I continue my critique of an article by Michael Coogan. He writes:
“Individual biblical texts should not be appealed to selectively: Such cherry-picking is all too easy because of the nature of the Bible as a multi-authored book. Rather, as with another formative text, the Constitution, one needs first to understand it historically — what did its words mean when they were written — and then attempt to determine what its underlying values are, not just what it says in a specific passage. Only in this sense can the Bible be considered to have timeless relevance that transcends the historical particularities of its authors. What are those underlying values? I would argue that they are rooted in love of neighbor, which Jewish and Christian commentators over the ages have identified as the essential and enduring message of the Bible.”
In previous posts I have answered Coogan’s challenge concerning Christian’s cherry-picking Bible verses and I’ve shown how we are consistent in our interpretations of the issues such as slavery, abortion, and homosexuality. Here in his CNN editorial he returns to his contention the Bible is manmade and says it should be read similar to the Constitution. This is information we agree on; the Bible needs to be understood in a historical context. However, I have shown he hasn’t done this. With the issue of slavery he ignored the differences of how slaves were treated thousands of years ago verses the last few hundred years. When referencing the Old Testament he historically didn’t keep in mind who God was communicating to during that time period. The Old Testament laws he referenced revolved around the Mosaic Covenant, which was addressed specifically to the nation of Israel. Christians are under the New Covenant and not the Mosaic Covenant (see part 12 for more detail).
Coogan then states, “I would argue that they [scriptures] are rooted in love of neighbor, which Jewish and Christian commentators over the ages have identified as the essential and enduring message of the Bible.” I am not certain what Jewish and Christian commentators he spoke with but this statement is simply false. Loving your neighbor is important in the Bible but it is not the most essential and enduring message of the Bible. Commentators from both Jewish and Christians circles would point to loving God as the most essential message to us. Let me quote a few passages to make my point.
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.”
In this scene Jesus was tested by a Jewish religious leader to see if He knew what the most important commandment was in all Scripture. Matthew 22:34-40 “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ 37 Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
Loving God is by far the most important commandment for both Jewish and Christian religions and Jesus calls it the first and greatest commandment. Maybe Michael Coogan should have asked Jesus what is the most essential and enduring commandment. In the New Covenant the Mosaic Law could be fulfilled by adhering to the commandments; loving God and then second loving your neighbor. Again we see Coogan ignoring the obvious (to love God) and cherry-picking the verses he wants to push forward. Why does he do this? His entire article has an agenda; he wants to use the Bible selectively to support his religious liberal beliefs. What are some of those beliefs he is pushing? The Bible is manmade, homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, no Biblical case can be made against abortion, and overall Christians are inconsistent in their interpretations and cherry-pick verses. I have shown all of those contentions are false, and I have presented in my series Michael Coogan does what he warns Christians not to do; he is inconsistent in his interpretations. In Part 14 I will conclude my critique of Michael Coogan’s CNN article.
 Coogan, Michael, “Bible has some shocking ‘family values'”October 26, 2010 12:53 p.m. EDT
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