How often has a Christian apologist informed you (the skeptic) that you are reading the Bible like a fundamentalist because you accept the literal reading of a particular Bible passage as the intent of the author, instead of taking the time to understand the nuances of “context”?
All the time, in my experience!
The problem with context is that it is open to interpretation without access to a living author. This is particularly the case when dealing with very ancient texts like the books of the Bible.
How can anyone be 100% certain that the author(s) of the Book of Genesis did not literally intend his readers to believe that the Creation occurred in six literal days? If this was the intention of the author, science has proven him wrong. Christian apologists can argue all day long that the author was using symbolic language or that the ultimate author, God, was accommodating to a scientifically ignorant culture, but there is really no way to know for sure. The context? Who knows!
And what about Noah’s Flood? What if the author(s) of Genesis really did intend his readership to understand that the Great Flood literally covered the entire earth, including the highest mountain (Mt. Everest)? Science has proven the literal reading of this passage absolutely false. So how do we determine the “context” of this story? Did the author believe this story to be literally true or did he intend to use this story as an allegory? Who knows!
And the list goes on and on (Tower of Babel, the Exodus, etc..).
It is odd that many Christian apologists are eager to reinterpret passages in the OT using “context”; stories, which by some odd coincidence, modern science has recently proven cannot be literally true. But these same Christian apologists are reluctant to do the same for similarly fantastical claims in the New Testament!
A virgin birth? Couldn’t we use the same strategy to say that this story was allegorical or theological in intent and not historical? What about the claim of water walking? Turning water into alcohol? Restoring sight to the blind? If the stories of the Old Testament can be reinterpreted using the excuse of “context”, accommodation, or allegory, why can’t we do the same with the stories in the New Testament??
If the stories of Creation and Noah’s Flood are not literal, then maybe the stories of wild eyed, illiterate peasants seeing a “resurrected” corpse are just as non-literal! Maybe the fantastical stories of people seeing and touching the resurrected body of Jesus were never meant to be understood literally. Maybe they too were written for theological/literary purposes. What was their true “context”?
Context can be a quagmire, my Christian friends. Be careful how often you appeal to it!
End of post.