Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Bible and Politics, pt. 4.1

In this week’s lesson and the next we turn to the use of the Bible in politics by the Bible itself. Specifically, we’ll be looking at how different biblical authors draw from other passages of Scripture in political situations. This week we’ll look at the Old Testament (of, if you prefer, Hebrew Bible) in three sections: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. Next week we’ll get into the New Testament. There is A LOT of information here, so I’ll necessarily be skipping important passages and books—please add your insights!

A note on my approach to politics in the Bible: In the last couple hundred years we in the West have developed the idea that religion and politics are two distinct entities. Our doctrine of separation of the church and state is the perfect expression of such a distinction. But in biblical times, as is still the case in some parts of the world, there was no categorical differentiation between the two. Thus, to talk about ‘politics’ in the Bible as a distinct matter from ‘religion’ or ‘spirituality’ probably would not have made sense to any of the Bible’s authors. Today the distinction between religion and politics is firmly embedded in our worldview, and it is difficult to read the Bible any other way.

The difference all this makes for us is that I may read a passage as ‘political,’ whereas you may have only read it as ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual.’ My hope is that we can respect the biblical worldview(s) enough to see that there are both political and religious layers to most if not all texts. But, as always, lets speak openly when we disagree about a reading of a passage.

I’ll get the lesson on the Torah up ASAP, and the lessons on the Prophets and Writings up later in the week. For now, be thinking and commenting on the above note: what is your reaction to thinking about the Bible as a ‘political’ text?


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