Monday, November 16, 2009

Reading the Bible: random thoughts

I really enjoyed reading the comments Anonymous (and I believe I know who you are, JEP) wrote on the post I put up last week about my own experiences reading the Bible. They raised a lot of thoughts which are appearing in random order here.

1) Did people who couldn't read the Bible (either due to its unavailability or their inability to read) feel guilty about not reading Scripture? How much of this emphasis on individual Bible study is modern?

2) I really do wish people in the liberal church were more Biblically literate. It would give us a much stronger base upon which to discuss why we think, as opposed to believe, that a fundamentalist reading of Scripture is erroneous. As it is, so often it seems that one side knows the Bible inside out but misses the point and the other side gets the point but doesn't know the Bible very well. This does not help either side take the other seriously. In truth, I think this is one of the weakest parts of the liberal church's argument; it would be very hard if I were a fundamentalist to take liberals seriously if they haven't seriously engaged the texts as a whole.

3) Oh, it annoys me when the Lectionary avoids tough passages, when they snip around the difficult bits. I tend to preach on those bits the most.

4) *Shameless Plug* I love the way we approach Scripture in the Confirm not Conform program. Really, the lessons about the Bible for both the youth and adult program are terrific. One of the things we ask in the Adult program for the homework is exactly what Je--I mean Anonymous writes about when she (or he) describes her (or his) early Bible memories. I, for one, am convinced that our early experiences of the Bible shape how we think we can approach the Bible as an adult, and it's important (or at least helpful) to know what those attitudes are.

5) Isn't this a great T-shirt? h/t to The Episcopal Cafe for first bringing it to my attention.

And, finally, out of curiosity, is there any particular book of the Bible that you specifically avoid reading or have never read? Is there any bit of the Bible that scares you?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed my apparently not-so-anonymous postings!

Hope you will also enjoy my preliminary answers to the interesting questions in your new post:

1. I have always assumed that the emphasis on reading the Bible is a Protestant legacy, thus modern in the sense that the Reformation is modern (or at least early modern). Much older than mass literacy or national public schooling, but much newer than the actual foundation of Christianity itself. It occurs to me, though, that early Protestantism featured family Bible reading in the evening, which is rather a different thing from individual Bible reading at random times of day. I'm not sure when the Bible left the hands of the patriarch at the head of the household and arrived in the individual hands of women, children, servants, and slaves.

2. Love the T-shirt! It reminds me of my favorite new Bible discovery, Nehemiah 7:73-8:18, a Bible story about how to read the Bible. I especially like the part that says, "So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." Imagine, a Bible story about interpreting the Bible! This was the daily office reading for Wednesday, November 11. Thank you again, Episcopal evening prayer ...

3. There are lots of Bible books I've never read because I've yet to get around to it, but the only one I have intentionally avoided is the Book of Revelation. What can I say? I scare easily ...

Yours,

JEP (er, I mean, Anonymous)

it's margaret said...

"READING" the Bible is definitely a protestant legacy. And I grieve that we have switched from 'hearing' the word to reading it in the bulletin... so much of the metaphor, mystery and other imagery --as well as the experience of hearing it is lost to us in being textually driven worshipers.

I don't think I have ever read I & II Kings all the way through.... boring. I always give up in Lev. and Deut. too.... sigh.

I have taught John's Revelation.... love the machine beetles and waggy-headed monsters! It is a book of great hope written in a time of awful torture and despair....

And, Laura --you know I was just being snarky with all that bible burning, don't you!!? I loved your post --but I do think Biblical authority and interpretation are THE questions of our age.

Laura Toepfer said...

Oh, I recognize most snark when I see it. :-)

Thanks again for all the great thoughts.