Our Thursday night Bible study had a general discussion about contradictions in scripture and how we handle them - now next Thursday, 5/21, we'll discuss three big umbrella areas of Biblical interpretation/contrast, which are relevant or come up in our actual lives:
  • war/violence and peace,
  • money,
  • and sex/gender roles/sexuality.  
These are, obviously, BIG topics.  We will not have the opportunity to go deep on all of these in our session next week, and there are many avenues for deeper study here that you could take.  But, to provide an overview, below I provide a spectrum of scripture verses which can be used to support various opinions, and some brief notes.  
We chose these three topics as ones that all are relevant and may strike close to our own views on our identity, our behaviors, and our social views.  We never really do read any of the topical verses completely in isolation, nor should we.  So, when considering the individual topics and verses below, do any of these overarching verses/themes inform how you read and interpret the topics and specific verses?  (Or what are yours?)
  • All humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), made for life in community—with God, with others, and with the rest of creation.  
  • God loves and has mercy on all people and creation.
  • All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, so there is no distinction, but grace through Jesus Christ. - Romans 3:22-24
  • (A challenging one that gets used a lot of different ways:) Jesus in the sermon on the mount: ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
    ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
      Matthew 5:38-48
  • One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’  Mark 12:28-31
  • Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  John 3:17
Here is just a sampling of the spectrum of interpretation on this topic and the scriptures that support it (not in a particular order):
  • War seen as against God's desire for peace and order:
    • He shall judge between the nations,
         and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
      they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
         and their spears into pruning-hooks;
      nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

         neither shall they learn war any more.  Isaiah 2:4
    • He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
         he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;

         he burns the shields with fire.  Psalm 46:9
  • War as needed in some seasons:
    • Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare war, stir up the warriors. Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weakling say, “I am a warrior.” (Joel 3:9-10) 
  • War seen as an evidence of a cosmic battle or Satanic/other powers:
    • Primarily just seen in Revelation, which is a book that you need to decide how you regard its genre before citing.  For example: they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.  Revelation 17:14
  • War seen as an evidence of the sinful arrogance of men:
    • Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask.  James 4:1-2
  • War seen as a judgment of God against men:
    • Rebuke the wild animals that live among the reeds,
         the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
      Trample under foot those who lust after tribute;

         scatter the peoples who delight in war.  Psalm 68:30
    • For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him. You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars.’  2 Chronicles 6:9
  • War seen as a means for accomplishing God's will:
    • Hear, O Israel! You are about to cross the Jordan today, to go in and dispossess nations larger and mightier than you, great cities, fortified to the heavens, a strong and tall people, the offspring of the Anakim, whom you know. You have heard it said of them, ‘Who can stand up to the Anakim?’ Know then today that the Lord your God is the one who crosses over before you as a devouring fire; he will defeat them and subdue them before you, so that you may dispossess and destroy them quickly, as the Lord has promised you.  Deuteronomy 9:1-3
    • Many fell slain, because the war was of God. And they lived in their territory until the exile.  1 Chronicles 5:22
  • War as a sign:
    • And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  Matthew 24:6
Some interesting resources/official denominational perspective: 
Here is just a sampling of the spectrum of interpretation on this topic and the scriptures that support it (not in a particular order):
  • (From previous blog post) The Bible, and specifically Jesus, actually deals a good bit with issues around money, though we're often shy to talk about it in church/public, or to advocate for specific actions with your money.  Here's just some variety about what one should do with loans: 
    • You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. (Deuteronomy 23:19-20)
    • Do not be one of those who give pledges,
         who become surety for debts.
      If you have nothing with which to pay,
         why should your bed be taken from under you?  (Proverbs 22:26-27)
    • Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17)
  • These problematically relate to how "the poor" are considered in scripture/Christianity, and how Jesus' "you will always have the poor with you" has been (mis)interpreted.
  • Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.  1 Timothy 6:6-10
Some interesting resources/official denominational perspective: 
Here is just a sampling of the spectrum of interpretation on this topic and the scriptures that support it (not in a particular order):
  • ​The biblical narratives both rejoice in the splendor of sexual attraction, for example:
    • Your neck is like the tower of David,
         built in courses;
      on it hang a thousand bucklers,
         all of them shields of warriors.
      Your two breasts are like two fawns,
         twins of a gazelle,
         that feed among the lilies.
      Until the day breathes
         and the shadows flee,
      I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh
         and the hill of frankincense.
      You are altogether beautiful, my love;
         there is no flaw in you.
        Song of Songs/Solomon, 4:4-7
  • and are candid about the harm that can result from human sexuality, for example:
    • there are many stories of rape, incest, and sexual assault in the Bible. 
    • Consider also the story of David (the king) and Bathsheba (wife of a soldier) - David sees her bathing, orders her brought to him and has sex with her.  She gets pregnant, David has her husband sent to the frontlines of battle to die, so that he can forcibly take her as a wife (he has at least eight).
  • A lot of the concept of "Biblical" marriage is based on verses like this in the gospels (which references one of the creation stories in Genesis):  “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.

Therefore what God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”  Mark 10: 6–9

  • (This is an opinion, not everyone agrees:) There simply is NO consistent singular sexual ethic in the Bible, unless you extrapolate something general (like I'd like it to be something like mutual care - BUT that is decidedly not Biblical, given a whole lot of sketchy marriages/sexual ethics in the Bible).
  • The Leviticus "abominations" verses (including  must also be seen in context of all the other stuff that is called by the same Hebrew word, "toevah" including eating shellfish and wearing mixed fiber clothing.
  • A chart of marriage types in the Bible:
  • Also great, Roy Zimmerman's song:  "I want a marriage like they had in the Bible"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXlzkuFBJ7s
  • Added by Bill:
    • The two most commonly cited verses in the NT interpreted as condemning homosexuality are in lists condemning certain activities to Hell (e.g “fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, swindlers")
       are in 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10.   However, the term used in the original text is “Arsenokoites”  It is a word that does not elsewhere appear in Greek literature or texts.  It is a combination of the words “Arsen” meaning adult male and “Koite”  which means marriage bed. 


  • Regarding the role of women - all of the following are in the Bible:
    • If a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. (1 Corinthians 11:6) • Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. (Ephesians 5:22-23)
    • Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
    • When a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married, and lies with her, he shall give bride-price for her, and make her his wife. (Exodus 22:16)
    • Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘‘It is well for a man not to touch a woman.’’ But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1-2)
    • When brothers reside together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage, and performing the duty of a husband’s brother to her. (Deuteronomy 25:5)
    • Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provide they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. (1 Timothy 2:15)
  • Contrast these with the many examples of Biblical women who are leaders, prophets, lifted up as faithful, or called out from culture's boundaries for them.  Also note that these were recorded and passed down, despite centuries/millennia of patriarchal cultures for whom they may have been a contrary word.  We also know of the presence of women among Jesus' disciples, Paul's supporters and as leaders in the early Christian church.

Some interesting resources/official denominational perspective: