Procrustes and Bible Interpretation

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There is a Greek legend of a man named Procrustes. He was an innkeeper with an iron bed. Inviting traveling passer-bys for a rest, he strapped them to his iron bed. If a person was too tall, the visitor’s legs were chopped off to accommodate the length of the bed. If the chap was too short, the bed was transformed into a rack, stretching their limbs till they fit. Somehow, no one fitted the iron bed at the start.

We behave like Procrustes and do the same thing to the Bible when its truths don’t sit well with our expectations. We cut it or stretch it just to fit our ideas. Martin Luther tried to remove the books Hebrew, James, Jude and Revelation from the Bible canon as he didn’t agree with them but thankfully, he failed.

One key danger is interpreting the Bible through our experiences rather than interpreting our experiences through the Bible. There is a world of difference. Let me explain.

For example, I tell you that God never lets you get sick and if you do, it is due to sin. And when you fall sick, you’d better repent of your sins! Is that true? Does my experience trump the Bible? Of course not. Upon a cursory reading, you find that many godly men in the Bible have sicknesses and suffering too.

Don’t let people’s experience or even yours to shape your theology. Make sure the Bible is the one that sheds light on your life. Tell yourself “Job, a godly man, suffered sickness and pain not due to his sin.” This type of Bible interpretation encourages you and keeps you firm in the faith.

You have to come to God to let him shape your mind and interpret your experiences through the grid of his word. Like Procrustes, God would need to do some adjustments to your thinking to the best standard – his unchanging word.

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