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Friday, February 21, 2014

The Biblical Definition of …


I would like to make a suggestion, if I may:  I think that we should all agree to stop using the phrase “the Biblical definition of…”  Whether we’re talking about marriage, or personhood, or sexuality, or whatever, the phrase “the Biblical definition of…” is not helpful or accurate. 

It is neither helpful nor accurate because the bible is not a dictionary.  The Bible does not define words.  Most of what is contained in the Bible is narrative, and a large part of what isn’t narrative is poetry.  And narratives and poetry do not lend themselves to defining things. They may illustrate or describe various aspects of different topics.  Stories that try to define things are pedantic and boring.  Poetry that sounds like a dictionary is bad poetry.  And even those portions of the bible that are neither narrative nor poetry don't offer precise, clear-cut, dictionary or encyclopedia style definitions.

One example (and there could be many, many others):  there is no Biblical “definition” of marriage.  But there are many and varied accounts of marriages – some between one man and one woman, some between a man and many women. Some of these marriages were founded on love. Others on economics.  Others still were the result of plundering after war.  Which of these is THE “biblical definition” of marriage?

So, my suggestion is that we should just stop using the phrase: “the biblical definition of…”  

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