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Difficult Passages Change over Time

Timothy Larsen at Theolog discusses how critics object to different parts of the Bible in different historical periods. The Victorians, not surprisingly, had problems with the pre-clothing era in the Garden of Eden, as well as the Bible’s seeming softness on the dangers of alcohol:

Here, for example, is an argument from a secularist who debated a Christian minister about the merits of the Bible in Philadelphia in 1854: “I cannot see what good it could do posterity, to be told that the first man and woman were both naked and were not ashamed. The thing might be perfectly true, and yet not necessary to be recorded, nor calculated to be of any use when recorded.” Many people today find aspects of the Adam and Eve story difficult to accept, but I imagine it’s been a long time since a spokesperson for any movement objected on the grounds that it could lead people into immodest fantasies. Victorian atheists also condemned the Bible for being soft on the dangers of alcohol and not championing teetotalism.

Timothy goes on to give a personal example. He tells of how he reacted to a passage in Exodus that explains why God will drive out the inhabitants of Canaan a bit at a time, rather than all at once: “the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply against you.” As a teenager, Timothy thought it strange that God couldn’t drive out the wild animals as well as the people. But as an adult:

The “wild animals” clause is a favorite of mine. It seems to lend itself to a spiritual reading. Is it not true for us all that too much success too quickly means that we are not equipped to handle the complications that are its natural by-products?

Obviously you can read the passage in other ways, as well.

But the point is that the passages pointed to by skeptics—and even the passages that Christians wrestle with—change depending on historical, cultural, and personal context. Easy answers to complex problems don’t always present themselves, but part of becoming a mature Christian involves wrestling with difficult passages.

Via Emerging Pensees.

May 11, 2007 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:21 am | (2) Comments »


  1. Pretty interesting blog article on the ESV Bible Blog. The main idea is that difficult passages change depending on historical, cultural, and personal context.

    Trackback by Theologian — May 11, 2007 @ 11:03 am

  2. The Bible is always out of style, yet it is the one thing that is eternally relevant…

    Trackback by The Original Soapbox — June 5, 2007 @ 7:31 am

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