How We Read the Bible: And How We Need to Start Reading It

Simply put: I think most people read the Bible wrong.

There’s a thousand ways you can do this. Many on the right fall into the trap of a fundamentalist reading—even evangelicals, whose existence is a rejection of fundamentalism, often adopt what is merely a slightly nuanced fundamentalist hermeneutic. With this understanding, passages like Paul’s prohibition, “I do not permit a woman to teach,” become binding for all time.

On the other hand, the popular pitfall on the left is to cherry-pick Scripture. The Bible is no longer an eternally normative book for the Church to be read wholistically but a document to be filtered by the readers philosophy. This way of reading inevitably leads some to ignore personal standards for holiness and instead lionize certain passages or themes, like social justice in the Gospel of Luke. With this understanding, the new standard is Pauls claim that there is neither male nor female… in Christ Jesus!

And theres countless mistakes to be made beyond these two. If the last hundred years have taught us anything, its that reading and interpreting a text isnt as straightforward as we once thought it wasor as we still hope it is. Its easy to get lost in the fog, and its even easier to still think we know where we are even when were lost in the woods.

And that—that proclivity to lose our way—has been the driving force for this series. It’s easy to get confused about what the Spirit is doing in Scripture and how that affects our reading. Do we take everything literally or brush problems off as human influence? And the Bible doesn’t give us clear answers here—did the authors outline a flexible system that could be adapted to any era or did they only interest themselves in the concerns of their audiences in their day? Of course, Christians throughout history have tried to help us with these issues, but so many different solutions and approaches have been proffered, it’s hard to hear them all out. Even if we narrow our scope to just ministers and scholars today, those who have dedicated their work to guiding God’s flock, we find little more consensus. And yet sometimes, we say we have the answers to these questions. We’re dealing with the words of God, making claims about heaven and hell, and yet to have a little humility about what we say often doesn’t cross our mind.

Our inability to interpret the Bible with 100% accuracy does not necessarily require fear for the soul, but it does require renewed care since the results affect us personally and it affects everyone around us. The best thing we can do is seek out wisdom when we turn to the pages of Scripture and remember what the Bible is and why we trust it. We believe what the Bible says not because it claims it but because of the witness of the church and our faith in a resurrected Christ.

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