The Bible says …

I have always thought that “the Bible says” is a deeply problematic thing to say. If there was just one phrase I would like to ban from the pulpit, I think it would be a serious contender.

The problem, to my mind, is it erases the interpreter from the picture, yet everyone who says ‘the Bible says” actually means, “I say, the Bible says.”. There may be more or less sophisticated, elaborate, studious acts of interpretation that lie behind that “Bible says”. The affirmation made may have widespread agreement, or very limited agreement.

But it is still an interpretation, and to hide the interpreter’s responsibility for what they say, for the claim they make by that “the Bible says” is a moral abdication. We are responsible for our interpretations of scripture, whether we use them to feed the poor, justify genocide, liberate slaves or subject wives to domestic violence. Arguably all those actions could be prefaced by a “The Bible says …” introduction to applying a verse to make a case.

That’s why I’d like people to stop saying it. It’s a way of refusing to take responsibility for our positions, while rhetorically cloaking them in a “beyond argument” garment.

4 Replies to “The Bible says …”

    1. Well, technically he doesn’t. He says “it is written”. And he does so in the middle of a piece of allegorical exegesis which he and his audience know is an argument not universally accepted. I think we can safely say he’s taking responsibility for his own interpretation. 🙂

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