Bible Engagement Blog: JumpIntoTheWord

Read, Reflect, Respond


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What is the Bible?

What is the Bible? At face value, that’s a straight forward question and many common answers immediately come to mind. Like: God’s Book, God’s Love Letter, the book of the Church, the Christian Scriptures, the world’s best-selling book of the year every year, the foundational book of Western culture, and a collection of texts sacred in Judaism and Christianity.

The Bible, in and of itself, answers the question by indicating that it is that which is God-breathed (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16), true (cf. Psalm 119:160), alive (cf. Hebrews 4:12), and much more. What the Bible says about itself is crucial for our understanding of what the Bible is. [You can read more about this in Twenty Texts From The Bible About The Bible]

As with every question, there are answers that we don’t like to hear. Sam Harris, an American atheist, author, neuroscientist and philosopher, says, “There is nothing particularly useful, and there’s a lot of iron age barbarism in there, and superstition. And this is not a candid book, I mean I can go into any Barnes and Noble blindfolded and pull a book off the shelf which is going to have more relevance, more wisdom for the 21st century than the Bible … It’s really not an exaggeration; every one of our specific sciences has superseded and surpassed the wisdom of scripture.”

Of course I profoundly disagree with Harris’ view of the Bible, and could debunk his comments in short order. But I don’t want to go off on a tangent. So to the main point of this post – here are ten thought provoking descriptions about the Bible:

The Bible is the prism by which the light of Jesus Christ is broken into its many and beautiful colours. The Bible is the portrait of Jesus Christ. – John Stott

The Bible is basically and overall a narrative – an immense, sprawling, capacious narrative. – Eugene Peterson

In a profound sense, the Word of God is a living and productive scalpel in the loving hands of One who penetrates to the core of our being in order to cleanse and heal our garbled, distorted, debased word and transform it into the word God speaks us forth to be in the world. – Robert Mulholland

The Bible is the book of my life. It’s the book I live with, the book I live by, the book I want to die by. – N. T. Wright

The letter of Scripture is a veil just as much as it is a revelation; hiding while it reveals, and yet revealing while it hides. – Andrew Jukes

The Bible is a harp with a thousand strings. Play on one to the exclusion of its relationship to the others, and you will develop discord. Play on all of them, keeping them in their places in the divine scale, and you will hear heavenly music all the time. –William P. White

The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me. – Martin Luther

The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts. – A. W. Tozer

We have adopted the convenient theory that the Bible is a Book to be explained, whereas first and foremost it is a Book to be believed (and after that to be obeyed). – Leonard Ravenhill

We should settle it in our minds that everything the Father and the Son say to us in and through Scripture relates, one way or another, to the person, place and purpose of Christ, to the realities of God’s kingdom and to faithful following of Christ through what Bunyan called the wilderness of this world. That is what the Christian Bible is all about, and we are not to go off at tangents away from this when we read it. – J. I. Packer

There are many other great quotes that could be cited, but I’ll close with this metaphor:

The Bible is an intricate tapestry of two stories – ours and God’s – each connected to the other. Every thread illuminates our lives – each stitch reveals the Weaver who gives life. Broadly conceived, the tapestry portrays Jesus, and how we’re woven in or out of His narrative.

So from your perspective, what is the Bible? Feel free to make a comment.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Eat This Book

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message (an idiomatic translation of the Bible in contemporary language) has, as would be expected, much to say about how we read the Bible. In Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, he challenges us to read the Scriptures on God’s terms and to live them as we read them. Here are some extracts from Eat This Book that will hopefully entice you to read the Bible like dogs gnawing on a bone:

The challenge – never negligible – regarding the Christian Scriptures is getting them read, but read on their own terms, as God’s revelation.

What is neglected is reading the Scriptures formatively, reading in order to live.

In order to read the Scriptures adequately and accurately, it is necessary at the same time to live them … not to live them in consequence of reading them, but to live them as we read them.

The Bible reveals the self-revealing God and along with that the way the world is, the way life is, the way we are.

The Bible is basically and overall a narrative – an immense, sprawling, capacious narrative.

The biblical story invites us in as participants in something larger than our sin-defined needs, into something truer than our culture-stunted ambitions.

When we submit our lives to what we read in Scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s.

Scripture is the revelation of a world that is vast, far larger than the sin-stunted, self-constricted world that we construct for ourselves out of a garage-sale assemblage of texts.

Scripture draws us out of ourselves, out of our fiercely guarded individualities, into the world of responsibility and community and salvation – God’s sovereignty.

It takes the whole Bible to read any part of the Bible.

One of the most urgent tasks facing the Christian community today is to counter self-sovereignty by reasserting what it means to live these Holy Scriptures from the inside out, instead of using them for our sincere and devout but still self-sovereign purposes.

We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers … But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge.

Our imaginations have to be revamped to take in this large, immense world of God’s revelation in contrast to the small, cramped, world of human “figuring out.”

A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to the text far more quickly than any number of Bible studies and dictionaries and concordances.

The biblical story pulls the holy community – not just you, not just me – into the story in a participating way.

If we are to get the full force of the word, God’s word, we need to recover its atmosphere of spokenness.

The primary organ for receiving God’s revelation is not the eye that sees but the ear that hears – which means that all of our reading of Scripture must develop into a hearing of the word of God.

The Scriptures are our listening post for learning the language of the soul, the ways God speaks to us; they also provide the vocabulary and grammar that are appropriate for us as we in turn speak to God.

Contemplation simply must be reclaimed as essential in all reading and living of Scripture. It is not an option; it is necessary.

The words of Scripture are not primarily words, however impressive, that label or define or prove, but words that mean, that reveal, that shape the soul, that generate saved lives, that form believing and obedient lives.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5