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- inspired by God, and as such worthy of respect and careful consideration
- recorded by Man, and as such to be regarded as approximate and unreliable

As the inspired word of God, the scriptures are an inestimable gift from him to us which he has provided to help us learn about him. They can both guide and inform our conduct. To use them for divination is ungrateful and irrational. To pick out phrases and use them as weapons – javelin, blunderbuss or club: it makes no difference – is profoundly disrespectful.

As a collection of human writings, which is perforce the condition in which they reach us now, they are coloured by the age in which they were recorded and by the experience of the people who wrote them down. Many people appear to have difficulty with this idea. People who would not even recognise Hebrew, Koiné or Aramaic on the page still happily use "but it says in the Bible" as their ultimate, unanswerable argument; nor will they ever be persuaded into a fruitful uncertainty.

I deal with texts every day of my working life, texts produced by intelligent men and women. Sometimes it is simply impossible to see what they are trying to say. More often, I stumble on ambiguities, illogicality or omissions that the original writers never noticed. I also reflect, from time to time, on the scriptural texts some people select to bolster their opinion that large numbers of their fellow-creatures are vile, sinful, doomed, disgusting and so on. These two involvements with text are not unrelated.

You may – or of course may not – be interested to consider one or more of the following comments, which do not require acceptance or rejection.

Humility, not righteousness, is the spirit in which to approach the scriptures. If you are shouting at someone else, you may miss the still small voice.

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