I hope you are intrigued by the title of this post and the link below and read on! Go to the below link last.
I’ve been slowly going through Robert Spencer’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades. One interesting feature is how Spencer will compare the words of Jesus with the words of Muhammad. His purpose is to show that jihad is fundamentally basic to Islam using the words of the Prophet while Jesus taught no such doctrine.
Spencer also frequently cites the Qu’ran to make the point especially that jihad (holy war) is part and parcel of Islam and that the Bible teaches no such thing.
The Qu’ran may be thought of as the holy book of Islam. Spencer cites the Qu’ran frequently but he also gives much guidance as to “how” to” read the Qu’ran.
The how to issue is rather important because it also raises the issue as to “how to” read the Bible. For some, it’s not important at all since they have already made up their mind as to the veracity of the Bible or of the Qu’ran and so to them it matters not how one approaches either set of texts.
But for those who find the “how to” question to be an intriguing question let me suggest to you the link above I’ve posted as a starter.
In the interest of full disclosure the link comes from a Conservative Evangelical American point of view of which I am one for those of you who do not know that. It says much about how many conservative evangelical Americans approach the Bible in the first place.
The word “exegesis” means to draw the meaning out of a text from the text itself. To be done rightly it usually requires knowledge of Greek and Hebrew if the pastor/scholar is interested in doing his own “exegesis” as opposed to relying solely on the prior exegesis of others.
The most important distinction that I want to make however is between the idea of “drawing out of the text meaning (exegesis) and “reading into the text” (eisegesis) the meaning of a text.
Someone who reads into a text can find whatever one is looking for in the text. This means they have already assigned meaning to the text prior to studying the text. It’s why some people say “you can find whatever you want in the Bible.” That is true, if you read into a text whatever you wish to find.
The exegetical method is certainly more objective than approaching the Bible with preconceived ideas and positions. The exegete attempts to draw out the meaning of the text even if it contradicts his preconceived ideas as to what the text means. I believe that such objectivity is possible as the pastor/scholar wrestles with the harder questions that can arise from using this method of biblical interpretation.
The sincere exegete will work hard to draw out the meaning of the text and let the chips fall where they even if it goes against popular opinion or what he may have learned in one theological system or the other.
Sadly, too few seminaries emphasize the exegetical approach to the Scriptures and that explains the plethora of interpretations floating about. It can be mind blogging for someone interested in Christianity but not having any idea where to start.
(Let me suggest that if you fall into the “where to start” category you begin by asking yourself the C.S. Lewis question. Who was Jesus? Was he insane? Was he just a good moral teacher? Was he liar? Or was he God as he claimed to be? If you decide on the first three options as truth it really doesn’t matter how you approach the Bible since Jesus’s fundamental claim was he was God and he trusted the Scriptures and often times quoted from the Old Testament.)
Nevertheless, for a person interested in Christianity but unsure of where to start it would be a good idea to ask the church or denomination how they approach the Scriptures. Not all approaches are equally valid and some pretty bizarre things have been justified biblically when they are not biblical at all.
As for the Qu’ran and Spencer’s book…Spencer asks a very interesting question early on by making comparisons between the teachings of Muhammad and the teachings of Jesus. I’d rephrase the questions like this:
1. To what extent do the words of the Prophet Muhammad (Muhammad claimed to be Allah’s prophet) influence mainstream Islam in regards to Jihad or holy war?
2. To what extent do the words of Jesus (who claimed to be God) influence Christianity in regards to any war?
To answer the first question I do recommend The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades by Robert Spencer. You can tell by the book’s title that Spencer is not interested in being popular. Personally, I think the west is dangerously naive regarding Islam and I’m not politically correct either.
To answer the second question I recommend Ethics for a Brave New World by John and Paul Feinberg. (Personally, I think most of the west is just plain ignorant regarding Christianity and in many ways the west is post-Christian. There is still a Christian veneer of sorts but even that seems to be getting thinner and thinner all the time. The Feinbergs are excellent exegetes of the Scripture and in this volume they detail how Christians have viewed war over the centuries and arrive at what they believe to be the best biblical position.
I’ll be adding to this post series from time to time as I work through Spencer’s book.