layers, that have been used, or that could be used. That does not prove that the process of determination is one-sided as the determinant agent is him/herself, subject to the determination of a relationship or lack of one, with a Thou, due to an experience that is beyond his/her control to avoid or create.

Wrong. The pronoun says everything about male bias.

So you refer to God as “Her”, or “She”, or “Godess”?

I’m starting to think that it needs to be broadened beyond this. There are three relevant players: God, man, and creation, and they stand in similar dialectical relations with each other. Most notably, God : man = man : creation = ruler : ruled. This necessitates an adjustment in your subsequent comment,

In fact, I think, the history of Satan is one of detachment from man, not from God. The satan is a creation that has fallen away from man (lost faith in him) just as the idolater is a man that has fallen away from God (lost faith in Him). Having lost faith in man the satan accuses man, as we see in Job.

As things progress, the satan can become Satan, which is not just a creation that has lost faith in man, but that is in open rebellion against man. (Just as Job almost transitions from accuser of God (the idolater) to capital-I Idolatry, and open rebellion against God.)

Anyways, my thoughts here are premature, but I think you need another partner in your dialectical model. There is the God-Man relationship and then there is the Man-Creation relationship. Man can fall away from God (idolatry) just as creation can fall away from man (satanism). These are key distinctions to make, I think, at least in understanding the dynamics of Job and, if there is fluency, the Biblical narrative as a whole.

It’s been too long since I’ve read Buber, and I’ve never read him closely, but I don’t think his I-Thou and I-It relationships would map to what I’m talking about here, or could they? …

Then you will be happy to learn that “El”, the personal pronoun used for God in Hebrew, implies neither masculine or feminine. It is only due to the limitations of European based languages that God is referred to as “He” in translation. (“It” seems rather inappropriate.)

“The letter of the Scripture is death.”-- Paul

How about no gender at all? What a concept.

Wouldn’t it be a great send off for a majority of American Christians if, when they arrived in Heaven, they discovered that God was a fat, ugly, old lesbian black woman?

Lol. The horror! The horror!

Hello Alyoshka,

— I’m starting to think that it needs to be broadened beyond this. There are three relevant players: God, man, and creation, and they stand in similar dialectical relations with each other. Most notably, God : man = man : creation = ruler : ruled. This necessitates an adjustment in your subsequent comment,
O- I’ll be honest: I don’t understand the schematic you’ve made. Your starting point there are three relevant players:
1- God
2- Man
3- Creation
Everything afterwards I did not understand.

— In fact, I think, the history of Satan is one of detachment from man, not from God.
O- Are we going by the current Bible?

— The satan is a creation that has fallen away from man (lost faith in him) just as the idolater is a man that has fallen away from God (lost faith in Him). Having lost faith in man the satan accuses man, as we see in Job.
O- But man is something in which even God, in the OT, has lost faith in, or did from time to time. The death of Jesus, and the necessity of his death, are explained by the lost of faith in man by God…according to Paul. He accusses Job, but the fact is that his accusation rings true in the ears of God and INCITES God precisely because God never had much confidence in man to beging with. After all, and as Paul argues, the very existence of a Law is an indictement against man. So it is debatable just how much confidence God had in man. As a side note to that, Satan may have been, and still be, argued to be, an aspect of God reflecting a facet, a tendency of God, a persona against which God resolves inner tensions.

— As things progress, the satan can become Satan, which is not just a creation that has lost faith in man, but that is in open rebellion against man. (Just as Job almost transitions from accuser of God (the idolater) to capital-I Idolatry, and open rebellion against God.)
O- Satan is given a bigger role as the circumstances of the people changed, and as they interpreted other religions they picked along the way using the symbols and images already available within their own tradition. Satan became Satan, God’s foe, after meeting the religuion of Zoroaster. But here is my hunch. Satan’s accusations are spot on. And because they are, we require a hero to save us. In Job, God came from the whirlwind to SAVE Job, because indeed Satan was spot on about Job. And this continued on to the NT.

— Anyways, my thoughts here are premature, but I think you need another partner in your dialectical model. There is the God-Man relationship and then there is the Man-Creation relationship. Man can fall away from God (idolatry) just as creation can fall away from man (satanism). These are key distinctions to make, I think, at least in understanding the dynamics of Job and, if there is fluency, the Biblical narrative as a whole.
O- Again, I did not understand what came before, less what you say now, but are you equating Satan to Creation?

— It’s been too long since I’ve read Buber, and I’ve never read him closely, but I don’t think his I-Thou and I-It relationships would map to what I’m talking about here, or could they? …
O- You tell me. But I did not put that comment in relation to what you had said but as a response to a possible comment against my argument and it’s consequence.

I think you’re a late postmodernist. But we are past that. At least I am. I am not out to make a sexist point or contributing to the subjugation of women. Such arguments are Marxist, inherently atheist, in relation to Christianity, which refers to God as a “He”.
Too much has been made about a pronoun when Maimonides centuries before had already said that Scripture was writen in the language of man and for man. Other than an entire reformulation of most languages, the masculinity within will remain. But in the end it is entirely BS, because the reformulation of these pronouns do not necessarly empower the disenfranchised. Refering to God as a “She” or “It” do not eliminate sexism withing our societies. That is a Pavlonian myth. We are born sexists, racists, racialists. We only learn tolerance and equality. But as we can see by the very existence of Laws agains all of these natural tendencies, we revert to these default forms of appreciation from time to time, irrespective, I am sure, of the pronouns we use in european languages.

Edit of the above quote to correct for reality: "We only learn tolerance and equality when someone holds a frigging gun to our heads."

Q. And anyway, who is this “we” referenced so freely in the quote, er, pray tell?

{{{{{{{waving hand in the air}}}}}}}
Oh, oh, I know, I know!!!

A. MAN. KIND.
:-&

[size=85]P.S. I can live with the black lesbian theme as we head down the path to “A Better Approach to Bible Interpretation”.[/size]

Hello Ingenium:

— Edit of the above quote to correct for reality: “We only learn tolerance and equality when someone holds a frigging gun to our heads.”
O- Which means that we do not learn, but that we comform. Pronouns change nothing, if we “correct for reality”: only guns can make any real change.

— Q. And anyway, who is this “we” referenced so freely in the quote, er, pray tell?
{{{{{{{waving hand in the air}}}}}}}
Oh, oh, I know, I know!!!
A. MAN. KIND.
O- Women are entirely incapable of violence. They are born without any need for any laws. In fact there are no women prisions on this earth and woman are the measure of civility, kindness and tolerance towards one another. “We”, by definition, refered to mankind, and thus not to women, who are the complete opposite. Sorry for any misunderstandings that may have cast doubt on the golden halo of femininity.

— P.S. I can live with the black lesbian theme as we head down the path to “A Better Approach to Bible Interpretation”.
O- Yes. That is why I wrote the entire OP, to eventually invite such proposals and of course the proper pronouns to go along with that new conceptualizations as well.

0.o
What?
I must be misunderstanding you.

I was being sarcastic, Stumps.

O,
There is a women’s prison here in Ohio. It’s called Marysville! And why are we debating pronouns anyway? What they define is a given; what they mean to different persons is a cultural or personally biased interpretation. Can we get beyond he/she, us/them dead-end discussions in order to see the broader picture of everyone? Or is that begging some absolute or universal interpretation which humans may extol but never seem to be able to live up to?