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The Science Behind the Hypocrisy: Biblical Hermeneutics

Updated on December 3, 2012
Source

My Argument

After a recent article I wrote on cherry-picking in the bible, which can be found here, I got a lot of backlash from Christians claiming that I needed to understand and study biblical hermeneutics in order to properly evaluate the cherry-picking situation. I got most of these complaints on Reddit Christianity from username outofpraxis. So, here I am, writing this article in answer to all those claims that my initial argument was invalid. Let's take a look, shall we?

My initial claim is that basically, Christians cherry-pick according to their own desires from the bible. I mean, they literally have to since in every single book you have at least a hundred contradictions. I get it, Christians. It's not easy being a Christian when you are forced to pick like that. My point, however, was that many Christians, in fact most if not all Christians that oppose same sex marriage, for example, will use the bible as their source--typically, Leviticus 18:22. Now, perhaps the mistake I made was to quote Deuteronomy where it states that if a woman is wed and is not a virgin, she shall be stoned to death, to illustrate the cherry-picking, when I should have quoted more form Leviticus, the very same book that they were quoting from. Like, Leviticus 19:28, where it states that you are not to get any tattoos, or Leviticus 19:27, no rounded beards (that one is silly, I know, yet I've seen many a'Christian sporting rounded beards...or tattoos.)

I used Rush Limbaugh as a perfect example of this cherry-picking, I mean, he is like the poster boy for this, especially after President Obama's recent "coming out" about his stance on same sex marriage, which I applaud, by the way. So, that was my argument.

According to god himself, this is how you are to get a wife.
According to god himself, this is how you are to get a wife. | Source

The Claim

Christians on Reddit Christianity immediately accused me of having cherry-picked, myself, because I "picked" a few biblical verses to illustrate my point. Hmm...funny that they would think that was cherry-picking, huh? Outofpraxis claimed that I needed to get acquainted with biblical hermeneutics before I could claim that Christians cherry-pick because, "there's a very long history of hermeneutics at play that you seem woefully unaware of. The texts that make up the bible span hundreds of years and many different genres and purposes."

Well, okay, but isn't hermeneutics just a fancy word for interpretation? And, isn't there at least a million ways to "interpret" the bible? Sounds like we're right back at my cherry-picking claim. It also sounds like Christians get to make up the rules as they go.

Another claim was that the bible is not one book, it is complied of several books. True, and a very good point that I overlooked in my initial article. But, I will remedy this by stating that any book in the bible will have hundreds of contradictions within the same book. Here are a few examples.

Exodus 20:4

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Exodus 25:18

And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.

Proverbs 20:1

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Proverbs 31: 6-7

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

John 10:30

I and my Father are one.

John 14:28

Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

John 5:33-34

Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.

John 15:27

And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

Okay, so there are literally millions more, but this is an article, not a book.

Hermeneutics=Interpretation

Yep. It's a fancy word for the science of interpreting a text, as I have already stated. It seems like Christians get to make up rules as they go since they get to keep coming up with new terms for what essentially boils down to hypocrisy and, yes, cherry-picking.

Ultimately, the bible is entirely based on cherry-picking because it is complied of many books, spanning "hundreds of years and many different genres and purposes" that were picked. Not all books were included into what we now know as the bible. Ah, the very essence of hermeneutics. So now, the trick is to accurately interpret the books we are left with. But can a work this massive ever really be accurately interpreted and be reduced to just one strict interpretation? I think most will agree that no, it can't. And as time passes, modernity demands that certain things in the bible no longer be upheld. I call this cherry-picking only to illustrate that this so called "perfect work of god," is far from perfect. It literally demands that readers cherry-pick. Sure, you can study the different interpretations and the why behind them, but there will never be one interpretation that everyone agrees on, and agrees on for all time.

Another point is that humans will inevitably approach the bible already knowing what they want from it. That is human nature. If you are looking to find reasons to love, you will find them in the bible. If you are looking for reasons to hate, you will find those, too. It is completely subjective and anyone can manipulate the bible as they please, hermeneutics understood, or not.

Source

Dressing Up Hypocrisy Like a Science, is Still Hypocrisy

Call it what you want, hermeneutics, theology, apologetics, it all boils down to the same thing--cherry-picking. Some might ask, though, what's wrong with mining the bible for good and pushing the evil aside. First of all, you are admitting then, that there is evil in the bible. Good, we are making progress. Second of all, there's nothing wrong with it, until you use it to justify you own personal views, like those on same sex marriage. I suggest that if you want to justify your bigotry with the bible, you had better be following it to the letter--all of it.

And why should you "need" to refer to the bible for morals, anyway? Anyone who has read Deuteronomy 22:28-29 didn't have to sit there and wonder if raping a virgin was actually okay to do. You knew immediately that no, it's absolutely not okay. You surprisingly already possessed something within you that told you, raping a virgin is wrong, and I shouldn't do it. But, most Christians don't read the bible, and I guess that is the real problem. They cherry-pick, as I have mentioned too much already. You don't need to read the whole thing to get just what you want from it. You can go to church for that.

But, arguing about this with Christians is really pointless because there is always an excuse, justification, reason, and explanation for everything in the bible. So, I'm not hoping to convince any Christians, maybe just make them doubt themselves enough to think about their convictions just a little more critically.

Comment and Vote Up!!!

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    • TedWritesStuff profile image

      Ted 2 years ago from The World

      glad it's not just me and Christopher Hitchens who feels this way..and it's nice to see you have inspired the wacky to come out and spread the word ;-)

    • Kukata Kali profile image

      Kukata Kali 3 years ago

      Interesting read! I enjoyed your expression~ Voted up

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 3 years ago

      Emmaspeaks, Interesting article. I am a Christian and I believe ALL of the Bible. I Believe that it is the inspired Word of God breathed into the minds and hearts of those that wrote it down! It is the ABSOLUTE TRUTH! I believe when the WORD says that "JESUS answered I AM the WAY the TRUTH and the LIFE. NO ONE comes to the FATHER except by ME. If you really knew ME, you would know my FATHER as well." JOHN 14: 6 & 7.

      The WORD is so often misunderstood because it is necessary for the HOLY SPIRIT to be present to awaken the relative meaning. The WORD of GOD is living! The WORD does not contradict itself. The Old Testament has been fulfilled by the New Testament. The Christian walk is a walk of FAITH! FAITH requires believing in an unseen GOD that graciously allows HIS breath of life to inhabit the living whether they believe or not. We are not saved by works but by believing in JESUS CHRIST who was manifested in sinless flesh to overcome sin in the flesh for us! '"The work of GOD is this: to BELIEVE in the ONE HE has sent." John 6: 29. The Book of JOHN confirms conclusively that JESUS CHRIST is the SON of GOD. It is written to Christians and searching non Christians.

      I pray that you take some time and slowly read the BOOK of JOHN for yourself. May the HOLY SPIRIT reveal the TRUTH of HIS WORD to you. If it is your desire for Heaven to be be your Eternal home it requires believing in JESUS CHRIST!

      In HIS Service, Peace & Blessings await!

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 4 years ago from Kansas City

      I can't even be bothered to respond any more than this. You lack the critical thinking skills to understand any more than that.

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      Spamgristle 4 years ago

      The irony of your post is that your lack of basic reading comprehension skills demonstrate the need for a viable hermeneutic to reach authentic interpretations. Rather than demonstrating a deficiency in the process of hermeneutics to discern meaning, you've unwittingly made a case for its necessity.

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 4 years ago from Kansas City

      Spamgristle, I'll save you some time. I am not going to read your drivel on biblical interpretation because the very point of this article is that any interpretation cannot be neither justified nor negated.

    • profile image

      Spamgristle 4 years ago

      The irony of your article is that your use of Deuteronomy 22: 28-29 (and other verses) demonstrates the necessity of hermeneutics to avoid inane conclusions.

      First question: Is the behavior being described in this verse prescriptive or punitive?

      Your assumption that this verse somehow encourages rape presumes it is prescriptive.

      Second question: Is your assumption correct? or What is this verse doing?

      This verse establishes a system of consequences for the Israelite tribes. If a man rapes a woman he is obligated to 1) pay restitution to the family who could otherwise anticipate a "bride price" from a groom (Exodus 22:16-27) 2) Obligates the man to marry her without hope of divorce.

      Rather than encouragement of rape, this verse establishes consequences for such behavior that 1) prevent men from being able to prey on women with no consequence 2) prevent women who've been raped from being relegated to a "devalued" status and thus denied the financial security of marriage.

      While the idea of women having a "value" based on their virginity and women relying on marriage for sustenance grates against our modern perspective, this verse nonetheless provides a groundbreaking level of security for women in a Bronze Age culture who were otherwise viewed as possessions.

      Question 3: What motivated you to make this false assumption in the first place?

      The answer to this question is the true value of hermeneutics. It strips back the lens of assumptions and bias to expose the ideas governing your interpretations of the text. However, the fact that you discard such methodology is indicative of the kind of false conclusions reached in the first place.

      Another example of an inane conclusion is your attempt to establish a contradiction between Exodus 20:4 and Exodus 25:18. Exodus 20:4 isn't a prohibition against sculpture, it's a prohibition against any sculpture of Yahweh being made as a focal point of worship (which would qualify as "idolatry"). Therefore, Exodus 25:18 isn't contradictory since the sculptures are cherubim. Reading verses in context clarifies meaning and avoids potential misunderstanding. The rest of your alleged "contradictions" fall apart with similar amounts of scrutiny.

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Thanks Charles! I agree, there are so many denominations and none of them can agree on one story. Some denominations emphasize one biblical deity while others focus on only Jesus. That HAS to be a wake up call for people, but sadly, most will only do a poor job at justifying their beliefs. Funny how most people share a religion with their parents. too, huh? Because parents are NEVER wrong. Thanks for the comment!

    • profile image

      Charles Hilton 5 years ago

      Excellent hub, Emma.

      If the Bible was written by God, there would be no need of hermeneutics in order to understand it and to arrive at a consensus.

      The Bible itself says that "God is not the author of confusion", and by that standard alone, God couldn't possibly have inspired the most polarizing, contentious and confusing book ever written.

      If there is a God and it chose to write a book for human enlightenment, it would be the most easily understandable and consistent book ever written---not the comparably indecipherable text that even Bible scholars struggle with.

      And if God sends people to Hell for not getting the Jesus thing exactly right, then most, if not all, Christians are in for a rude awakening, because their Bible can't even tell a consistent story---without dubious rationalizations by Bible scholars, of course.

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Absolutely Disappearinghead! I've had many of those Facebook arguments myself. I never unfriend anyone, but always find it telling when someone unfriendes me over a religious argument. Thanks for the comment.

    • Disappearinghead profile image

      Disappearinghead 5 years ago from Wales, UK

      Good hub Emma. I've been arguing with a creationist friend via Facebook only this evening. He's already deleted some of my posts that he doesn't want others to read. I guess it won't be long before one of us de-friends the other. But yes his argument is based upon literal interpretations of cherry picked verses.

    • Civil War Bob profile image

      Civil War Bob 5 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

      Good hub, Emma...voted up, useful, and interesting. Thanks for inspiring me to write "Picking Cherries, Sour Grapes, and a Bite from an Apple" as a result of your hub. Thanks, too, for wanting to make Christians think more critically about our convictions; which is exactly what caused the Bereans in Acts 17:11 to be applauded by Luke, given that they actually checked out what Paul was saying against what was in Scripture.

      My hub, "Will Atheists and Secular Humanists Soon Help Build the Church?" addresses that subject, if you're interested. Enjoy your day!

    • THWLE profile image

      THWLE 5 years ago from Illinois

      I took a stab at it. I wrote 252 pages about it. What I found in my own thorough studies makes more sense to me than anything that I learned in church or from any of my Bible teachers.

      There is an excerpt on my Hubpage...

    • sandonia profile image

      sandonia 5 years ago

      No single hermeneutic will be able to resolve all interpretational issues. There will always be some variation and disagreements. And to make matters more complex there are many hermeneutics in use. Not all Christians adhere to the same hermeneutic. Thus, differences in conclusions should be expected. Yet, none of the this demonstrates that hermeneutics is cherry-picking. To argue otherwise is called a non sequitur.

      Also, while there is no universal agreement among Christians on all points of the faith, there is a large core of beliefs which represent the beliefs of the majority of Christians. It is too simplistic to simply say "can't agree on a single thing" without pointing out that there is still a large amount of agreement. It gives the wrong impressions and borders on dishonesty through omission.

      Further, it is also too simplistic to label hermeneutics are "cherry-picking" when one cannot even describe the hermeneutic in play. How do we know Christians are cherry-picking? To know this we must be able to demonstrate that their hermeneutic requires them to understand a passage in a certain way, and to demonstrate that they are purposely or ignorantly ignoring that particular passage. This has yet to be accomplished by the "Christians are cherry-pickers" crowd. Thus, why should any Christians take seriously the accusation of "cherry-picking" when their accusers cannot even demonstrate that they are cherry-picking? I can see no good reason.

      Finally, my question about the hermeneutic of the "Christians are cherry-pickers" crowd has still not been answered. Do you or anyone else care to take a stab at it?

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Well, i would have to say that since they can't agree on a single thing, they don't have any one approach to interpreting the bible. I think looking for a systematic approach to cherry picking is kind of an oxymoron, don't you?

    • sandonia profile image

      sandonia 5 years ago

      The hub below addresses some of the concerns about cherry-picking the Old Testament.

      https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Do-Christ...

      For the rest, the labeling of biblical hermeneutics as simple "interpretation" or "just cherry-picking" is like calling evolution "just a theory." It demonstrates a fundamental lack of familiarity with the field and its basic concepts. Biblical hermeneutics is an attempt to approach the Bible in a systematic manner, adhering to established principles, and attempting to minimize the subjective aspects of interpretation.

      Everyone has a hermeneutic. That is, everyone approaches the Bible with sets of presuppositions about the Bible, history, language, and so on. The difference between shooting from the hip and what outofpraxis was attempting to get at is that biblical hermeneutics attempts to be consistent and systematic. It doesn't simply go with the whims of the interpreter. Rather, the interpreter is supposed to follow rules and principles.

      If you want to know more about biblical hermeneutics, you can check out a hub I recently published. It provides some resources for the lay person and the more academically inclined.

      http://sandonia.hubpages.com/hub/opening-the-door-...

      That said, this still does not quite address the question I raised on the other hub. What is the hermeneutic of the "Christians are cherry-pickers" crowd? Are they running a fly-by-night game, or do they have a well-reasoned and systematic approach to interpreting the Bible in a consistent manner? If so, what is it?

    • emmaspeaks profile image
      Author

      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Thanks for the comment ESP! I am really happy to see so many "believers" agreeing with this hub. After the response on reddit, I was a little worried.

    • ESP1983 profile image

      ESP1983 5 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      Unfortunately, as as you may know from Christianity origins, today the religion is a result of series of "take out and add" modifications which result in many verses taken out of context, for the purpose of keeping people under control. I still believe in God, and respect the Bible, Quran and other books as inspired by God, but today there have been so many modifications and, together with my experience with most "devout" Christians, I am away from church and not in plans on returning any time soon.

    • emmaspeaks profile image
      Author

      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Thanks, Titen! You know what really pushed me to write this was that on reddit, every single argument I made was received with, "Well, you just don't know enough about such and such." It was like when kids play a game of tag and one says, "Tag, I got you," and the other says, "Nu-uh, I had my force field up!" And then the first one says, "Well, I got you with my force field breaker." And then the other kid says, "Well, I had my force field breaker repellant on!" And this just goes on and on.

    • Titen-Sxull profile image

      Titen-Sxull 5 years ago from back in the lab again

      Yeah that outofpraxis guy is pretty much full of shit. We're talking about a book that many Christians claim is the WORD OF GOD, which means that it can be judged in view of what we might expect from a perfect morally good deity. When you list things that are good in one collumn and go through the Bible and list the actions and laws of God in the other something begins to leap out at you, nearly all of God's laws and deeds are either incompetent or downright evil.

      Yes context plays a big part in understanding the Bible but many of the things that atheists and non-Christians bring up when arguing against the Bible are the straight-forward literal passages already in context such as Exodus 21 where God directly sets up slavery with Moses.

      Great hub emmaspeaks!

    • emmaspeaks profile image
      Author

      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Thank you so much for that wonderful comment, THWLE. I agree that the problem is that most Christians, unfortunately, have not read the bible. I think if more people did, they would quickly see it in a completely different light. For me, reading the bible is what made me doubt the question of god so much that I can no longer believe in him. Whether heaven exists or not, I'm not here to debate about. I have my own personal views on that and I rely on evidence, or lack thereof. But thank you for the post.

    • THWLE profile image

      THWLE 5 years ago from Illinois

      I am with you Emma. Christians do not read their Bible nearly enough, and when they do, they only see what the preacher has prepared them to see.

      I compare it to looking at a picture one pixel at a time. That is how Christians are taught to read their Bible. I was one for years, and am happy to say now that I am... well I am not sure what to call myself.

      Whether or not the Bible is trustworthy or accurate at all is one question, but what it actually says about things is a whole set of others.

      After deciding to read the Bible from scratch, as if I had never even heard of the book before, I believe 100% that the message contained in it is that everyone goes to heaven... no matter what. We are all equal, we are all one. It is a shame that organized religion has used the Bible to cause division and to hurt so many people for so long. They do not even know their own book.

      Good post. I will be back for more...