The Concept of Truth and the Interpretation of Scripture

By Gordon Anderson

In most seminaries and academic institutions, since the rise of critical methods of scholarship, scripture has been studied by applying methods of literary and historical criticism.

Literary criticism views scripture as human writing that conveys moral lessons, values and truths rather than the direct writing of God. Yet, it does not deny the existence of God or imply that the writing is not important to read for attaining a better personal life, a better world or closeness to God.

Historical criticism investigates the historical world around the origin of the ancient texts to better understand the worldviews that shaped the writing and aids dating of writings and events.

Here, I propose the concept of “truth criticism” as a further tool of scriptural analysis.

Theories of Truth and the Interpretation of Scripture

One part of the truth criticism I propose is based on an integral view of truth. On this site last year, Dr. Keisuke Noda described four theories of truth that have evolved since ancient times. These are: the correspondence theory of truth, coherence theory of truth, pragmatic theory of truth, and existential theory of truth. Since each of these approaches describes ways in which something can be viewed to be true, the integral theory of truth Dr. Noda proposes enables us to see in which ways something being studied is “true” and which ways it is not.

For example, historical criticism tells us that the Ten Commandments are very similar to core elements of the Hammurabi Code found on a stone stele in Persia, now on display in the Louvre. This seems to disconfirm the “correspondence theory of truth,” or literal interpretation of the Bible, that these commandments were introduced by a supernatural event in which they miraculously appeared on tablets in Mount Sinai. Those commandments were part of a larger body of knowledge that Moses could have inherited and believed to be essential conduct for a godly society.

The idea that the commandments were emblazoned by fire from a supernatural being could well be a literary device.

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