We need to stop...
We have got to stop reading the bible…
(stay with me)
We have got to stop reading the Bible… like that.
When I was in college I had a superstitious view of the Bible. I treated it like a magic book that could say something to me each and every time I let it fall open in my lap. Like a magic 8 ball, I would basically shake the book, open it to a random page - and see what God had to say to me. Unfortunately, that meant often falling open to a random spread in Ezekiel, Isaiah or the Psalms. Most of the Psalms are relatable if you squint, but random passages in Ezekiel or Isaiah often left me confused.
Why’d I keep up the superstition?
I wanted to feel as though I was hearing from God… and if I landed in the Psalms 1 out of every 3 tries - I had a relatively applicable experience 33% of the time.
But most of the time I was left wondering — what does any of this mean FOR ME?
Even though The Bible has been translated into most languages, including our own English, we still often end up reading it wrong. In particular, when we read the Bible as though it was written
OR TOO US,
it leads us to misinterpret, misunderstand and mistreat this ancient library of documents that we now call “The Bible.”
Which perhaps wouldn’t be that big of a deal, if it were simply a novel or storybook with no bearing on human civilization.
The trouble though is that our misinterpretations often lead us to misunderstand God, and mistreat ourselves and others, trading in our faith for something that looks a lot more like superstition.
However, once we let go of the idea that the Bible is “FOR US” we will begin to discover that there is so much more in there for us… all of us - whether you’re a religious person, a christian or none of the above.
A Scary Step
That might seem scary. Especially if you were taught that the Bible is “God’s Love Letter to Us” or if at some point you learned about the “perspicuity” of scripture. A word that the Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries used to refer to the clarity of its message to any reader.
But, what the Reformer’s meant by that clarity was that the particular message of salvation through Jesus alone was clear to all. Not that the meaning of every phrase and punctuation was. And the reason they affirmed the idea was because the reigning narrative of the day was that salvation could only be found in the Catholic church, which started crowding out the idea of grace through Jesus.
So how do we stop reading the bible “like that?”
Starting with Different Questions...
It starts with asking different questions. Instead of approaching the ancient words as though they were written for us, and wondering “what does this mean to me?”… we will begin by asking a different set of questions. Questions that will, in the end, change the answer to “what does this mean for me?” Here are some to get you thinking…
- Author, Audience, Intention.
- Who wrote this? Who was the original readership? Why did the author write these words to those people?
- Literary Context.
- What genre of writing is this (poem, history, proverb, law, narrative, allegory, letter)? What is the theme or big idea in this book over all and how does this passage fit within that? What happened right before this passage? What happened right after?
- Historical Context.
- What was going on in the cultural moment of the original author and audience? What unique cultural features play a part in understanding what’s being said? What might be assumed by the audience, unsaid by the author, and therefore missed by us altogether?
Far more Fascinating Faith
Answering these questions will begin to open up the Bible in far more fascinating ways than the superstitious readings of my youth.
I promise when you stop reading The Bible as though it was FOR YOU, you will begin to see that there is so much more there FOR YOU than ever before.
Not sure what this actually looks and feels like?
Check out our video series Canceled. How to Stop Reading the Bible... (Like that) below