Many religious leaders in our time repeat the same mistake made by medieval scholastics. They approach scripture assuming the ancient words translated into modern English mean precisely the same thing today. This practice actually means they are projecting their own cultural assumptions upon the text.

For example, some modern readers see a word in scripture like “family.” They understand the word, not in its original sense of an extended community, but for how that word is heard in their own culture, namely as an American nuclear family.

“Marriage” is no longer understood, as it was in biblical times, as a covenant defined by the parties involved. Instead the word is heard for what it would mean in the reader’s culture, which is a ritual validated by the church and state.

After assuming their own culture’s definitions were original to the text, the literalist reader then adopts a closed system of logic which is impervious to new information. It is the ultimate circular argument.

This method of biblical interpretation can be as effective in silencing modern insights as it was with Galileo. And, when it ascends to political power, even truth itself must yield to this impervious ignorance.