Bible esoteric and dated. Fee and Stuart in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, however, show the applicability of the Bible and provide readers with the tools of applying the Bible to their contemporary lives. For them there is no "then and there" to the text, rather than "then and there" of the text can equitably be applied to the "here and now" of contemporaneous living. The authors in effect build two bridges; there is the bridge between Church and lay man and the bridge between Church and exegetical scholar. Whilst the exegetical scholar approaches the text from the past trying to see 'what it meant," the author tell us that the text is far more than that: it is applicable not only for the "then" but also for the "now" and, therefore, people should approach it with the intent of 'what does it mean" and "what will it mean." In other words, each of us, regardless of scholarly background, should connect the "then and there' of the original text to the 'here and now' of our own life settings" (p. 10). The operative premise is that the texts of the living Word "mean what they meant" (p. 11).
Talking to the Bible scholar, on the one hand, Fee and Stuart exhort him to apply that exegesis to everyday life. Their interpretation, in other words, should not only be located in the past. It should be relocated to the present; scholars should learn "to hear that same meaning in a variety of new or different contexts of our own day" (p. 11).
Fee and Stuart proceed to give the tools of how exegesis can be perpetrated and conveyed to the present. God has written the Bible according to ten genres. Chapter 3-13 details these genres and their consequences. Understanding these genres can help us read the bible not only in the past tense but also in the present. For example, to best apply and understand the psalms, they need to be seen within the genre of poetry, as praise of God. Proverbs, Jeremiah, and Isaiah do not have plots and, therefore, plots cannot be found from them. By delineating the structure and genres of the various Books, the authors show us how to understand them in past tense and, more importantly, how to apply them to our lives in the present.
In the first chapter, for instance, they present illustrations and examples of instances that differentiate between a poor and a better interpretation, and they show instances of how reading necessitates interpretation. They insist that "hermeneutics' begins with solid 'exegesis" (p. 25), and that exegesis is best when applied from past to present. They conclude by affirming that all individuals regardless of rank and learning can and should apply exegesis. And they affirm so in a quietly empowering manner. Chapter 2 discusses why and how translations differ. Textual criticism and various theories of translation and their significance for readers are concisely discussed. Translations are placed on a continuum ranging from word-to-word to looser translations. The authors recommend using several versions rather than constraining oneself to one. Chapter 3 and 4 deal with epistles: with learning to think in terms of their historical context and applying that to today, as well as to connecting the messages for the epistles to contemporary times. Chapter 5 discusses the Old Testament, whilst Chapter 6 proceeds to Acts. Chapter 7, meanwhile, focuses on the gospel, whilst the remaining chapters apply those same principles to other books and the apocalyptic writings. The whole is succeeded by an appendix and two indexes that categorize the whole.
On the whole, the work is original, contemporary, and valuable for Biblical scholarship in that it makes the Bible a valuable and useful tool for all rather than just for elite.
The only problem, as I see it, is lies with the authors' perspective. The Bible should be, the authors insist, in the hands of every reader. Each and every one of us should be given the opportunity to interpret the Bible in our own way. Each of us is an exegete "of sorts. The Only real question is whether you will be a good one" (p. 20). The problem with this is that 'good' however is a relative term. Each person thinks they are 'good' for each interprets through his own experience and via the mental heuristic of naive realism which states that his experience is the true one and that of the other naive and incorrect, each reader thinks that he has the right rendition. Readers can choose to read the Bible in their own selective ways and this is indeed what is happening today with fundamentalists.
Hitler believed God was behind him; radical Moslems believe so too. And so too across all world religions. Instead of people serving God, God serves people in that people approach the Bible with an agenda and slant it to read what they wish it to read.
Fundamentalism is equated with belief in inerrancy of text. As several sociological scholars point out, selective acceptance would be a better description. Selective acceptance, however, denotes the cherry picking of verses, whilst a more accurate description would be compliance with some Biblical (or textual) imperatives, overlooking other Biblical (or textual) imperatives, and pricking meaning into non-existent verses. The correct description, therefore, would be transformation of writ rather than absolute submission to it. For example: A central feature of Protestant fundamentalism is dispensationalism, a dialectic struggle between God and Satan through the ages. Revered as Biblical truth, dispensationalism (and its offspring rapture) is creations of the 18th and 20th century alternately, formed from decontextualized Biblical verses (Grainger, 2008). Belief in tenets such as these indicate adherence to certain narratives, whilst ignoring text itself. People who have arrived at this conclusions have used the very tools that Fee and Stuart suggest, and may well conclude, given Fee and Stuart's premise, that they have arrived at an au the antic conclusion since each and every one of us can operate as exegete.
Both Islamic Sunni fundamentalisms and Islamic Shiite fundamentalisms call for "a return to the fundamental sources of Islam, the Quran and the Sunna of the Prophet, as they are directly interpreted by the exercise of ijtahid." (Voll, p 395). Yet it is this very premise of itjahid that allows communal shayks to abrogate Koranic formulations of peace for statements of war and to institute a regime of increasingly more rules and regulations. The Qur'an, for instance, rejects any race's superiority when it states:
O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other, not that ye may despise each other. (49:13).
Sayyid Qutb (1988) writes:
The true Moslem today is the Muslim who makes jihad against all governments whose legislation is human in origin, in order to topple them and reinstate divine legislation. (p.54)
What these examples seek to show, although they are taken of a variety of religions (although again all are founded on the Bible) is that the Bible has differing perspective -- sometimes contradictory; that it can be read and interpreted in varying ways, and that according each person the right to be his or her own exegete can result in selective interpretations that -- whilst following the rules of genre -- can divert from the intrinsic Biblical meaning.
Another example: Dayanda -- founder of the Atya Samaj a fundamentalist Hindu group -- deemphasized the Upanishads (the Hindu sacred writ), encouraging people to observe only the Vedas i.e. those parts of the cumulative Hindu tradition that were of the rishis. This meant exhorting them to discard large portions of their tradition, including the ceremonial worship of images that was central to the lives of most Hindus. Thus, in Dayanda's most basic work, "Sayarth Prakas," "The Light of Truth," the Swami gives a long list of traditional Hindu writings that should not be read (Gold, 1991, p. 5444). Finally, Dharmpala (and Santi Asoka even more so) nicked the subtleties and nuanced variations of the Theravada script for a simplified and moralistic program of right living (Swearer, 1991, p.649). The original multivocality was replaced by the univocal nature of modern fundamentalistic Buddhist nationalism.
In short, inerrancy to text is a misnomer. Fundamentalist movements are characterized by return to culture or to text and when adherence to text is alleged, closer scrutiny often reveals transformation to own ends rather than to literal affirmation of writ. Muson (2003) tells us that "all of these movements have insisted on strict conformity to sacred texts' (p. 9). This is precisely the recommendation of Fee and Stuart: That we read the text, see it as applicable to today, and interpret it in our own ways. That each of us can do this. That the Bible's message is not only relevant to the past, but also to the present and that not only exegetical scholar can interpret the Bible but…