Reading the Bible

There are two ways in which people use the Bible: On the one hand, people sift, analyze, and tear apart the Bible, searching for some nugget, some phrase or verse, which they can coopt into whatever they want, people who come to the Bible already enamored of an idea and sure that they can find support for it in scripture, and there are humble servants who actually read the Bible.

Both sides, when they argue about what the Bible says, quote scripture, assuming the authority of the Bible, but one thing becomes clear when listening to them: Only one side actually holds to this assumption. For sure, the second kind, the ones who actually read the Bible, will argue with each other, quibbling over the meaning and intent of the biblical authors, but when the first kind enters the conversation, their preconceived resolution, which has already supplanted the authority of the Bible for them, shows itself unmovable, and even naked, when its prooftexts are stripped from it and put back into context.

There will, of course, always be some need to bring to the Bible one’s own notions and ideas; we could never read the Bible if the first step were to let go of every idea one has ever had. However, we must always be aware of these notions, and be ready to let the Bible speak to us, be ready to hear what it is saying and not what we imagine it to be saying.

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