Some further thoughts on yesterday’s post about how we read, understand, and interpret the Bible. Coming from a tradition adhering more or less to Biblical individualism and literalism (which can be manifested in many ways, positive and negative; I still agree with the positives and have questions about the negatives!), I was taught that there is little distance/difference between reading, understanding, and interpreting – all of these were, in a sense, conflated into a WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) approach, often leading to a kind of surface-level, proposition-based, non-nuanced approach to the Scriptures.
Over the last few years, I have grown in awe at the depth, complexity, and intricacy of the Scriptures. I still think there is a simple and accessible message, yet have found that there may be few, if any, limits to the richness and beauty that is present as one enters into the story of the Scriptures. This has led to an appreciation of varied approaches, techniques, and methods of reading to gain new understanding.
Last year, I encouraged our community to engage the Gospel of Luke and suggested three different ways of reading:
- Read to become familiarized with the Gospel of Luke. Luke has 24 chapters; read a chapter a day and try to familiarize yourself with the “big picture” of Luke’s story. Do more than skim, but don’t focus on the small details in the text.
- Read to become formed by the Gospel of Luke. Meditate on a few verses or passages (i.e. the songs of Zechariah or Mary, a parable, or a short saying of Jesus) and allow yourself to enter into the story. Place yourself in the story. Imagine Jesus speaking to you. In what ways is the text speaking to you? What does it mean for you to follow Jesus in the Gospel of Luke?
- Read, hear, and experience the Gospel of Luke in community. Until the invention of the printing press, most communities shared a copy of the Scriptures and the standard practice was to experience the text through a communal reading. Amongst your family, friends, canvas groups, etc., schedule a few hours (~2 1/2 to 3 for all 24 chapters) to read Luke out loud together, or pick a shorter portion of Luke to read and experience together.
Looking back on this a year later, I might now phrase things a bit differently, encourage different approaches, and stress different ways to engage the text. I am increasingly convinced that (a) there are not just one or two, but many, ways to read and engage the Bible and (b) a deep, rich, and robust faith is sustained through deep, rich, robust, and varied approaches to reading the Scriptures.