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Do You Need the Holy Spirit to Interpret the Bible?

Every now and then I receive an email from a devout Christian who tells me that no one (including, well, me) is able to interpret the Bible correctly without guidance of the Holy Spirit.  I take this view seriously, but I've never found it convincing. Well, OK, I did when I was a student at Moody Bible Institute in the mid 70s; but not for much longer than that afterward.  Today, of course, I don't believe the Holy Spirit can guide one in reading the Bible since, as an agnostic,  I don’t believe in the Holy Spirit at all (since I don’t believe in God).  But even when I did believe in the Holy Spirit (after Moody), I came to think that it made no sense to claim that a person needed divine guidance through the Spirit to interpret the Bible correctly.  This was for two main reasons, both of which -- when they occurred to me -- struck me as virtually irrefutable. The first is this: if it is true that  Are you interested [...]

2022-09-01T11:10:47-04:00September 7th, 2022|Reader’s Questions, Reflections and Ruminations|

Does a Person Need the Holy Spirit to Interpret the Bible? Is John’s Gospel Accurate? Readers Mailbag August 7, 2016

Does a person need to “have the Holy Spirit” in order to interpret the Bible?  And does the Gospel of John give a historically accurate accounting of the teachings of Jesus?  These are the two questions I will be dealing with on this week’s Readers’ Mailbag.  If you have any questions, simply ask them as a comment to any of the posts on the blog, and I’ll add them to the list.   QUESTION: How do you respond to those who say “you can’t correctly interpret the bible unless you have the Holy Spirit”   RESPONSE: I’ve never found it at all convincing that a person needs the Holy Spirit in order to interpret the Bible.  As an agnostic, of course, I don’t believe in the Holy Spirit (since I don’t believe in God).  But even when I did believe in the Holy Spirit, I thought that it was silly to claim that a person could not interpret the Bible correctly without the Spirit – for a couple of reasons that have always struck me [...]

ANT: Methods of Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church

I will return to some possible improvements in the blog (not just in raising money from it) soon.  today, though, I want to return to my book After the New Testament.  Just yesterday I finished reading the page proofs for it, by working through the 98-page chapter on early Christian apocrypha (selections of non-canonical Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses: great stuff, but a lot of reading!).  I celebrated with a cigar in Wimbledon Park in the late afternoon sunshine.  Life could be worse. As I indicated before, I’ve added two entirely new sections to this anthology of ancient texts, one on Women in Early Christianity (the Introduction of which I have given, over the course of two posts) and one on “Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church.”   I think this latter is an intriguing, and a highly important, topic.  Here is what I say in the Introduction to it in the second edition of the book, with a brief bibliography that follows. ************************************************************* As we observed in chapter 9, the Bible was important from the [...]

Faith, History, and Isaiah 7

A QUESTION ARISING OUT OF MY DISCUSSION OF FAITH AND HISTORY, IN REFERENCE TO AN EARLIER POST ON ISAIAH AND THE VIRGIN BIRTH QUESTION: I know that you posted something on the virgin birth in Isaiah in the past (which I think was in fact an excerpt from your forthcoming Bible Intro book) – but can you elaborate how you will apply your approach you discuss here with passages such as Isaiah 7 where there is debate around whether it is a prophecy referring to Jesus or not. Will you take a hardline interpretation and saying it must not be referring to Jesus, or will you just outline the major interpretations and stay neutral so the reader doesn’t know how you personally interpret it? RESPONSE: It’s a good question, and I do indeed have a firm opinion about it.  My opinion is not very idiosyncratic; it is simply rooted in the “historical method” that I prefer to use when reading ancient texts.   If you look at Isaiah of Jerusalem living in the 8th century BCE, [...]

2020-04-03T19:21:01-04:00September 27th, 2012|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Reader’s Questions|
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