Newsflash: the Bible is complicated.
The dang-nabbed book is really more of a library than a book. It contradicts itself (eye for an eye? or turn the other cheek?) One moment its boring me half to death (UGH, another genealogy?), and the next telling a thrilling drama (I maintain that they need to make a mini-series about David and Saul.)
So how do you read it? Especially if you believe, as I do, that it’s a holy book?
Here’s my strategy. Over the last year, I’ve kept a running document open on my computer titled “My Scripture-Reading Commitments” It’s a work in progress reflecting my living relationship with the living word of scripture and I’ve added to it, tweaked it, and referred to it often. Of course, these are MY commitments; yours would surely look different. In my study of scripture, I aim to:
Read as myself. I don’t try to negate my own perspectives, concerns and biases, but do make an effort to name those perspectives, concerns and biases, and to hold an awareness that my ways of reading are not universal.
Read in community. I seek out the perspectives and concerns of others, including past readers of the text, and especially seek the perspectives of marginalized readers. I practice humility in my encounters with the text and with other readers, recognizing my inability to grasp God’s full purpose in my own reading.
Allow the text to make a claim on me. In the words of scripture, and in the spiritual practice of reading and interpreting it, I must be willing to encounter God and be moved.
Prefer those texts which tell the Good News. I seek Good News in all texts, but don’t give up on texts that aren’t currently giving over their Good News to my ears. They may yet do so later!
Appreciate the polyphonic diversity of scriptural voices. When texts appear in conflict, I don’t try to decide which is ‘more true.’ I allow conflicting world-views to dwell side by side and learn from their paradox.
Read scripture in my own life. I pray for eyes to see the scriptural narrative as lived out within and around me, and as I read I work to locate myself and my community within the text.
Here’s an all-play question. What commitments do you bring to your reading of scripture? Do you have any rules for yourself? Share them in the comments, and let’s all learn together!