[lit-ideas] Re: small addendum to Matrix as philosophy

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 1 Dec 2004 11:20:16 +0000 (GMT)

 --- Veronica Caley <vcaley@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote: 
> Donal: 
> "In fact how is a literal interpretation of the Bible or Koran even
> possible,
> literally speaking of course?"
> It's very easy.  See below.
> Veronica, teaching comparative religions, is talking about the part of the
> New Testament story of Jesus turning water into wine at Cana, where a
> wedding took place and the guests ran out of wine.
> Student: Jesus didn't do that.  He changed the water into grape juice. 
> Veronica asks student how he knows this and student says, it's a
> mistranslation, good Christians don't drink alcohol.
> This is called cafeteria Biblical interpretation.  What you want to take
> literally you do, such as homosexuals being an abomination.  What you don't
> want to take literally, you don't.
> Cafeteria Christianity is similar.  It might be that divorce is bad, child
> abuse is bad, disobeying one's husband is bad, etc., etc. But, but, but,
> this case, my case, is different.  
> Veronica

I take this post as showing that so-called 'literalists' are often highly
selective in what they chose to interpret 'literally'. But there is also a
broader point of offering a consistent and comprehensive test of what is
'literal' an interpretation as opposed to a 'non-literal' [eg. purposive]
interpretation. Can this be done? The story leaves it unclear.

In this context I note that the cafeterian did not explicitly claim to be
offering a literal interpretation as opposed to a purposive interpretation
according to which perhaps, if one of the purposes of Christianity is to
oppose alcohol consumption, it suits Christian purposes to interpret apparent
references to alcohol as referring to non-alcoholic beverages from the same
grape or grain.

So perhaps this is not an example of hypocrisy from a 'literalist' because
not not an example of 'literal' interpretation at all, as judged by the
justification for this interpretation - 'Christians don't drink'. 

There are ways to challenge this purposive interpretation. Good Christians
don't drink alcohol? What about Jesus and the Twelve Apostles? If this is
said to beg the question, what about so-called 'altar wine', which contains
alcohol on a simple scientific test? Or beers brewed by Christian monks,
which can also be tested for the alcohol content? And insofar as, at the
Feast of Canaan, the party-goers commented that it was striking that they
left the best drink to last, is the 'cafeterian' really claiming that they
were all bowled over by a late serving of great grape juice?

These challenges may be rebuffed of course, but surely unpersuasively.

As well as these grave matters of exegesis there is the more radical question
of whether Christ's actions in just once turning water into wine is any more
miraculous than others' seeming ability to reverse the process again and
again at will.


Moving house? Beach bar in Thailand? New Wardrobe? Win £10k with Yahoo! Mail to 
make your dream a reality. 
Get Yahoo! Mail www.yahoo.co.uk/10k
To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: