One of the most common heresies about the Bible is that it was written by people who weren’t as aware as us or as smart as us. For example, some have taught that the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus was originated by people who didn’t know where babies come from. C.S. Lewis points out that all adults know where babies come from. In fact, part of the tension in the Christmas story comes from Joseph and Mary’s need to deal with first-century Israel’s lack of gullibility about virgin births.
Many popular interpretations of the Bible can be best explained with the theory that the apostles and prophets didn’t mean what they wrote. Of course, this theory is never applied to the authors of instruction manuals, judicial opinions or restaurant menus. But the Bible was written a long, long time ago. Maybe people in those days just liked hearing the sound of their voice and nobody ever contradicted what they said. Everybody was happy and peaceful and vague, just like in the hippie movement. Perhaps the authors of the Bible were using gentle mind-expanding chemicals. Maybe they were doing Purple Haze.
Under the Purple Haze Theory of Biblical Authorship, readers can approach every Bible verse that they don’t understand, or that they don’t like, with a single rule of interpretation: what the writer was trying to say doesn’t matter. What matters is, how do I want it to make me feel? You don’t have to be theologically liberal to use this principle. Millions of evangelicals approach the Bible this way, much of the time. Hard sayings in the Bible – scratch that: any saying in the Bible – can be replaced with the Greek or Hebrew equivalent of murmuring “Aw dude…”
Let’s try this theory on a actual Scripture – Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Here’s the Purple Haze paraphrase:
So Jesus laid this on them: “Being cool spiritually means doing something with yourself and being cool with me.”
Notice that the words “deny” and “cross” are untranslatable, just like “Selah.”
So put some flowers in your hair, put some Crosby, Stills & Nash on the record player (you do have a record player, don’t you?), open up that Bible, and chill. After all, they call it inspired literature. So be inspired.