Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Oracles and Interpretation

Writing When Women Ruled the World from the Oracle of Delphi, Wade Burleson audaciously asserts, "Portions of the Bible can only be understood when one has a working knowledge of ancient Greece and the importance and influence of women at the Oracle of Delphi."

After referencing history of the the Oracle of Delphi, the assertion focuses particularly on the incident recorded in Acts 16:16-18, with Burleson adding, "The only way you can understand why Paul did what he did is to realize the biblical description of this young girl." He goes on to write, "The English versions of the Bible say she had "a spirit of divination" (Acts 16:16). The literal Greek word used to describe this woman is Pythia. She could have served in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, or she could have been a lesser oracle. What we do know is she had the spirit of divination." Rather than reveal some particularly pithy perception, Burleson concludes that what we do know is exactly what the English Bibles tell us -- that she had the spirit of divination!

I do not point to this to focus on Wade Burleson's exegesis and interpretation of this text (though I think he possibly falls for a root fallacy here); but rather to focus on the grand need to study what the Bible says rather than interpret it based on "inaccessible" extraneous material. If we doggedly believe that "portions of the Bible can only be understood when [cue the hermeneutical soup of the day]," then we must maintain the corollary that those to whom this material is inaccessible cannot possibly understand the Bible, or are at the least seriously defective in their attempt. On the other hand, Paul indicates that in the inspired text itself we have sufficient matter for all our doctrine, our reproof, our instruction in righteousness. Let's learn to think this way rather than think about the need to access some obscure bit of history by which to interpret the Bible. We are a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom that needs mystical priests to mediate God's word to those of us who don't know the Oracles of Delphi!

No comments: