Posted by: Jim Black | January 26, 2009

Some Helpful Cues for Our Bible Reading

I am thrilled that so many of you have chosen to take up the challenge and are reading through the Bible from “cover to cover” in ’09.  Let us remember that our reading is not just so we can say we did it (though it’ll be something to be proud of) nor is it just to learn more stuff about the Bible (though knowledge of God’s Word is certainly a good thing)… it is for the purpose of knowing God better!  That’s why God revealed his word… that’s why it has been passed down to us through the generations… and that is why we still read it today… to know God better.  Towards that end I am going to be writing a series of bulletin articles that, hopefully, will provide some helpful suggestions for our reading. 

 

Cue #1:  Remember, we all interpret the Bible

This may seem an obvious observation to some, revolutionary to others, but it is true for all.  I used to think that OTHERS interpreted the Bible… but not me.  I just read it.  To interpret it was to twist it and make it say what I wanted it to say.  I would never do that.  That’s what others did.  I just read it, understood it’s plain meaning and did what it said.  “The Bible says it.  I believe it.  That’s enough for me.” is what I heard us saying.  I know now that I was wrong.  We all interpret the Bible.

 

Let me explain what I mean.  None of us come to the Bible completely objective and unbiased.  We all have ideas and preconceived notions through which we view the world and everything in it.  We call this a worldview… it is simply how we see the world.  We filter everything we see, hear or experience through this worldview. That would include how we read the Bible.  We take in the message of the Bible by reading the text, filter it through our own experiences, biases and worldview, and try to understand its meaning for us as best we can.  This is the process of interpretation… and everybody does it.  There is really no avoiding it.  Now, we can try to avoid the pitfalls of misinterpretation by being aware of our biases and preconceived ideas, but we can’t completely eliminate them.  None of us are a blank slate.  We can come to the text openly and honestly looking for a word for God, instead of looking for it to say what we already believe it says, but we need to do so humbly with the awareness that we are fallen and imperfect creatures… prone to mistake.  If I believe others are wrong in their interpretation of the Bible (as I do) then I must acknowledge with humility that I could be wrong, too.  To say that the Bible is inerrant is correct.  But to say that I understand it inerrantly is arrogance.

 

This is where the community of faith plays such a vital role!  If Bible reading first demands humility, second it must demand community.  We need to read Scripture together!  Did you know this is the primary way that most Christians received God’s Word through the ages?  They didn’t have printed Bibles until the 1500’s.  Until then, when the printing press was developed and the literacy level rose, most people heard God’s Word as it was read either in the Temple (in the Old Testament days), in synagogue or in the church.  People didn’t have their own copies of the Bible.  Many wouldn’t have been able to read it if they could have gotten their hands on one!  But they heard it as it was read in the community of faith.  And I imagine they talked about it together.  That is the blessing of our Bible classes and small groups which take up the discussion every week.  We get to discuss the text’s meaning for our lives today… and help each other understand it together.

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