Occam’s Bible Razor


This weekend I promised some folks on another site that I would take a look at the idea of the Priesthood in the same manner that I looked at Apostleship. I was tackling my idea that the formal office of priest has passed away and is now only owned by one person, Christ. No mortal human “priest” exists to carry on the role Christ now does for all of us. (Backstory: this is mostly my attempt to counter the growing trend in evangelical circles to make the father in a family some new form of “family priest,” an idea that has no history that I can find in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library or any of the writings of Jonathan Edwards.)

Well, in the course of getting ready for an apologetic examination nonpareil, I ran into a huge problem with the Greek word “presbuteros” (from which we get the word “Presbyterian”, the key meaning being “elder”) which some who support a distinct role of “priest” want to use in the same way that we use “hiereus” (high priest). The “presbuteros equates to a modern NT priestly role” seems so tortured to me that trying to disqualify presbuteros in order to make my point is maddening. Frankly, I’m not prepared to write a dissertation on this, what I saw as a simple subject before it got obfuscated.

Cross on BibleAnd that brings me to my whole point.

Jack Deere once wrote that if you take someone who has no experience with the Bible or Christian doctrine at all and you sit that person down to read the Bible through for the first time, that person is not going to come away from the Bible a cessationist. Now I realize that’s a whole ‘nother topical hornet’s nest, but the idea is what I want to hold onto here. Likewise, Leonard Ravenhill, one of my favorite authors and preachers, once said that one day someone is going to sit down with the Bible and truly believe it and then we’re all going to be ashamed.

Does Occam’s Razor apply to the Bible?

William of Occam stated quite simply:

Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.

Or in 21st century English:

The simplest answer for explaining something is most likely to be true and is to be preferred.

Perhaps we need to recover this same perspective when it comes to reading the Bible.

Now this is not to say that we can strip the depth of meaning out of the Scriptures. No one man can take in all the breadth of knowledge and beauty the Bible contains. But what if the simple, first-through reading of a passage of Scripture is closest to its true meaning? Some of our most debated doctrines today seem quite tortured when theologians start beefing about Greek verb declensions. Why not just read a passage and let the very first thoughts you get about it serve as the basis for belief? Does the Holy Spirit demand that we parse verb forms in order to get to “the real meaning” of the Bible?

The older I get the more this bothers me. I think Deere may be right. It’s only after most new Christians are exposed to us “mature” believers that they start to temper their initial excitement at reading the word of God. “Oh, so it doesn’t really mean that?” is not the kind of attitude we should be encouraging in spiritual beginners. I know I get tired of hearing some people try to dissect John 14:6 by using tortured logic to say that Jesus isn’t really saying He’s the only way to be saved. I’m sorry to say this to the text-floggers out there, but I think that is exactly what He is saying. Doesn’t a first reading of that passage say that? Don’t you have to contruct an elaborate deconstruction of that passage in order to get it to say something entirely different from what it seems to say on a first reading?

I’ve noticed that several apologetics blogs are starting to emerge. That’s great. We need good apologists. But I also think that perhaps we are losing the basic truth of “the first read.” I know that I wish I could strip away twenty-eight years of “Bible learnin'” to be able to read a text with a first-timer’s eyes. Maybe then I could be the man of Ravenhill’s aphorism and go on to be far more than the critics would contend I could be.

So all I ask is, why are we making it all so difficult? Anyone else here desiring an Occam’s Bible Razor? (I hear Family Christian Bookstores is looking to sell a titanium one for $14.98, but don’t quote me on that!)

4 thoughts on “Occam’s Bible Razor

  1. Hi, found you through Christian Carnival. This is an excellent post. Christ said we are to come to Him “as a child”, and I seroiusly doubt that many children are familiar with Greek verbs. 🙂 I like this perspective on meaning. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I’m having trouble with the idea that there are no priests, given that a first-through reading of the Bible says that we’re all priests. We’re a kingdom of priests. Paul says that our worship fulfills a Levitical function. Our lives are a living sacrifice, which is a priestly function. Hebrews says Jesus is our high priest, but that doesn’t mean we’re not priests. Maybe you want to read around these things with some complicated exegesis that shows that these passages don’t really mean what they seem to mean, but isn’t that what this whole post is saying we shouldn’t do?

  3. You are a kingdom of priests…

    Simple insights from reading the text will lead us to understand the core.

    After knowing Christ for y8 years I still learn from people with a large view. My current favorite is Bishop Tom Wright.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *