Reading the Text

Posted: September 8, 2005 in Everything

Over the past year or so, I have been rethinking the way I read the Bible and how the Bible “should” be read. Like many of you, I suppose, I was raised to view the Biblical text as God’s answer book or a book of laws. If there was a question about life–any question–there was some surefire proof-text to tell me what to do.

I can flip to “right” text concerning baptism, music in the church, polity, you name it. However, as my life, and the lives of the people around me started to become more complex and complicated, I began to realize that the Bible doesn’t really unravel itself as a rulebook. I guess if you live long enough you will find that there are no easy answers on a checklist, but rather Scripture tells the story of God and his interactions with His people. It is through these interactions that we come to know God and understand what it is that he asks of us.

Tom Olbricht’s book “Hearing God’s Voice” put it better than I can. Olbricht writes, “I was brought up to view Scripture as God’s handbook of rules and private channel of information…I came to believe that, in fact, the Old Testament as a whole did revolve about the mighty acts of God and their interpretation…the opening of the Red Sea did not disclose its own meaning. The raw event may have been a freak accident of nature; no more, no less. Only because of the interpretation of the event–also an act of God–do we confess that it was Yahweh, coming to the rescue of His people (Exodus 15.1-5), who parted the sea. The Scripture is a report on the mighty acts of God and what they mean. Scripture discloses and act-interpretation event. ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the Land of Egypt’ (Deuteronomy 5.6). The law of God which follows is based on God which follows is based on God’s prior love and its concrete form. The proper interpretation of Scripture, therefore, first identifies God’s loving action for His people and his profession of why He acted. Only then does the focus shift to the manner in which God’s action is to be translated into human action.”

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