Musings on the Bible (3)

In a couple of previous musings on the Bible I’ve been a bit all over the shop. Here’s a more worked out version of what I’m trying to say:

1) Interpretative diversity of the Bible is a brute fact

And it remains one for Christians who believe in the inspiration, authority and truth of the Bible.

2) You can’t simply explain away interpretative diversity (on disputed issues) it by saying there is ‘one’ reading in there but ‘the problem is us’

This seems to assumes that, if in some ideal situation we had all the right facts and research, the definitive ‘plain reading’ of the text(s) pops out.  While this may well apply in plenty of instances, there are simply far too many issues of difference within a broad evangelicalism, let alone outside it, to reduce interpretative diversity to a simple cause.

3) Interpretative diversity is not about the precise interpretation of a few texts here and there but about a multitude of factors which shape the way we approach Scripture.

However, having said (2) above, the primary ‘variable’ behind interpretative diversity is ‘us’. And by ‘us’, I want to include things like personality; culture; when in history we happen to live; age; gender; experience; prior theological assumptions; language; church tradition to which we belong; education; where in the world we live; socio-economic status; and so on. And we are naive if we assume ‘our’ way is normal. There is no normal. Or, to put it another way, whose normal are we talking about?

One example here is a fascinating book I blogged through a while back, Philip Jenkins’, New Faces of Christianity: Reading the Bible in the Global South. Jenkins’ descriptions of how Christians in Africa (for example) read texts relating to famine, warfare, poverty and prayer compared to believers in the West are a compelling reminder of both the reality of, and factors behind, interpretative diversity. The Bible ‘comes alive’ to African Christians in ways that are not seen or felt by Westerners. The same texts are being read in dramatically different ways.

4) This is not to disbelieve the truth, inspiration or authority of Scripture. It is to say that the Bible itself is a source of interpretative diversity.

Christian Smith (and he’s hardly the first to say such things) has unpacked the reality of ‘pervasive interpretative pluralism’ at length. He talks about the failure of what he calls ‘biblicism’ – where some evangelicals claim that the Bible is definitively clear on all sorts levels and on all sorts of issues. If true, then pervasive interpretative pluralism ought not occur, but it manifestly does. Therefore, such ‘biblicist’ claims are rather optimistic to say the least. Or to put it in Smith’s terms, ‘impossible’. They may well reflect a modernist over-confidence in our methodology, properly applied, delivering the right results.

I’m not blogging about Smith’s arguments per se – many have done that over a year ago in lots of detail. He casts the ‘biblicist’ net pretty wide at times to include, it seems to me, practically all Protestants, let alone evangelicals. Interpretative pluralism is an issue far beyond evangelicalism; it’s as old as church history. But he does have a point when he says

“on important matters the Bible apparently is not clear, consistent, and univocal enough to enable the best-intentioned, most highly skilled, believing readers to come to agreement as to what it teaches. This is an empirical, historical, undeniable, and ever-present reality.’ (25)

In other words, the Bible itself is itself another contributing factor to interpretative diversity. Smith talks about it being ‘multivocal’ – it can and does speak to different audiences in different ways. It is therefore ‘polysemic’ (multiple meanings) – just listen to bunch of preachers on the same text.

This is not to retreat into some sort of postmodern morass of relativity where the meaning of any text is determined by the reader. It is to point out a fact of life. The Bible is deeper and richer and more powerful than any individual or group can tie down.

5) The Bible is a big complex book and we need a large dose of humility as we develop theologies from it.

Christians desperately need to listen and learn from each other and from the Spirit as they read and interpret Scripture. In other words, we need lots of humility.

This was one of John Stott’s final pleas to fellow evangelicals. The gospel itself should lead Christians to humility since it is gracious gift of God. And evangelical fragmentation should lead evangelicals to humility since a lot of it represents a failure to be Christlike. This grieved Stott deeply.

Humility in regard to the Bible is not the same as uncertainty and lack of conviction. It is a self-awareness of the provisionality of our own interpretations and a conscious determination to listen, learn, develop and grow in understanding as we engage with others.

One example here of this sort of evangelical ‘over-egging the pudding’ and claiming too much.  I was reading one evangelical organisation’s Statement of Faith recently. It has all sorts of absolute positions articulated within it – on gifts of the Spirit, theology of baptism, church government, eschatology, election, leadership, evolution etc. On an organisational level, it is perfectly fair and transparent for a group to articulate what it believes and to require that its ‘mission critical’ employees affirm it. But real difficulty comes when such organisational positions are not distinguished in any way from beliefs that are essential for evangelical Christian faith per se and find their way into a document that becomes the basis for working with other Christians. The secondary organisational distinctive then too easily become a ‘test of orthodoxy’. This blurring of boundaries leads to all sort of division and unhelpful judgements over who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. But more than this, it reflects a lack of critical self-awareness that ‘our’ positions on these disputed issues need to be held more loosely and more humbly than core essentials.

6) Scripture is best read as a narrative with Jesus at the centre

Smith is highly critical of an unrealistic ‘biblicism’ that fails to acknowledge the rather awkward reality that it does not lead to agreement and consensus on what the Bible teaches.

As an alternative, he proposes reading the Bible through a Christocentric lens (a la the great Swiss pipe-smoker Karl). He’s happy to admit that his proposals are just that – proposals. But’s he’s bullish that they are a more realistic and more authentically evangelical (evangel = gospel of Jesus Christ) way to read the Bible since they put Christ at the centre of the story.

I have huge sympathy with this approach because it how I see the authors of the NT doing things. I believe that it is best to read Scripture as an unfolding narrative which leads to Jesus the Jewish Christ who is risen Lord and saviour. Each part of the Bible needs to be read in light of that narrative.

Here’s a little diagram of mine that I use in class (I like diagrams) that tries to capture the Christocentric nature of Scripture.

Christ Bible Theology

The NT is quite simply all about Jesus. He is on every page. And the entire NT is being written as a theological reflection on the OT in light of the coming of the Messiah, his life, the kingdom announced, the death, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost and ongoing reign of the risen Lord who will one day return and establish the new heavens and new earth. Theology itself can then be seen as ongoing reflection on Christ in light of all of Scripture, the gift of the Spirit, and done in the unfolding and ever-changing cultural context of Christians throughout history.

After two millennia, that’s a lot of history and culture and theological reflection. There is huge richness there, but also huge diversity and complexity. To best make sense of all of Scripture, it needs to be read through the narrative of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is around the gospel of Jesus Christ that unity is found – not in policing the borders of ‘my’ interpretation of a controversial issue. It is also in the gospel of Jesus that the true focus of Scripture is found – not in defining ourselves as ‘in’ or ‘out’ on whether we believe in a particular form of eschatology, or baptism, or theology of Spiritual gifts, or whether women should teach and lead, or whatever.

I think, by the way, that Smith overstates things at times in terms of an inherent evangelical disunity and fragmentation. He cites Packer and Oden’s One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus, written to solidify a sense of shared evangelical beliefs as only being able to make their case by ignoring the ‘many areas of evangelical dissensus’ (37).  He argues that ‘American evangelicalism … lacks a positive, shared, biblically grounded belief system and identity.’ (37). And he is not limiting this criticism to America but evangelicalism per se.

Sure, at its worst, evangelicalism is hopelessly divided, but that is precisely where and when it loses focus on its positive, shared, grounded belief system and identity.  At its best, that identity and belief system is focused on what Packer and Oden (and countless other evangelicals) have sought to maintain – on the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. It is, in other words, a deeply Christocentric focus. It was Stott who summarized evangelical belief and identity in terms of being ‘Bible people and Gospel people.’

My day to day experience where I work is of this positive shared belief system and identity being worked out in a vibrant atmosphere of joint learning, worship and community – yet with students and staff having many different perspectives on all sorts of issues.

7) Whatever way we read Scripture, I don’t think we are ever going to escape from or resolve (this side of New Creation) the issue of interpretative diversity. But facing up to it is a good thing to do.

But, as Robert Gundry pointed out in his critique of Smith, reading with a Christocentric lens still leaves you with all sorts of decisions, assumptions, biases and theological turns informed by a different sort of theological grid. However deeply Christian Barth was, there are plenty of loose ends and debatable interpretations within his vast work. In other words, no approach is going to eliminate ‘pervasive interpretative pluralism’.

Sure you can try a Magisterium instead (as presumably Smith now ascribes to since he converted to Catholicism). But I’m too much of an evangelical Protestant to be much persuaded that it solves much – especially when it sets it self up as an extra-biblical authority and teaches stuff that would make the biblical authors scratch their heads in bemusement.

Being honest about interpretative diversity is an important and good thing to do. It should shake us out of comfort zones and any complacency that we have things figured out, or worse, that we are in control of the text. It also should lead us to gracious engagement with others where we can learn together what the Spirit is saying through the Word.

In other words, interpretative diversity is not all a bad thing. It should force us towards humility, listening, learning, and talking all the while focusing on Christ at the centre. Who knows – to come back to Richard’s original question about God, the Bible and ambiguity – maybe this God’s purpose for his people as they wrestle with and try to understand his Word?

Comments, as ever, welcome.

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Overcoming Violence: is it possible to distance God from all violence in the Bible?

1331567925I’ve been reading and reviewing Johnston McMaster, Overcoming Violence: Dismantling an Irish History and Theology: an alternative vision. Columba Press: Dublin, 2012.

McMaster is Assistant Professor and Co-ordinator of the Education for Reconciliation Programme within the Irish School of Ecumenics. This is an ambitious and passionate work of Irish political theology emerging out of years of reflection and active participation in reconciliation programmes.

I can’t reproduce the formal review but before I lose more brain cells and forget the details, I’d like to explore what I think is his central theme (and what follows is my take on McMaster’s overall argument not his own words unless in quotes):

It is possible, indeed absolutely essential, to distance God from all violence in the Bible. And therefore, God’s people are to renounce and be utterly opposed to violence.

Violence is always an evil. There is nothing redemptive about violence. Any idea that violence is redemptive is heresy and owes more to Babylonian religious militarism than the Bible. The myth of redemptive violence has been a curse in Western history and within the church. It is something we need to be delivered from for good.

And there have been few places more negatively impacted by the myth of redemptive violence than Ireland. Our blood-soaked religious history testifies to the poison it injects within a culture. Our love of violence reveals the corrosive effects of the ‘Constantinian mistake’ where violence has been exalted and justified in the name of God and of nation. What is required is ‘a whole new vision of what it means to live the faith’ (185).The best way the decade of centenaries of 1912-22 can be remembered is to remember the past dead is as ‘victims to our shared inhumanity and acquiescence in violence’ (190).

God is good. Jesus is the climax of the biblical revelation of who God is, is manifestly against violence. He is the king of the peaceable kingdom. He rejects the way of the sword. He calls his disciples to peace and, if necessary to suffering. McMaster says that ‘this inherent ethos of the kingdom is far removed from the ambivalence towards and even collusion with war and violence in Irish and Western history’ (184-5).

A theology that endorses violence is due to a massive mis-reading of the OT and the NT.  If you read the OT ‘literally’, says McMaster, you end up with all sorts of ‘texts of terror’ that appear to glory in images of a pathological warrior God who divinely sanctions brutal violence against children, humanity in general, the enemies of Israel and women.  You end up with ‘violent zealot’ like King Josiah being seen as a good guy. You end up  with the ‘divine right of kings’ being supported from the OT and being used a pretext for empire building and destruction of enemies by any means possible. To bring it closer to home, you end up with Cromwell in Drogheda.Cromwell in Drogheda

So how else can the violent ‘texts of terror’ in the OT be read? McMaster uses a pretty radical heremeneutic. Following a critical strand of OT scholarship (he doesn’t name him but Martin Noth was a forerunner) he argues that these ‘texts of terror’ need to be read through the lens of exile and judgement. In other words, Deuteronomy to 2 Kings needs to be understood as a theological history (McMaster calls it theo-mythical imagination) compiled in exile and re-interpreting Israel’s earlier history (the details of which are lost in time).

And this revisioning of history is actually anti-violence. The story of exodus, Canaan, Israel’s taking of a king and all the violence than ensued, was a tragic departure from her true calling. And the stories we have in the Bible are best read as a critique of Israel and her violence and lack of trust in YHWH. Underneath the narratives is the call to faith, to powerlessness, to rest in God being their God rather than take up arms. Violence, in this reading, is a lack of faith, a moral failure, a warning to future generations not to repeat their mistakes. And you see this counter narrative of non-violence all through the OT, which culminates in the coming of the Messiah.

McMaster doesn’t go into lots of examples, but presumably every time God is portrayed as commanding violence or as a victorious warrior, it is part of this anti-violent critique of the failure of Israel during this mythological history. Now, that’s quite a lot of re-interpretation going on.

OK, that’s the OT. When it comes to the NT, McMaster doesn’t tone down the radical arguments. He claims that Christians (and especially evangelicals since their close association with penal substitution) have deeply distorted the atonement. Those who believe in substitutionary atonement are responsible for propagating an inherently violent and immoral image of God that is flat contradiction with the teaching of Jesus himself. He says it is

‘baffling to know why Christians have allowed a violent God’s blood sacrifice of “his only Son” as a substitute for sinful humanity to dominate theology and liturgy for the last 1,000 years’ (116)

Without considering other models, or offering a fair view of penal substitution, he chooses the Christus Victor theory of the atonement instead of substitution. The violence in Christus Victor is that of the state, not of God. To believe in substitution (he does not add the word penal) is to ‘traumatise children’ with the immoral image of God as a father murdering his son at the cross (116). Strong, even violent, opinions.

Now, if you read this blog from time to time you may know that I happen to agree with McMaster that following Jesus means a life committed to active non-violence. I happen to agree that violence justified in the name of God has characterised and disfigured much of Irish (and church) history and that narrative needs replaced with an alternative story to that of power and coercion. It is only within such a narrative that the church can begin to recover its integrity as well as its ability to speak authentically of Jesus’ kingdom vision of peace, forgiveness, mercy, love of enemies and of self-giving non-violence.

But it seems to me that McMaster’s theological goal of distancing God from any involvement in violence leads to a critically debatable view of the OT narratives that still fails to deal convincingly with the numerous times God is very directly involved in violence.  And his passionate anti-violence framework leads to a caricature of penal substitution. Revelation is also read primarily as an anti-Empire text rather than a vision of God’s ultimate judgement. I’m not sure if there is a place for judgement in McMaster’s framework but I could be wrong.

While there are not easy answers, I found Chris Wright helpful on the OT and violence, here, here and here.

Comments, as ever, welcome.

UPDATE

Reading this over, I should add that lots in this book is very helpful and I haven’t made that clear in the narrower focus on hermeneutics. There are 4 chapters of history and 2 on putting active non-violence into practice within church communities – all good stuff.

Musings on the Bible (2) Responding to interpretative diversity

(2) How should Christians respond to the brute fact of interpretative diversity?

If interpretative diversity (see the last post) is a fact of life within the Christian world, what challenges are posed by that fact to believers?

These are musings – thinking aloud, and not worked out careful theology. Feel welcome to join in.

In reading around this issue I came across this post on an excellent UK blog site in a post by Andrew Wilson written about a year ago. I think the material was also published in the UK magazine Christianity. Now he’s an excellent writer and theologian (he is complementarian but we’ll overlook that lapse of judgement) and I really like the content and tone of the site.

He has a really good short summary of Christian Smith’s argument. These are Smith’s own words:

So the question is this: if the Bible is given by a truthful and omnipotent God as an internally consistent and perspicuous text precisely for the purpose of revealing to humans correct beliefs, practices, and morals, then why is it that the presumably sincere Christians to whom it has been given cannot read it and come to common agreement about what it teaches?

And these are then Wilson’s words

Smith himself proposes that there are six possible answers to that question:

1.  The readers are at fault. Some people are just wrong.
2.  Confusion exists because we don’t have the original manuscripts.
3.  The fall has corrupted humanity so that our minds cannot understand the Bible properly.
4.  God, or Satan, or somebody, has deliberately blinded some Christians so they cannot understand.
5.  Plurality reflects truth: it is in the varied, even contradictory, interpretations that the truth really lies.
6.  Scripture is intended to be ambiguous on a bunch of issues.

The seventh option, of course, is that the premiss [sic] of the question is false: the Bible is not “an internally consistent and perspicuous text precisely for the purpose of revealing to humans correct beliefs, practices and morals.” Rather, in reality it expresses multivocality (speaking differently to different people) and polysemy (texts have underdetermined meaning). Our only hope – and here I oversimplify – is therefore to read it all as pointing to Christ, and to leave decisions on the multitude of issues on which it does not speak clearly to the church. This, it seems clear, is what Smith himself believes.

Wilson goes on to make what seems to me to be a logically confused argument. He persuasively points out that it is impossible to say there is ONE nice easy answer out of Smith’s options. He gives examples of all 6 of Smith’s possibilities existing within the Bible itself. Especially on point 1 about human error of interpretation he is winsomely honest in admitting that there are significant things that he taught that he now realizes are mistaken.

I would do too but I can’t think of any. 😉

But he then closes the argument basically trumping all the other options with number 1 – if there is any problem with interpretation it is US not Scripture which is the cause. His words again:

Most importantly, when you look at the way Jesus handled theological disagreements, he doesn’t seem to have identified the clarity of Scripture as the problem. He didn’t seem to think that ‘pervasive interpretive pluralism’ meant the scriptures were lacking in consistency, or clarity. Quite the opposite: he was comfortable simply saying ‘it is written in the Scriptures’, and he and the apostles would no doubt say that although the Scriptures were clear, yet misunderstandings, confusion and disagreement could result from human beings’ ignorance (Matt 22:29), foolishness and slowness of heart (Luke 24:25), established human tradition being put above God’s word (Matt 7:9-13), immaturity and lack of discernment (Heb 5:11-14), carnality (1 Cor 3:1-3), hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-14), legalism (1 Tim 1:3-11), false teaching (Gal 5:7-12), and so on.

Eschatologically, we await the day when the partial passes away and we know Jesus, and all ‘knowledge’, fully. In the meantime, we know in part – but that does not imply God’s word is inconsistent or insufficient. Rather, it implies that until the eschaton, we are.

….

If there wasn’t any ignorance, and if every Christian could be certain that what they thought the text meant was what it actually means – and here I agree with Christian Smith – then there wouldn’t have been any need for teachers (Eph 4:11), scholarly experts in the scriptures (Acts 18:24), or theological debates (Acts 15:5-21). Yet there was, and there still is.

But that’s because there’s a problem with us, not because there’s a problem with Scripture.

I’m not disagreeing with this, it is manifestly true – in as far as it goes. What I don’t get is how human limitation can be used as trump card in this way considering that Wilson has already pointed out all of Smith’s other possibilities are already present in Scripture itself.

Where am I going with this? It seems to me that Wilson is partly agreeing with Smith but then wants to avoid the idea that Smith’s other possibilities are ALSO factors in interpretative pluralism.

In other words, there are multiple reasons for interpretative pluralism. The last post already listed some contenders.

And (‘finally’ I hear you say if you are still reading) this all poses a challenge for how ‘Bible believing’ Christians are to deal with this ‘brute fact’.

Here are some starters for 10 – please feel welcome to add your own:

HUMILITY: I may not have it all right, I may even be quite wrong

LOVE: means listening carefully to other’s interpretations

LEARNING from others: humility and learning are inseparable

A COMMITMENT TO MINIMAL ORTHODOXY: perhaps there is a better phrase than this. Minimal sounds weak. What I mean is to focus on the gospel of Jesus the Christ, big story of Scripture and on historic creedal orthodoxy with plenty of generosity and grace around other ‘matters of indifference’.

TRUST: in God and in his Word. And that interpreting and understanding that Word is best, no is essentially, done within community. We need each other and the great tradition of Christians gone before us to understand, apply and obey the living Word.

PRAYER: again this goes hand in hand with humility. We need God’s Spirit to hear his Spirit-inspired word.

Comments, as ever, welcome.

Musings on the Bible (1) The first of three questions

Richard asked a great question the other day that I wanted to come back to in a couple of posts.

“For me the question is raised then is why is God ok with allowing us an authority (the bible) that is in some parts ambiguous?”

A pressing question for thinking Christians is what to make of the ‘brute fact’ of radically divergent readings of the Bible by other Christians who share a belief in its divinely inspired origin.

Whether radically diverse readings are between Roman Catholics and evangelicals (on transubstantiation, Papal authority, saints, Mary for example) or between various expressions within evangelicalism (on women in ministry, theistic evolution, baptism, pacifism, church government, the nature and duration of hell, the nature of divine predestination  and so on) does not matter to the point I am trying to make.

The point is that serious, scholarly, devoted, mature, worshipping believers come to all sorts of different conclusions over both what the Bible text is actually saying (exegesis) and then what it means today (hermeneutics).

This is what Christian Smith, in his 2012 book, The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture. has called ‘pervasive interpretative pluralism”.

The literature on biblical interpretation is of course vast. One recent book being blogged through by RJS over at Jesus Creed is The Bible and the Believer: how to read the Bible Critically and Religiously.  I mention it just to note that, as the discussion over there shows, there are few more sensitive areas for evangelicals than the truth and authority of Scripture.

All sorts of issues can become test cases for determining someone’s orthodoxy (or lack of it).  Could  be belief in theistic evolution, or that women should teach and lead, or that particular events in the Bible (like the Flood or the parting of the Red Sea for example) are ‘theological story’ rather than ‘pure history’, or an annilhilationist view of hell or a belief that the Bible does not teach penal substitutionary atonement etc.

This post and a couple to follow are NOT about those sorts of details. And just to clarify, by mentioning them I am not uncritically endorsing or rejecting either of the two books or any of the theological positions listed! They are simply illustrations. These posts are simply some musings on the following three questions:

(1) What are the factors behind interpretative diversity?

(2) How should Christians respond to, and what can they learn from, the ‘brute fact’ of interpretative diversity?

(3) And (arriving back at Richard’s original question), assuming God is real and the Bible is his inspired Word, what does the reality of interpretative diversity say about God himself ?  How and why he has chosen to communicate through a complex series of texts written over hundreds of years by multiple authors in numerous genres? Unless you are convinced that you have a corner on truth and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong (good description of Ian Paisley in his pomp btw), why does God appear to leave room for ambiguity and difference in understanding among his people?

So without further ado, here are some suggested reasons forthe first question.

(1) Factors behind interpretative diversity.

Please feel welcome to add more – will be interesting to see what total we can arrive at. And these are not in any sort of order:

i. Cultural bias.

How we interpret is profoundly shaped by what seems ‘right’ to us. But that feeling of what is right or natural can be culturally conditioned. Just have some conversations with Christians from different cultures or read a bit of church history to see the truth of this. If you accept that evangelicalism has been deeply impacted by Western Enlightenment rationalism, then this explains the marginalisation of the obvious and central place of the life in the Spirit within the NT texts within much evangelical theology prior to the rise of the charismatic and Pentecostal movements.

ii. Personality.

I wonder about this – are some views more attractive to personality types? Are some Christians more able to embrace a level of ambiguity and mystery while others insist on a black and while approach? What about those who tend to be authoritarian versus those who are team players?

iii. Theological framework

This will likely have a profound effect on how we read and understand Scripture. Every reader comes to the text with his or her own theological grid, whether consciously acknowledged or not. Some theological grids are pretty rigid and are artificially imposed on the text, take dispensationalism for example. How Christians continue to hold to it baffles me – but then I don’t have a theological grid of course ;). Some have a covenantal framework, N T Wright has five act play, others see a redemptive narrative.

iv. Gender.

How might this impact interpretation?

v. Experience.

If you have experienced or witnessed healing (for example) this will likely shape your reading of how Christians today should pray for and expect God to heal.

vi. Growth in theological understanding.

I haven’t met anyone that has not developed and changed their understanding of what the Bible teaches in certain areas as they have grown in theological understanding. The Bible is a complex book with multiple strands which takes a lifetime to begin to unpack. Not to develop and change one’s view of what it teaches in certain areas is almost certainly a sign of rigid immaturity or an defensive unwillingness to engage with questions .

vi. The nature of the text itself

What is the text about? What was the author’s intention? Exegetical study believes that ‘there is a meaning in the text’. While humility is needed and while some texts are more difficult to interpret than others, the text does have meaning and relevant application. But frequently there is ambiguity, possibility and debate over not only the precise meaning but over its contemporary application. In other words, perhaps the text itself is not determinative.

vii. The relationship between reason and Scripture.

What is a proper relationship between the two? Elevating reason above Scripture can lead to classic liberalism where miracle and mystery and the supernatural are excised from the text. Reading Scripture against reason can lead to obscurantist fundamentalism and a wooden literalism that ironically misses the whole purpose of the text.

viii. Error.

Quite simply, some Christians develop interpretations that are at odds with what the Bible is actually saying (those premillennial dispensationalists again; not me or people I agree with of course). The reason they do this could be pride, prior assumptions, spiritual blindness and so on.

ix. The hermeneutical jump

Even when a text is understood, how it applies is a whole other story. Just take two preachers preaching on the same text who largely agree on what it is about. Their sermons and applications are almost certainly going to be very different. There is huge scope for application. Making the jump from the world of the 1st Century to the world of the 21st is not an obvious or easy thing to do.

Can’t think of a 10th. Any more come to mind or comments on the ones listed?