How to Get Rid of Awkward Bible Passages: An Eight Step Guide image

How to Get Rid of Awkward Bible Passages: An Eight Step Guide

If you’re going to be a widely-read Bible teacher, you have to have a few tricks up your sleeve. It won’t be long before the people you’re teaching realise, with or without your help, that there are some biblical passages they don’t like very much. What will you do with them? The question keeps many of us awake at night. If you teach them as they are, then not only will people not like the Bible, but they won’t like you. But if you are to get rid of them somehow, then you will need some clever hermeneutical sleight of hand. It is for that purpose that I present the following eight-step guide to making awkward Bible passages go away.

1. Introduce the text as a Difficult Passage (capital letters are the new scare quotes). This will immediately set your readers on high alert; after all, who wants Difficult Passages in their Bibles?

2. Populate your discussion with as many synonyms for “difficult” as you can: debated, disputed, confusing, controversial, awkward, challenging, obscure, demanding, etc.

3. Mention a really, really stupid interpretation that some oddball in church history has come up with. For those who don’t know about the fallacy of the excluded middle, this will make it seem that the only two options are the really stupid view and your view. Never, ever, mention a nuanced presentation of the view you don’t like by a credible scholar. This is fatal.

4. Transition quickly to explain what you want the text to mean, preferably using language like “A more probable view is ...” or “More likely, we should ...” Your reader will breathe a sigh of relief that the text doesn’t mean what it says.

5. Make it clear that the author of the text isn’t oppressive, abusive or incompetent. Some readers will immediately assume that all alternatives to your view are somehow oppressive, abusive or incompetent.

6. Quote the maxim that “clear passages interpret unclear ones”, which is the standard euphemism for “other texts can drown out this one, if you bring enough of them into play”.

7. Mention an obscure bit of background information, ideally one for which there is scant evidence, that appears to support your interpretation. Fortunately, when people want to believe what you’re saying, they don’t check things like this with primary (or even secondary) sources.

8. Conclude your discussion with a confident wave of the hand: “For all the debate that surrounds this passage, the main thing we must remember is ...”

That ought to sort out any problems you might have. If it doesn’t, just mention head coverings. Good luck!

← Prev article
Next article →