reading the Bible through different eyes

There’s no doubt that each of us read the Bible and indeed view life through a limited perspective. Yes, tradition as in our church’s tradition, reason and experience all play a part, and culture can impact us far more than we think.

For the Bible student, and especially any who can get into the academic side more, it is a worthy goal to try to read scripture with the original recipients in mind. Therefore some good helps in regard to the culture and time when scripture was written, specifically each book, can be quite helpful indeed. We might find that we’ve read things into the text that would have never occurred to the original reader. A good case in point would be Genesis 1 and 2 which I think John Walton admirably shows to be making a theological point quite aside from any science one might see in the text, which if present seems to be in terms of the understanding of the ancient near east day it was written, an aside from the main theological point in and of itself. And actually every book in scripture fits this category. It is not that we can’t connect with each book from our own limited perspective. That is what the Holy Spirit is present for us to do, individually and particularly the church, both. The Spirit helps us get to the main point of it all, how in one way or another it relates to the gospel, or at least God’s will both for the present life as well as the life to come.

We do well to humbly listen to the perspectives of others, even if they might be off here and there in this and that. Surely the same can be said of us. None of us are foolproof in our reading of scripture. And we have to resist the natural Protestant urge to jettison tradition in favor of some new interpretation removed from the church’s traditional understanding. Even while we keep going back to scripture as our primary source of understanding. In a way through the Spirit neither scripture nor the church is where we start for correct understanding of God’s will, but both. Though scripture must be given priority and primacy in this. So that we need to keep going back to scripture and to the church. Which includes the early church fathers, the consensus of the church in its reading of scripture in all its richness, which certainly mirrors the profundity and depth of scripture itself, even along with its often striking simplicity (though not simplistic). Not denying there are parts which are challenging on an intellectual level at certain points, good case in point, Paul’s writings.

A big part of this application is to learn to listen to each other. Even though many of us who participate as church together live in the same basic world, differences of age and experience, along with insights of both general and special wisdom can make for a rich exchange particularly when working through a separate passage in scripture. And all the more so if the church begins to be what it’s supposed to be, a reconciliation and union of “differents.” We need to listen well along with humble sharing of our own perspective to be sifted in the mix.

And as we do, God can then broaden our understanding, so that we will end up with a better understanding of both the original intent of the Bible and the passage at hand, as well as how it is speaking into our own world, our life and times, in terms of God’s will in Jesus and the gospel.

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