Biblical understandings of human gender: How to read the Bible: Larger passages trump verses

Before I progress to Gen 2 and 3 I need to add another principle to the two I presented in the previous post. In a way it could be argued as a corollory.

We have recognised that parts (“verses”)1 of larger texts do not necessarily convey the meaning of the whole, now I want to claim that it is the meaning of those larger “wholes” that are the meaning of a text.

Principle 3

Larger textual units take precedence, and if there is a conflict between the apparent meaning of a chapter, or book section, and that of a “verse” then we prioritise the meaning of the larger segment of text.

What this means is both, that we should be cautions of basing much on the apparent meaning of a small chunk (Principles 1 & 2) but also that we should be asking ourselves: What is (or, sometimes possibly often, are) the meaning(s) of this passage? Rather than asking: Can I see this meaning in this passage?

Although texts can and do point in many directions they are usually only teaching a limited range of things. Subsidiary ideas, even though present in a passage may not be what God intends us to learn.

Randal Rauser has a couple of posts on Paul’s use of the stereotype “All Cretans are liars” in Titus 1:12-13. Whether one agrees with his views on inerrancy or not2 it is clear that in this passage Paul is not teaching about the truthfulness of Cretans, and that if we were to argue from Titus 1:12-13 that we should believe nothing any Cretan tells us, we would have misunderstood the passage.

  1. For the use of this word to mean small chunks of text, not necessarily the same as the small chunks that are numbered in our Bibles, though like them parts of larger wholes see the previous post also. []
  2. Though I pretty much do. []