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Divine Evil?The Moral Character of the God of Abraham$
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Michael Bergmann, Michael J. Murray, and Michael C. Rea

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199576739

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199576739.001.0001

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What Does the Old Testament Mean?

What Does the Old Testament Mean?

Chapter:
(p.209) 7 What Does the Old Testament Mean?
Source:
Divine Evil?
Author(s):

Richard Swinburne

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199576739.003.0021

When the Christian Church took over the Old Testament, it did so on the understanding that some of it should be understood in non-literal ways. Origen and then Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine developed a doctrine which Augustine summarized as ‘Whatever there is in the Word of God that cannot, when taken literally, be referred either to purity of life or soundness of doctrine, you may set down as metaphorical.’ And he applied this so as to reinterpret not merely passages which seemed inconsistent with Christian doctrine or moral teaching but also passages which seemed inconsistent with the supposed scientific truths established by contemporary Greek science. This tradition influenced much biblical interpretation until the Reformation and should lead us to interpret the Bible in the light of modern science. The meaning of any text depends on its context. The Bible is a patchwork of passages from different centuries. Only the whole Bible, and so any passage understood in that context, can claim full truth and full divine inspiration.

Keywords:   biblical interpretation, biblical inspiration, literal, metaphorical, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine

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