I spend a lot of time thinking about how to help people grow deeply in understanding the contents of the Bible. "Searching the Scriptures," as John Wesley often called the habit, is a means of grace for us to develop in faith, yet something seems to put a chill on this practice for far too many people. One reason has to do with a faulty assumption about the Bible and Bible reading. We have a long history in the West of assuming that the Bible is perfectly clear and that anyone can read and understand with little difficulty. As we gain familiarity with larger and larger swaths, however, the more we find the Bible putting real pressure on these easy assumptions. Consequently, too many people feel very unsure about how to understand the Bible, which inhibits reading, thereby worsening the insecurity and reinforcing the hesitance even to try reading it.
Take this example of two sets of verses, one well-known one from Psalms 8 and another, from Job 7:
(Ps. 8:3-5, NRSV), "When I look...
Some of us older folk remember how the King James version reads in the story of Jesus healing the blind man outside Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26). Johnny Cash's interpretation is worth hearing. (Make sure to listen to the very end.)
We find another odd Gospel story that offers the opportunity to practice Bible reading in line with the previous post. My goal is to encourage you to gain awareness of how you operate while you're studying the Bible. Pay attention to where your mind is drawn and what thoughts emerge as you study the details of the passage. Learn to ask active questions. (And forgive the "teacherly" tone I'm taking.)
As we did in the last post, we encounter strange features in this account of the blind man at Bethsaida. Jesus takes this man who was brought to him for healing outside the town "and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, 'Can you see...
(This blog is a follow-up to the previous one about study bibles.)
There are at least two strategies we can use when we read the Bible. We can read it devotionally, as we should and as many people do. We can also read the Bible for understanding the content: the narratives, the commands, the situations, that we find there. Not nearly as many people read the Bible with the second strategy. We need to increase that number. To encourage more people to read the Bible for understanding, let's distinguish what is happening with us when we use the two different strategies.
Devotional Bible Reading
When we read the Bible devotionally, we normally read, at most, a handful of verses and often with a devotional guide or booklet of some kind. I grew up with The Upper Room, which continues to provide sustenance for millions of people around the world. Since I'm a Luddite at heart, I prefer the little paperback booklet that you can...