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Hit or Miss?

Bishop Barron has come up with another problematic point of view, to my thinking. Let's take a look at this issue together.

I recently read about Bishop Barron who argued awhile back a novel interpretation of Scriptures regarding the interactions of the prophet Elijah and the Lord in response to his slaughtering of 450 pagan priests. You can hear what he suggests in his own words here:

In response, a critical argument was offered here that argues Bishop Barron is off base in two ways with his interpretation of Scriptures in particular, and consequently, but not essentially, his reading of religion in general. I will assume you've checked these sources out to assure the reader that something about Barron's ideas are off.

As for his statements here, I do find what the author of the article claims: Barron is proposing an interpretation that is more eisegetical than exegetical. That is, he is reading into the text something that is not there, and he does this in two annoying ways.

Firstly, he says that Elijah "did a kind of horrible thing on Mount Carnel" putting 450 false prophets to death. Which is funny, because in the next chapter of 1 Kings, Eljiah has this to say about his actions when addressing God: “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1 Kings 19:14). According to Elijah, what he did was to preserve the sanctity of God, to remind the people listening to these false prophets what other prophets like him had done in the past: they routed the enemy, killed them and moved in to take their place--all with God's permission and authority! Read for yourselves in the Bible how God tells Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon and others to slaughter the enemy who stand in the way He wants His people to go. So, here, the Bible says nothing about Elijah doing a horrible thing by slaying false prophets. That idea is Bishop Barron's alone, and I don't believe it fits in with other Biblical texts and particularly this one.

Secondly, Barron does contend that God fires Elijah, which seems to be a specious interpretation. God offers no harsh criticism for us future readers in this particular passage. The text itself says nothing about a demotion. Barron again interjects his own ideas here, which is what eisegesis does, rather than exegesis which determines what the text itself is saying. Take a look at the conversation between God and Elijah, when Elijah explains to God why he did what he did in Chapter 19 of 1 Kings. The Bible doesn't say whether or not God told him to kill the false prophets, true; but in Elijah's mind, he was acting as God would have him act, defending what elsewhere in Scriptures God refers to as His "sanctity," purity, holiness and otherness, about which one must remove sandals and stand in awe of God's pure and jealous love (burning bush, etc.). I'm not inventing these claims that God makes to justify Himself in Scriptures. You readers know them well enough yourselves, but the text here speaks nothing of "firing" as a penalty for doing something loathsome or "horrible." Those ideas aren't present in the text, but are rather introduced here as a kind of creative interpretation that seem to be foreign and contemporary.

I'd go on to suggest that for all we know, maybe Elijah was instructed to kill just as he was instructed by God to saturate the sacrifice with water and then call down fire on it, but again, the text is silent on that matter. God simply goes on to tell Elijah where to find his successor, and then, later in the story, as the article notes correctly, Elijah is swept up in a whirlwind. My own thoughts aren't particularly relevant, but I've always held Elijah in extremely high esteem for being chosen by God to carry out these momentous deeds alone and against terrible odds (what with the people undecided about Elijah's authority, the miracle of fire consuming the sacrifices in the presence of the false prophets, the flaming chariot and so on). Am I reading into the text here? I don't believe so, but I do think, quite assuredly, that Bishop Barron is interjecting thoughts that are inconsistent with the Biblical passage itself. My sense is that the article summed up Barron's mistakes pretty well. Perhaps Bishop Barron would chide me for not having an open mind to agree with his creative interpretations, in which case I'd simply quote Carl Sagan's advice in the picture above.

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