Jump Into The Word

Bible Engagement Blog


2 Comments

Why We Should Read The Bible

The story is told about a youngster who found a Bible on the bookshelf. “What’s this dusty book Mom?” he asked. “That’s God’s book,” said his Mom. “Well why don’t we send it back to God? We don’t use it here, do we?” asked the boy.

The story raises an important question, why read the Bible? Of all the great books that we could read, why should we read God’s book? Here are 5 reasons why:

The first and most important reason why we should read the Bible is because it’s a God-given window through which we get the best view of Jesus (cf. Luke 24:27). And why is it important to check out Jesus? Because He claims He’s “the way and the truth and the life” John 14:6. That’s a mind staggering and potentially life altering declaration. If it’s true that no one comes to God except through Him, that Jesus personifies truth and is the source of our existence, then it’s a claim that has to be reckoned with. What Jesus said cannot be ignored or dismissed out of hand. So we should read the Bible to consider His claim on our lives.

Hands of a person raised together in prayer with bibleThe second reason why we should read the Bible is to see how God sees us. Most Westerners, due to Existentialism, view life as meaningless, apart from the meaning they choose to give it. But that’s not how God views us. The Bible indicates how God places a high value on every life of every person. We are loved by God and created for a purpose. When we read the Bible it soon becomes clear that it’s a love letter from the Creator to His creation. As God says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11.

The third reason why we should read the Bible is for our deepest needs to be met. Most of us (Nihilists are the exception) want to know why we exist. Is there meaning and a reason for my life? The Bible, by virtue of its content, is the book of life. It reveals God’s meaning and reason for our lives and how we can possess and enjoy fullness of life (cf. John 10:10). Jesus says, “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” John 6:63. Did you hear that? The Bible is “full of … life.” Even if the other reasons for reading the Bible didn’t exist, this should be reason enough to read it.

The fourth reason why we should read the Bible is for our health and growth. As I look back over the course of my life I can see how I’ve matured. Do you want to grow in wisdom? I’m thankful that I no longer think and act like a child or youth. And I’m thankful that since I started reading the Bible, the Scriptures have made me “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” 2 Timothy 3:15. My reality can be anyone’s reality. “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” Psalm 107:9. So read the Bible because we were not meant to “live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

The final reason why we should read the Bible is so that we can learn how to love and accept love. The sad litany of many people’s lives is that they don’t find, receive or love others adequately. Or worse. Many people never encounter the love that surpasses knowledge and fills us with the fullness of God (cf. Ephesians 3:19). The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). To know love, the real thing, we must be Bible engagers. That’s because the primary way to know Love is in and through reading His Word.

There are many more reasons why we should read the Bible. But we’re not going to consider them now because good reasons need to be coupled with right actions. So let me ask, “Are you reading the Bible? I mean really reading it?” How you answer this question can make or break you. I don’t say that lightly. It would take a book to spell out all the benefits of Bible reading. So please understand why I close by urging you to truly get into God’s Word and discover the joy that comes from having the message of Christ dwell in you richly (cf. Colossians 3:16).

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


1 Comment

Bible Engagement in Small Groups

Getting together with a micro-community of believers to read/hear God’s Word is an effective way to get to know God and understand how to live in a vibrant relationship with Him. Here are ten ways to strengthen Bible engagement in small groups:

Bathe everything in prayer. Pray before, after and during the time spent together. When you begin, pray something like, “God we’re going to be reading your Word. Help us to engage it actively, but also to listen attentively. You are the Teacher and we’re your students. Please convict, guide and transform us. Amen.” For the duration of the gathering be prepared to stop the dialogue to pray the Scriptures into personal needs or situations. When you close, pray something like, “Thank you Lord for the way we’ve met you in and through your Word. Help us apply your Word in everything we say and do. For your honour and glory. Amen.

Get to know each other. Create time and space for building relationships. Strong relationships are needed for heartfelt/meaningful dialogue. Foster an environment that’s friendly, respectful, and builds trust. Look for practical ways to love, encourage, and celebrate life together.

Read the Bible in multi-sensory ways. Be creative and three-dimensional, i.e., move beyond the printed page. For example, when reading about the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist/Communion in 1 Corinthians 11, have a fresh loaf baking in a bread maker so that the smell pervades the air. When you finish reading the passage, eat the bread while discussing the text.

Teach public reading of Scripture. When we read the Bible together we should aim to read it well. Some basic instruction will help people read more confidently and meaningfully. For more information check out the Bible Engagement Blog post, Reading the Bible Publicly.

Don’t reduce the Bible to a sourcebook for finding the right answers. The purpose of a small group Bible study should never be ‘knowledge about the Bible’. Bible knowledge isn’t an end in itself, nor is it a means to an end. The aim isn’t right answers, it’s knowing the One who is the answer. Interact with God’s Story in ways that our stories (as individuals and as a group) are formed and transformed by His Story.

Use open-ended questions. Allowing the formulation of any answer, rather than a selection from a set of predetermined possible answers, will help people press into God’s Word. Ask questions like, “What stood out for you?”, “Did it raise any questions for you?”, “Do you see the Father, Son or Holy Spirit in the text?”, or “Why is this in the Bible?” As a discussion progresses, direct people back into the Word. Ask, “Where do you see that in Scripture?”, or “Is there something in the text that informed your perspective?”

Make the main thing the main thing. Spend more time reading the Bible than reading books, commentaries, curriculum, or study guides about the Bible. It’s not a Bible study if the main thing is reading someone’s book about the Bible, listening to someone preach/teach on a topic from the Bible, or watching a video series about the Bible! God’s Word, read/heard, should be the primary text/content, and the Holy Spirit should be the ultimate teacher.

Discuss the uncomfortable/difficult passages. Be prepared to struggle with the ‘hard’ Scriptures, even when you don’t find satisfactory explanations. Wrestle with different points of view in a respectful and mature way.

Aim to read/hear the Scripture through the voices/ears of the whole group. Recognise how your own view of Scripture is limited, and that the fullness of Bible reading comes into its own when God speaks through different people.

Listen beyond your traditional theological grid. Allow God’s Word to challenge your presuppositions. Be humble. Be aware of the limitations of your insight and understanding. Be open to how God works mysteriously and powerfully, in and through His Word, to redeem and restore your life, and the lives of everyone in the group.

Using different methodologies may also be helpful. Try implementing one of these strategies:

The “Book Club” approach. Ask group members to read a whole book of the Bible prior to getting together, or read a big chunk when you are together (an entire story). Then open it up for dialogue. Discuss the writers intent, themes, plot, characters, what people liked or didn’t like, and so on.

The “Visual Arts” approach. Read a portion of Scripture, then view art forms (from different cultures and centuries) such as ceramics, drawings, paintings, sculptures, stained glass, wood carvings, and such, that illustrate the text. Discuss the artists context, how s/he interprets the biblical narrative/event, and how it may or may not be true to the text.

What would you add? Share your tips for strengthening Bible engagement in small groups.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

The Death of Reading

I recently read Philip Yancey’s article in The Washington Post titled “The death of reading is threatening the soul.” While Yancey’s article isn’t specifically focused on reading the Bible, it got me thinking about how the death of reading is having an adverse effect on Bible engagement.

Yancey’s premise is that reading books (“deep reading”) is dying out. He suggests this is due, in large part, to our brains being rewired by the internet to read only a paragraph or two (shallow reading).

In the book Saving the Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well, Glenn Paauw promotes reading the Bible in “slower, smarter, deeper” ways as a prerequisite to reading the Bible adequately. I agree with Paauw. Our spiritual formation is significantly hampered if we’re not in the habit of concentrated reading of big chunks of the Bible. As I said in the book Bible Engagement Basics, “When Christians subsist on a diet of Scripture snacks, they’re not feeding on the Word! Bible reading is more than a catchphrase, more than a shortStudy-of-Death-300x208-lived inspirational text, and more than samplings of texts isolated from their historical, literary or cultural contexts.”

So if deep reading of the Bible is essential for spiritual formation, how do we do this when our brains may no longer be attuned to deep reading? Or to phrase the question differently, Is there a way to overcome shallow reading and develop deep reading skills?

The answer to the above questions is that we can all develop deep reading skills. But determination or discipline won’t get us there. According to Yancey who quotes Quartz, “willpower alone is not enough.” We need to build a “fortress of (new) habits” if we’re going to break free from shallow reading. And how are a “fortress of habits” that facilitate deep Bible reading developed? Here are some suggestions:

  • Claim God’s promises. You can develop deep reading skills because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (cf. Philippians 4:13)
  • Ask God to renew your mind (cf. Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:23). If the internet can wire our brains to read one way (shallow reading) surely God can reprogram our brains to read another way (deep meditative reflective reading).
  • Change your lifestyle. Replace bad habits with good habits. We should make no provision for the flesh (cf. Romans 13:14). If you continue to spend most of your time on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and reading emails you’ll never develop deep reading skills because you’ll continue to get a dopamine rush (the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers) from your shallow reading.
  • Ask mature Christians to help you (cf. Proverbs 15:22, 19:20, Galatians 6:2). Don’t try to battle this out by yourself. Invite instruction from Christians who have strong daily devotional Bible reading habits.
  • Spend time in prayer (cf. Mark 11:24).

Have your say. What would you add or subtract?

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

State of the Bible 2017

Since 2011 the Barna Group has conducted an annual survey concerning the state of the Bible in the USA. The survey is commissioned by the American Bible Society and aims to gather insights into the multifaceted relationship that Americans have with God’s Word.

This year’s findings revealed the following:

  • Two-thirds of Americans read, listen to or pray with the Bible (16% daily, 21% once a week or more, 7% once a month, 6% a few times a year).
  • Bible usage is highest among Black American practicing Protestants who live in the South.
  • The average Bible user reads the Bible for 30 minutes during each sitting.
  • Lower income people (less than $50K annually) read the Bible more frequently than higher income people (more than $100K annually).
  • While the KJV is the most popular version it’s usage is declining (down 14% since 2011).
  • The NIV is the second most popular version followed by the ESV.
  • The primary reason why two-thirds of Bible readers connect with the Bible is because it “brings them closer to God.”
  • Nearly 60% of adults indicate that they want to read the Bible more frequently.
  • Bible reading increases when it is seen to be an important part of a person’s faith journey.
  • Bible reading declines when people are too busy with the responsibilities of life, start doubting their faith, face trauma, or leave the church.
  • There is a decline in Bible reading among Millennials.
  • Favourable emotions when reading the Bible included feelings of peace (49%), hope (45%), happiness (29%), and intrigue (19%).
  • Unfavourable emotions when reading the Bible included feelings of being overwhelmed (13%) or confused (12%).
  • Nearly half of the Bible readers give a lot of thought to how the Bible applies to their lives.
  • Most people prefer to use a printed Bible (91%) for reading the Scriptures yet they also use non-print formats (smart phone, apps, podcasts, internet, audio) for reading the Bible (92%).

For more information click here to download the whole report.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

Reading the Bible Publicly

If you sit in an average church service on an average Sunday you’ll probably hear an average reading of God’s Word. That’s heartbreaking. Lacklustre public reading of the Scriptures is a discredit to God’s people and a slight to God! An average reading of God’s Word isn’t good enough. When we read the Bible publicly we should read it well – very well! It is, after all, God’s Word. And God’s Word, invested with the life giving power of His Spirit; is dynamic, transformational, and alive. So let’s read it like we believe it. Let’s read it energetically, passionately, thoughtfully, dramatically, inspirationally, and motivationally. Let’s read it like it’s coursing through our veins and pounding in our hearts. And let’s make sure that we never ever read it in a boring, nondescript, half-baked way.

From its inception the Bible was given to us to be read aloud and heard. So how do we devote ourselves to the public reading of Scripture? (cf. 1 Timothy 4:13). Here are some pointers for reading the Bible publicly:

  • Prepare, practice and pray
  • Use a script and identify who is speaking
  • Become the character
  • Help the listener hear it for the first time
  • Read from your heart and then from your lips
  • Convey the meaning of the words (not just the sounds)
  • Use pauses and break up the text so that it’s easy to hear
  • Highlight the meaning of a text through tone, modulation and emphasis
  • Read with dynamism (the Bible is not a telephone directory!)
  • Bring freshness and vitality
  • Let the text inform how you read it

And here are some common mistakes that should be avoided:

  • Inadequate preparation
  • Reading too slow or too fast
  • Using a sing-song or preacher voice
  • Speaking too loud or too soft
  • Reading in a monotone
  • No feeling or too much feeling
  • Trailing off with words or sentences
  • Not looking up (use a music stand to get the right height)
  • Not reading like a town-crier or with passion

There’s awesome power in God’s spoken Word. When we’re reading the Bible publicly let’s read every passage like we’re hearing it for the first time. Let’s read the Scriptures believing that they’ll bring salvation, comfort, understanding, discomfort, remorse, joy and all manner of life-changing encounters with the living God. And let’s be done with the humdrum reading of the Word. Yes, we’re inadequate for the task, but God’s grace is sufficient for everything we do. So let’s go for it! Let’s ask God to empower us in our weakness. Then let’s read God’s Word with stirring voices and enthusiasm – expecting God to engage people’s hearts, minds, wills and souls.

Recommended books:

Max McLean and Warren Bird, Unleashing the Word: Rediscovering the Public Reading of Scripture, Zondervan, 2009.

Clayton J. Schmit, Public Reading of Scripture: A Handbook, Abingdon Press, 2002.

Jeffery D. Arthurs, Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture: Encountering the Transforming Power of the Well-Spoken Word, Kregel Publications, 2012.

Recommended articles and apps:

Glen J. Clary, The Public Reading of Scripture in Worship: A Biblical Model for the Lord’s Day

Scott Newling, Devoted to the Public Reading of Scripture

Bible Audio Pronunciations – Confidently Read any Bible Verse Aloud

Stefano Russello, Biblical Pronunciations

BibleSpeak

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


1 Comment

Bored With The Bible?

Why are some Christians bored with the Bible?

While doing some Bible engagement polling, I asked a woman in her fifties if she read the Bible. She said, “Yes, many years ago, from cover to cover.” “Do you still read it?” I asked. “No”, she said, “I much prefer a good novel or something stimulating. Frankly, the Bible is boring, and reading it once, was more than enough.”

On another occasion, after I’d preached a message from Hebrews 4:12, a young man said to me, “Pastor, I know the Bible is a good book, and I know I should be reading it, but it’s really difficult and confusing. And to be honest, I find it boring.” His words pulled me up short. I’d spent 30 minutes passionately speaking about how the Bible is living and active, and yet the reality for this earnest millennial, was that the Bible was wearisome and disinteresting.

Then there’s my own reality. Since the late 70’s when I became a Christian, I’ve had seasons where I’ve passionately loved reading the Bible. It’s been exciting, engaging, transformational, and so much more. Then there’s been times when Bible reading has been a hard slog – dry, dreary and depressing. And occasionally, I’m just not there – more interested in opening my browser and going to Facebook, than in opening up the Bible.

Reason argues that it’s impossible to be bored with the Bible. After all, the Bible is God’s Word – the Voice of life, truth, hope, wisdom, grace, salvation and so much more. Surely what comes from the heart and mouth of God can’t be boring.

If God, in and of Himself, is not and cannot be boring, then the reason why some Christians are bored with the Bible must lie elsewhere.

When I fell in love with Karen, I loved to listen to everything she said or sung. We’d talk for hours on end and I’d hang on every word, delighting in every inflection in her voice.

I’ve been happily married to Karen for more than three decades, but I have to admit that I don’t always listen to her with the same enthusiasm as when we first fell in love.

Maybe that’s what sometimes happens with our Bible reading – we’re not really listening. The problem isn’t with the Word, it’s with us.

If being bored with the Bible is a listening issue, then the remedy is possibly found in learning or re-learning how to open our spiritual ears. Here are three things we need to do to hear God’s Voice:

  • Confess sin (cf. James 1:21). Un-confessed sin is like spiritual earwax – if it’s not removed it eventually makes us deaf.
  • Remove distractions (cf. Luke 8:7). Don’t let video games, music, banter, busyness, cares, or concerns of the world keep you from hearing the Voice of God.
  • Lean in (cf. Jeremiah 29:12-13, James 4:8). The closer we are to God, the better we’ll hear Him.

Now it’s your turn to have your say. Why do you think some Christians are bored with the Bible?

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

Reading the Bible in Context

When I was learning to read, I was taught to open the first page of a book and read from the beginning to the end. I didn’t start in the middle, skip to the end, or just read the juicy bits. That wasn’t allowed. The emphasis was on reading to understand the entire story, and our comprehension tests reinforced the importance of coming to grips with the characters, plot and other details as they related to the whole.

In my early adult years I was given a Bible and told, “Start reading in the Gospel of John”. I opened the first page of the book, but it was called Genesis, not John. I was a little confused. Searching through the Bible I eventually found John toward the back of the book. I wondered why my friend had suggested I skip everything that came before John. Were the other parts of the Bible not important?

I started attending church services at much the same time as I started reading the Gospel of John. The way the pastor read and spoke about the Bible left me befuddled and bewildered. Most of the time he used isolated texts that he seemed to pluck at random from the book. It was like playing hopscotch – we jumped here there and everywhere.

Then someone gave me a Promise Box. It contained little cards with random Scripture verses. All my Christian friends were using them. We’d pull a new card out in the morning and carry it around with us during the day. Sometimes we’d quote it, chat about it, memorize it, or give it to someone. Now I understood. Obviously the Bible wasn’t meant to be read like other books. It was something you mined for nuggets.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of my story. Maybe because I’m inquisitive, or maybe it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but I wanted to read the Bible from the beginning, one book at a time, until I got to the end. So I did. And I found out that the Bible is much more than a collection of people’s favourite verses. It truly is God’s Story, and like any story it has characters, settings, plots/themes, conflicts and resolutions.

Reading through the Bible opened my eyes to something very important. I discovered that many of the texts I’d been learning, in isolation from their context, could be manipulated to say, or be applied in ways that weren’t true to the story as a whole. In fact after reading through the Bible it became evident that some of the verses I’d heard from the pulpit or learnt from my Promise Box, sometimes meant something entirely different when read in context.

Context is vital for biblical interpretation. In a culture that values instant access, instant answers, and instant everything, it can be tempting to take short-cuts with how we read the Bible. But if we do, we do so at our peril. When we read the Bible we must correctly handle the word of truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15). And the correct way to handle the truth is to read all of it.

Here’s my concern. If we separate texts from their context we can undermine the authority of Scripture and are more likely to misunderstand the Bible. Or worse, when we use texts isolated from their context, we can distort the truth and justify almost anything we want to say or do.

So here’s a shout-out for reading the Bible in context. Be diligent. Take time to understand each text against the background of its immediate text and the book within which it’s found.

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scripture to be given for our learning, grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life which thou hast given us in thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. (Anglican Prayer)

Recommended article: Not Everything in the Bible is Biblical, Jeff K. Clarke

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

Reading the Bible

“Focus on reading the Scriptures …” 1 Timothy 4:13.

Reading the Bible should be for the Christian what eating and drinking is for the common man.

So what’s involved with reading the Bible? Is it snacking on a verse a day, digesting a book in one sitting, or something else?

While a verse a day has some value, it doesn’t help Christians grow. A verse here and there simply cannot sustain us spiritually. Bible reading is about something more than a few, brief, preferred encounters with the Scriptures.

Yet a verse here or there is the reality for many professing Christians. Somewhere along the way a slew of us came to believe that Bible reading is something that only takes a few minutes a day. How so?

For those of us subsisting on a diet of what Philip Yancey calls Scripture McNuggets, let’s stop kidding ourselves, we’re not reading the Bible! Bible reading is more than a catchphrase, more than fragmentary bits, more than a short-lived inspirational text, more than samplings of verses isolated from their historical, literary and cultural contexts.

Maybe one of the reasons why we’ve equated Bible reading with small readings, is Facebook. Social media has altered the way we read. The average university graduate in North America only reads one real book a year after graduating, yet interacts with the equivalent of two books a year reading Facebook posts.

Facebook, so it seems, has hard-wired our brains for sound-bites and little more. But, as Pavlov discovered, brains can be conditioned. For those who are willing, our brains can be spiritually reconditioned to seek His Face and read His Book!

So what’s involved in reading the Bible (as distinct from snacking on it)?

At the most basic level, Bible reading should involve what Glenn Pauuw refers to as big readings, i.e. “natural segments of text, or whole books, taking full account of the Bible’s various contexts”.

Why big readings? Because the Bible is not like other books – it’s a corpus – a living whole (cf. Hebrews 4:12). And as such we need to enter into it and become a part of it through lectio continua, i.e. continuous reading in sequence over a period of time.

So how do we read consecutively over a period of time? In bite size meaty chunks! While the size of our spiritual mouths and appetites will vary, our personal Bible reading, as a bare minimum, should include whole forms of longer readings from the Old or New Testament every day.

Billy Graham, for example, found it helpful to read something from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs every day. To this end we recommend Scripture Union’s online Bible reading guide, theStory™. It takes the reader through the whole Bible in 4-5 years with either New or Old Testament readings from Monday to Friday, a Psalm on Saturday, and Proverbs on Sunday.

Now some may protest that big readings have too much in them – more than one can digest – more than one can understand. On one level this is true; every word, sentence and paragraph possesses multiple relationships to the whole and surpasses our understanding. So none of us will ever fully understand or plumb the depths of the Word. But let’s not limit Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Colossians 2:3. And let’s not limit the capacity of the Holy Spirit, to teach and guide us in the way of truth (cf. John 14:26).

Reading the Bible adequately not only involves lectio continua, it also requires us to read large enough chunks to understand and locate what we’re reading within the context, literary structure, form, themes and genre of the book, and ultimately, the Bible as a whole. In this sense, we should aim to read the Bible in such a way that it becomes a set of books we intimately know, a story we simmer in, with words that are constantly transforming us.

Of course we cannot do lectio continua by ourselves – at least not adequately. Personal Bible reading must be tied to communal Bible reading. The Bible is first and foremost our story and then, in a secondary sense, it’s my story. That means that when we read the Bible as big readings we must also read it as members of a big family – as one of many listeners and participants (past and present) who are part of God’s plan to save us from sin and give us fullness of life in Christ (cf. John 10:10).

Much more could be said. All told, Bible reading needs to be slower, smarter, sizeable and shared.

Have your say. What would you add to help us think through what it truly means to read the Bible?

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth

In How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, the authors, Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, equip the reader with an excellent guide on how to study each genre of Scripture and read it intelligently. It’s one of my top ten Bible engagement books. Here are some tidbits from the first two chapters:

The Bible is at the same time both human and divine … it is the Word of God given in human words in history.

The Bible … is not a series of propositions and imperatives; it is not simply a collection of “Sayings from Chairman God”.

The single most serious problem people have with the Bible is not with lack of understanding … but obeying it – putting it into practice.

The task of interpretation involves the student/reader at two levels. First, one has to hear the Word they heard … back then and there (exegesis). Second, you must learn to hear that same Word in the here and now (hermeneutics).

Everyone is an exegete of sorts. The only real question is whether you will be a good one.

The key to good exegesis, and therefore to a more intelligent reading of the Bible, is to learn to read the text carefully and to ask the right questions of the text.

There are two basic kinds of questions one should ask of every biblical passage: those that relate to context and those that relate to content.

Literary context means first that words only have meaning in sentences, and second that biblical sentences for the most part only have clear meaning in relation to preceding and succeeding sentences.

Correct interpretation … brings relief to the mind as well as a prick or prod to the heart.

The most important contextual question you will ever ask – and it must be asked over and over of every sentence and every paragraph – is, “What’s the point?”

You can do good exegesis with a minimum amount of outside help … a good translation, a good Bible dictionary, and good commentaries.

Devotional reading is not the only kind one should do. One must also read for learning and understanding.

The true meaning of the biblical text for us is what God originally intended it to mean when it was first spoken.

The trouble with using only one translation … is that you are thereby committed to the exegetical choices of that translation as the Word of God.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

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

Privacy Policy