How do we read the Bible? Does it contradict itself? Is like reading a magic 8 ball or a fortune cookie ????
To start off with there are a few things to understand about the Bible as we approach it.
- The bible is a library.
There is poetry, narrative, proverbs, personal letters, parables, and symbolic books in the Bible. We need to understand that going in. Not everything is meant to be read literally but some things are and this changes from book to book. The early listeners understood the difference in reading revelation vs the gospel of Matthew vs the poetry in the psalms. We can learn to read the Bible the same way. Its also important to say that the Bible is not a scientific text and a scientific text is not a book that can fulfill our deepest spiritual needs and give meaning to our existence. When viewed without fundamentalusm or bias science and the Bible compliment each other in our view of Existence.
2. Jesus is the lens that we read the Bible through
Jesus, for a Christian, is the decoder ring for every scripture. In the new testament Jesus RADICALLY reinterprets the Old Testament scriptures in a way that gives perspective and then, through His death and resurrection, fulfilled meaning. The Church Father Origin said that the whole of the Bible and creation needed to be read through the lens of Revelation 5 where the Lamb who was slain takes loving authority over all of creation in union with humanity. This is the purpose of the rest of scripture.
3. Some scriptures are a description and some are a prescription.
In his letter to Timothy Paul suggests that Timothy drink wine for his stomach problems. This is a suggestion in a letter to a friend. We are not supposed to take it as something we are called to all do for all time. In the oldtestament when people were grieving they would rip their clothes and cover their face in ash. That was their culture not a command for later communities.
4. Understanding the culture of the time.
The cultures represented in the Bible had the same struggles that we do emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. The difference is the culture. The Bible spans centuries and cultures as diverse as ancient Eygypt and centuries later the Roman empire. Think how different customs, language and perspectives on the world would be. Understanding the cultures represented in the Bible can make the scriptures make better sense and come alive.
Stay tuned for part 2:)