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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reading Bible: Time Reference of Reader

Understanding that our spiritual and moral lives must be in right order for us to actually hear and understand the biblical text, the next step in the process is our approach to Scripture. I preached on this last Sunday. It is an important concept to grasp. There is a past, present and future time reference in every Biblical text. God is the author but that is not the only reason for this mulitplicity. It is also the nature of written documents and the process of interpretation.

There are past events. The documentation of these events is called "History." But history covers a wide range of material. Facts are important but they are not all there is to the past. The Fundamentalist vs. Modernist/Liberal frequently centers on factual accuracy. I call this the "gossip" factor, that is wanting to know the details of someone else's story. (I do not use the word gossip here as a negative) In looking at a Bible story if our only concern is the facticity then we are going to have a pretty narrow reading. It also ignores that writing about past events is not simply an exercise in fact reporting. There is also a meaning component. The author's purpose results in any number of choices. What is not reported is just as significant as what is reported. events which stretch over days and involve hundreds, even thousands, of people can be summarized in a few sentences, but there is so much left out that it boggles the mind.

The Bible author used metaphor, poetry, allusion, symbolism and theology is writing. The author is trying to teach, comfort, exhort, educate and transform the reader. Often times they wrote in reaction to the prevailing stories of their neighbors. There were many Flood Stories, reading about Noah in that context is very helpful. Comparing what the bible says with what the neighbors of Israel said is very informativv. Knowing that the Romans declared "Caesar is Lord" helps deepen our understanding of the the NT proclamation "Jesus is Lord!" It reveals a political component we might never have considered otherwise. In reading the Bible to learn about the past, it is important to keep in mind the type of writing, the setting/context and to leave behind some of our modern assumptions about writing. That is hard work. Holy people do not mind working hard to hear our Lord's voice in the Scripture. More tomorrow.

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