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What Is to be Done with Difficult Texts of Scripture? – Herold Weiss

Date: August 26, 2017

Speaker: Dr. Herold Weiss

Position: Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies, Saint Mary’s College

Topic: What Is to be Done with Difficult Texts of Scripture?

Number of Attendees: 82

 

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Intro: Today’s meeting began with a formal thank you and presentation of plaque and gift card to Art Robertson, outgoing Michiana Adventist Forum president. David Grellman, newly elected president, gave the opening remarks and Gary Gray, former VP, gave the presentation.

 

Program: Dr. Weiss grew up in Argentina where he spent time at the Young People’s Society on Sabbath afternoons. One of the things they stressed was reading the Bible all the way through each year. “It did more for my self-discipline than for my actual knowledge of the Bible,” Weiss stated. Later, he attended the Adventist College in Argentina and took a class on Bible Doctrines. He finished with a nagging feeling he still didn’t know what to do with large portions of the Bible. He decided he needed to learn how to read the Bible in the original language and came to Southern Missionary College on July 4, 1954.

Weiss explained that a text may be difficult because in order to understand it we have to cross three bridges: Language, Time, and Culture. To understand, we use historical and literary tools. But the conclusions drawn from those tools should be reviewed by competent peers. This is the historical-critical method. Sometimes a consensus is difficult even among experts.

The present crisis in Adventism is not due to women’s ordination, LGBT members, or enforcement of traditional Adventist prohibitions (dress, food, entertainment). Instead, it’s due to a self-inflicted incarceration to the idea that because God is the author of the Bible, its wording is infallible, without regard to modern scientific and historical knowledge of the world.

Weiss noted that when he began teaching at Emmanuel Missionary College in 1961, it was NOT believed that the Bible was verbally inspired and infallible. Over the years, this belief has changed and now Fundamental Belief #1 says that the Bible is “the Written Word of God” and that it is “infallible.” Seminary professors have written articles stating that “God is the author of the Bible” (Gerhard Hasel). The General Conference now insists that it is scientifically and historically true. That creates a lot of difficult texts.

Weiss said the Word of God has always been an oral word. The spirit of the Lord inspired the writers and will inspire the reader as well. The Bible has become full of difficult texts because the GC wants us to believe we can’t read the Bible while keeping in mind its historical context. “Most of the difficulties of the Bible have to do with church traditions and dogmas that in actuality contradict what the Bible teaches.”

Weiss gave a series of several texts that gave different or contradictory views on a subject and then asked the audience to decide which had been written by God. He pointed out that in themselves the texts were not difficult, but a hermeneutical presupposition made them difficult.

When the Bible is allowed to function as a testament of faith, written by men, the only difficulties are according to our ability to contextualize the times and language in which it was written. Taking into account the historical context does not detract from the meaning of the Bible, but instead enhances our understanding of those who lived their faith throughout time.

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