Thinking Critically

As you continue your study of biblical Hebrew you will no doubt encounter people who take offense to your understanding of the biblical text. You should not feel attacked. Rather, treat your interlocutor as an opportunity to clarify your own thinking and, along the way, give him or her something to think about. But, you should never, ever take it upon yourself to win the argument. Your goal must always be to walk away from the discussion knowing that your interlocutor understands your position. In effect, agreeing to disagree – so long as clarity is achieved – all you should ever expect.

So, what’s this all about?

Recently, I was confronted by an exceptionally aggressive (and fundamentalist) believer who took offense at the implications of my translation of Genesis 1:11-12 (the translation can be found on this page). The thrust of her argument was to the effect that God cannot make a mistake and therefore my translation is bogus.

As it happens, I agree with her that God cannot make an mistake but that’s not really the issue. So I offered to her one of my favorite quotes: this, from Bernard Ramm. The context was a discussion of whether the Great Flood in Genesis 6-9, was local or global.

It is not a question as to what God can or cannot do. Those who believe in a local Flood believe in the omnipotence and power of God as much as any other Christian does. The question is not: ‘What can God do?’ but ‘What did God do?’

– (Bernard Ramm,, The Christian View of Science and Scripture, Eerdmans, 1954, p. 163

This is really important to keep in mind as you engage other people about the Bible. It’s also a good habit to check your own understanding just to be sure your interpretations and translations are not colored by your pre-existing suppositions about God.

Now, go and study

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