Genesis & sacramental texts

From: george murphy (
Date: Sat May 04 2002 - 08:38:25 EDT

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    Adrian Teo wrote:

    > > AT: Thanks for clarifying your position. How do
    > > you understand
    > > John 6 about
    > > Jesus insisting that they had to eat his flesh and drink his
    > > blood? Also in
    > > the context of the last supper, when he said, "This is my body...."?

             I have posed similar questions in the past here about texts dealing
    with Baptism and the Lord's Supper and have been met with an embarassed
    reticence to discuss the topic, as if I had committed some kind of childish
    faux pas. Discussion about sacraments is considered unseemly while it's OK
    for us to go at it about creation & evolution, creatio ex nihilo vs process
    theology &c. Frankly I don't get it. There are at least 2 good reasons
    why the topic is germane, only one of which [tease] I will point out here.

             Are we to interpret texts "literally" or "figuratively" (to put it
    rather simplistically)? A large body of Christians (mostly conservative
    Evangelicals) insists that Gen.1-3 must be understood literally but that
    "This is my body", "born of water and Spirit" & other sacramental texts
    must not be understood literally. Another large body of Christians (many
    Roman Catholics, Lutherans, & Anglicans) says that Gen.1-3 either needn't
    be or shouldn't be read as literal history but that the sacramental texts
    should be interpreted in their literal sense. (There are also some who say
    that neither should be understood literally & some who say that both should
    be but let's not confuse things right now.)

             Neither group simply approaches scripture with the assumption that
    everything in it is to be read literally (whatever they may say). So what
    criteria are being used to decide the question? & it ought to be
    emphasized that this is not just a question of historical accuracy. Those
    in the first group will agree that Jesus did in fact say "this is my body"
    (or actually the underlying Aramaic) but that what he said is not to be
    understood in the literal sense.

             The point is that we all approach biblical texts with fundamental
    principles of interpretation which may or may not be explicitly
    recognized. What are those principles? & where do they come from? Are
    they foreign criteria imposed on scripture or are they themselves
    scriptural? & are the ways in which we deal with Genesis & the sacramental
    texts consistent or are we simply influenced far more than we think by
    denominational traditions & implicit assumptions about what's "reasonable",
    "fitting" &c?

             I think that some attention to these questions might shed some
    light on the different ways in which we deal with Genesis - which seems to
    be the #1 item of interest on this list.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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