PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 June, 2007, 12:00am

The Bible's writers did not expect their stories to be read literally

As a Christian labelled evil or amoral by Jack Muir because I have read the Bible ('Taleban guilty of being the perfect Christians', June 10), I feel compelled to respond, as Mr Muir may benefit from correction of some of his more glaring errors.

Mr Muir makes the assumption that all Christians share a literal belief in the Bible, and has used this to attack us en masse. In today's academic community, no serious Biblical scholar believes the historicity of most Biblical stories. This is to rob them of their rich symbolism and heritage in the Jewish tradition.

However, many Christians do believe in the theological truths inherent in Biblical texts; in fact they are only revealed fully through exegesis of a non-literal nature, because most metaphorical Biblical language represents deeper understandings about faith (eg, to the ancient Hebrews, water symbolised evil and chaos; therefore, Jesus walking on water referred to his Messianic role).

There is no denying the texts in the Bible that have been used over the centuries to justify horrific social ills; they were written in a different time and culture.

Scripture writers thought the earth was the centre of the universe. To apply this, or any other ancient belief to our world, such as creationism, is obviously shortsighted.

However, abuses by Christians continue because some Christians, along with detractors like Mr Muir, seem aware of only the First Testament. I suggest Mr Muir avail himself of the Second Testament, where our teacher Jesus revokes the 'eye for an eye' mentality and advocates challenging social norms of the day to include all and judge not.

Mr Muir also seems unaware that the Bible writers themselves did not expect their stories to be read literally. That is to reduce God to a level of the human ignorance of the time, and to be ignorant of narrative conventions of the time, which included metaphor and hyperbole.

There will always be those who interpret the Bible in ways to justify their own ends. I would thank Mr Muir to either familiarise himself with canon law regarding our sacred texts, or refrain from insulting those who have every right to our love of an ancient and valuable text.

Labhaoise Jane Upton, Sha Tin

Debate should not distract from God's love

I refer to the letter from Jack Muir on the evils of the Bible ('Taleban guilty of being the perfect Christians', June 10). While I am not sure if Mr Muir has had a thorough and thoughtful reading of the Bible, most likely he has heard of the story of the prodigal son, in which Christ describes how a repentant profligate is welcomed home by his father.

The prodigal son story typifies a cycle of 'our rejection of God and His redemption of us' that is repeated over and over in the Bible. When people complain about the edgy parts of the Bible, they often seize on the first part of the cycle, and quote it out of context, like telling the first half of the story of the prodigal son and then announcing that the Bible teaches us to behave like profligates. While on the contrary, the whole point of Christ's story was to illustrate God's unconditional love. After all, human nature is not perfect, and Christ's main message is about redemption and a new life.

Recently, there was much talk about Abraham's nephew, Lot, and the act of incest with his own two daughters. Here again, only the first half of the story is discussed. But, there is more: the offspring of the two daughters grew into the tribes of Moabites and Ammonites, who were never at peace, being in constant conflict with the Israelites. The eventual story of redemption is quite beautiful.

One final note on the creationism debate. The Bible says, 'For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by' (Psalm 90:4). We may never know God's unit of time, or relative frame of reference. So let us not allow this debate to distract from the Bible's main message, which centres around God's redemptive love.

M. Chen, Tai Po

Shameful treatment of the city's poorest

How can the Hong Kong economy sustain pay rises for civil servants of 5 per cent, and the inevitable spin-off this will have for the private sector, and yet it cannot afford to legislate for minimum wage scales for the poor folk earning less than HK$6,000 per month?

This is just as shameful as the government's medical administration people getting a big pay rise after the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, while those on the front line got nothing. Remember? Your newspaper even had to raise money for protective clothing for the nursing staff.

And let's not mention hitting imported domestic labour with a big tax, rather than asking for more money from those who can afford it. As one correspondent said previously: 'This government has a black heart.'

Wendy McTavish, Central

Government to blame for rise in emissions

The government is responsible for a criminal increase in the emissions of Hong Kong vehicles for two reasons.

First, by not increasing the cost of motoring over the past 10 years, it is tacitly promoting the use of cars with larger engines, and hence higher fuel consumption.

Second, by doing nothing to curb the number of vehicles entering central business and leisure districts during peak hours, it is slowing traffic to a standstill. It is quite common for traffic to stretch from Central to Quarry Bay, bumper to bumper.

Still more common is gridlock entering the Cross Harbour Tunnel at virtually all hours. On sunny weekends, the same situation presents itself from Shek O to Sai Kung.

When traffic slows, fuel consumption increases dramatically. Therefore, we not only have fewer fuel-efficient vehicles on our road, but they are moving more slowly than ever - a double whammy for the environment.

The government's weak response - to give tax breaks to hybrid cars - does little to fix the issue. Hybrids still take up space on the road, and their fuel consumption is no better than modern diesel cars anyway.

A much better response would have been to double vehicle licence fees, introduce road pricing, and get cars that are more than 15 years old off our roads for good (with the exception of classic cars).

Perhaps Henry Tang Ying-yen should look at the economic benefits of having a free-flowing transport network - and the losses the economy faces daily from gridlocked streets and arterial roads.

Would the Transport Department like to comment as to why our attitude to this issue is so retarded?

Donald Tsang is supposed to 'get the job done'. Does he even know what his job is?

Judging by how difficult it is to get from the north east to the north west of Hong Kong island by bus during rush hour, the answer is 'no'.

George Christofis, Shek O

Shattering the great American myth

I read the interesting review by Peter Walbrook on the 1975 second world war film Overlord ('From the Vault', June 3) and its delayed release in the US.

He said that it was suggested the reason the film was not shown in the United States for three decades was due to the Vietnam war.

I think it is far more likely to be the fact that most Americans don't watch war films where 'their boys' don't play the prime roles, and it would have shattered the myth, portrayed by US authorities and Hollywood, that the Americans single-handedly fought the Germans and Japanese in world war two - for example, the film U-571).

John Bond, South Horizons