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Dealing with Problematic Passages in the Bible

The past couple of weeks in our Gospel readings on Sundays and our BEMA Milwaukee sessions we have been presented with passages that were pretty challenging.  Challenging for different reasons, but nonetheless challenging to sort out. So what is one to do when reading something in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament scriptures that might even be considered disturbing?

We certainly do not have a complete answer to that question, but we were impressed with some of the thinking presented in an episode from the Jude 3 Project: Problematic Passages in the Bible – Special Guests: Dr. Jo Vitale & Dr. Esau McCaulley. The whole episode is great, but knowing that there might be limits on time, a couple of key sections to focus on might be roughly minutes 6 – 13 and 48 – 55 or so.

Dr. McCaulley in this episode and in other places suggests the importance of reflecting on the character of God in review of the difficult passage.  For instance, something challenging does not necessarily mean that the described actions are part of God’s plan or are laudable. So inclusion in scripture may not be the same as God’s endorsement.

Further, the issue of context is significant. So passages that may sound problematic to us in the 21st century might have been protective of disadvantaged persons in ancient, Biblical times. That requires further study and understanding than we can potentially get from a simple reading with our “modern eyes.”

While these recommendations of Drs. Vitale and McCaulley do not clear away all difficulties, they do allow for a more balanced and considered approach to Biblical or frankly any ancient text.  What do you think?

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