Shellfish, slavery and same-sex marriage: How not to read the Bible

Archbishop Glenn DaviesBy Glenn Davies, ABC Religion & Ethics

In recent days a number of strange claims have been made about slavery and shellfish in the Bible.

The line normally goes something like this: although the Bible prohibits God’s people from eating shellfish and also endorses slavery, we can disregard these ethical instructions because we have come of age and can see things differently – indeed, more clearly – with our advanced knowledge and superior wisdom concerning what is right and wrong. Therefore, when it comes to novel concepts such as redefining marriage to include two persons of the same sex, we can simply abandon the teaching of the Bible, and in particular, even the teaching of Jesus, on the grounds that the Bible has been superseded by the moral insights of the twenty-first century.

This confused way of handling the Bible springs from an ignorance of the Bible’s own narrative. The Bible’s story is a progressive one, unfolding through the lives of Noah, Abraham and Moses (and the nation of Israel) and culminating in the arrival of Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, not only of the Jewish people, but of all people – from every tribe and nation.

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