In an effort to help Christians and non-Christians alike decipher the deeper meanings of the Old and New Testaments, which are generally considered to comprise the word of God as transcribed by various human individuals (their exact identities still being a matter of debate), Con Trong Bui has written Truthful Misconceptions, an impressive work of biblical scholarship that takes a deep dive into the truth (and untruth) behind many well-known scriptures. Of course, as the Bible was written by human hands and with the aim of appealing to people of its time, it seems clear that some degree of critical interpretation must be required when reading it; however, that is not to say that the issues and questions raised in Truthful Misconceptions are wholly without controversy.
Starting from the perspective that the information presented in the scriptures should not be considered in a straightforward and literal manner in the same way that the information provided by a history book should be received, Bui highlights the need to question the stories and lessons found within the pages of the Bible as well as to assess the validity of the perceived wisdom derived from them. Early in the book, the value of this perspective is made startlingly clear by a set of questions that Bui raises. For instance, if God created Heaven and Earth (Genesis 1:1) AND God dwells in Heaven (Deuteronomy 26:15), where did God live before he created Heaven? Was homelessness the reason for the Creation? While questions like this might initially seem rather amusing, when considered more deeply they certainly give pause for thought.
If the Bible can be metaphorical, allegorical, and unclear, and if the content of the scriptures can prove contradictory (e.g., if no man has ever ascended to Heaven [John 3:13], how was Elijah able to travel in a chariot of fire into Heaven [2 Kings 2:11]?), then it is vital to thoroughly examine the meaning of each passage and determine its relevance and connotation both at the time of writing and today. Bui illustrates this nicely by examining the concept of God “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children” (Exodus 20:5). Even back BCE such an approach would have been considered a dubious form of justice. Yet, as Bui notes, rather than opting for a literal interpretation, if the “father” in this context is interpreted as the doer of an act and the “child” as the consequences of that act, then it seems both more logical and more fair.
Bui has packed Truthful Misconceptions with detailed analysis along similar lines, dissecting individual passages and whole Bible stories in an effort to separate fact from fiction and render the unclear comprehensible. This analysis does involve a significant degree of repetition, which may prove off-putting for some readers while helping to fix matters in the minds of others. It’s a book best suited to dedicated biblical scholars as, although Bui states the intention to cater for those with no prior knowledge of scripture, it really is beneficial to have read the entire Bible before attempting to assess his interpretations. Moreover, given the consideration of reincarnation and the alleged biblical applications of the concept of karma, Truthful Misconceptions will resonate the most with open-minded Christians who are willing to consider outside tenets.
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