Four challenges for Bible interpretation are listed in your text—the distance of time, cultural distance, geographical distance, and distance of language. Offer an argument for which challenge is the easiest to overcome and which is the most difficult. Be sure to define the challenge and to identify clearly the problems inherent in it.
This is not any easy topic to approach. Each one of the distances offers its own unique challenges. If I had the option I would group two of them together and make it one, which are the distances, geographical and cultural distance.
As I compare what these differences are not one jumps out as the forerunner as the hardest bridge to cross. In having to choose one as the easiest to get past would be time. Now hear me out before you start saying to yourself “Paul your crazy, time is one of the harder ones to settle up with.” The reason I chose time is when you think about it even the readers of the OT had to deal with the challenge of time when they were reading. According to Klein, “Another time span that must be considered in interpreting the Bible involves the gaps that existed—more or less in various places—between the time the Bible events occurred and the time when those events were actually written down in the texts we now possess.”Since we now understand that time has been an issue for all generations of Bible readers we can see that we are not unique. When dealing with the issue of time should it change how we read the Bible? The answer to that question is yes and no. We should try and understand where the original author is writing from and who he is writing to, but it should make us appreciate the Word that much more.
The difference I think is the hardest for us to deal with is the distance of culture, while I want to say language I think we have some extremely talented men and women who have been blessed with the ability to translate. However, what does not always translate is culture. We live in a world where there is technology coming out of the wah-zoo, most of us are not living how people lived hundreds or thousands of years ago. This offers us a very difficult bridge to cross seeing that, “The biblical world was essentially agrarian, made up of land owners and tenant farmers using machinery that was primitive by our standards and methods of travel that were slow and weary.” When you think of an Inn you probably first off think of some nice hotel with a row of rooms with nice comfortable beds with cushy pillows. Most inns were primitive shelters for people and their animals. Also, as Klein points out, “…in the West individualism is so pervades our thinking that even in the Church we encounter interpretations that focus on individuals and never think about testing whether the text may actually have more corporate intentions.” Once we can begin to learn more about the culture the Bible takes place in we can begin grasping the deeper meaning behind the words and they will no longer just be words on a page but they will come to life.
Duvall, J. Scott, and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God's Word 2nd edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.
Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.
Klien, WIlliam W., and Craig L. and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. Blomberg. Introduction to Biblical Interpretatioin. Nahsville: Thomas Nelson, 2004.