Ian Paul: theologian, author, speaker, academic consultant. Adjunct Professor, Fuller Theological Seminary; Associate Minister, St Nic’s, Nottingham; Managing Editor, Grove Books; member of General Synod. Mac user; chocoholic. Tweets at @psephizo
Reflecting on how to read the Bible
I would like to suggest that this whole reflection has been an exercise in paying attention to what the text says. And does not say. My focus has been on ‘the plain sense’ of the text: what its words are and how they are put together. This is a kind of reading that serves the church well, and if as preachers we follow this approach then we will end up talking about what the text talks about. I hope that will lead to sermons that are themselves pretty good.
In terms of detail: I think no writer of scripture wrote casually. There is a long tradition going all the way back to the rabbis that one is to read with precision: Why this word and not that? Why this particular way of saying something? That does not mean we will never end up having an argument with a scriptural passage once we have heard it properly, but it does mean that if we do not pay attention to words and details then we will not be doing justice to the contribution scripture wants to make to our thinking….
Amy-Jill Levine, who teaches New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt, is the author of The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus and coeditor of The Jewish Annotated New Testament. She has also written (with Sandy Eisenberg Sasso) several children’s books, including Who Counts? 100 Sheep, 10 Coins, and 2 Sons. She is a member of an Orthodox synagogue and speaks frequently in Christian congregations. Her most recent book is Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week, designed for use in group discussions.
How did you as a Jewish scholar come to focus on the New Testament? What is it about Jesus that drew you in?
I think Jesus is fascinating. Plus he’s Jewish, so he’s one of ours. The more I read not only the words attributed to him but also the stories told about him, the more intriguing I find the material.
I also have very much worried about the anti-Jewish views that frequently surface in studies about Jesus. A number of Christian commentators feel the need to make Judaism look bad in order to make Jesus look good. Instead of portraying Jesus as a Jew talking to other Jews, he becomes in their views the first Christian, the one who invented divine grace, mercy, and love, and all that other good stuff. Such views neglect the presence of these same virtues within Jesus’ own Jewish context. There should be no reason this Jewish Jesus is used to promote anti-Judaism.
For example, some Christian commentators portray Judaism as the epitome of misogyny and Jesus, by contrast, as the one who invented feminism. Or they regard Judaism as entirely legalistic and Jesus as the one who invented compassion; people who hold such views appear never to have read the Psalms or the rabbinic literature. Or they see first-century Judaism as xenophobic and Jesus as the one who invented outreach. Anybody who’s ever read the scriptures of Israel, let alone rabbinic documents, would know these characterizations are wrong…
Continue reading “Knowing and preaching the Jewish Jesus” here at Christian Century.
Janie Cheaney has authored seven novels for young adults and offers wisdom and guidance for aspiring authors. Janie and Charlotte were best friends in college and continue to discuss and debate religion, politics and culture from their various locations across the Right to Left spectrum.
Here is Janie’s 2017 series of blogs on Creation and Creativity. Each is lovely and lively – another way to ponder creation, its meaning and significance. Enjoy!
Janie also created a get-to-know-the-big-picture-of-the-Bible effort (Bible Challenge) that is somewhat similar to Charlotte’s Living in The Story. Janie’s approach offers the high points of The Story in weekly readings, while Charlotte’s approach offers a way to read the entire Bible in a year.
Interestingly, Janie and Charlotte were developing these two different reading plans about the same time. Follow the link below to find the weekly posts.
Janie and Charlotte have also considered numerous current social and political issues in a shared blog. Find those back and forth discussions at Charlotte’s Intersections: Faith Culture Politics website.
N. T. Wright
Here is a 20 minute video introduction to the letter to the Romans offered by Professor N.T. Wright. (This is Dr Wright’s introduction to his own online course on Romans. Also excellent I’m sure.)
In the following article, Richard Rohr talks about hermeneutics – the process of biblical interpretation. How do we interpret Scripture? How did Jesus interpret his own Scriptures? Might his way inform our own approach? Father Richard says:
“We will move forward on our “tricycle” of faith only with three good wheels: Tradition, Scripture, and Experience. … If we leave off any of these three wheels, our interpretations of Scripture and reality will be unstable and biased … Christians who say “only Scripture” end up being unconsciously dishonest and inconsistent, because they are relying on their own “tradition” of interpreting those Scriptures (without acknowledging it). Even more importantly, we must recognize that we cannot not rely upon our own experience. There is no such thing as a completely unbiased opinion! Since we all use tradition and experience anyway, why not admit it and thereby hold ourselves accountable?” Read the entire article…
Father Richard Rohr considers the goodness of creation…
Peter Enns (part 1) on how to understand the violent stories in the Bible.
Peter Enns (part 2) on how to interpret troubling passages in the Bible.
“the Bible is not a book that in all its parts reveals what we must believe about God, the world, and our place in it. Rather, the Bible is itself a dynamic tradition that reflects different theological points of view.”
An excellent essay by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks from 2008: seeing The Story from a Jewish perspective.
“Abraham is told to leave all the things that constrain freedom – our land, birthplace and father’s house – and begin a new kind of life in covenant with God. Genesis is about that covenant as it affects individuals and families. The rest of Tanakh is about the covenant as it applies to the life of a nation. The Jewish story, still unfinished, is about the journey from multiple forms of slavery to what Levinas called ‘difficult freedom’. Torah is the template of responsible freedom, our constitution of liberty…”
Monday, February 22, 2016
Life itself is always three steps forward and two steps backward. We get the point and then we lose or doubt it. In that, the biblical text mirrors our own human consciousness and journey. Our job is to see where the three steps forward texts are heading (invariably toward mercy, simplicity, inclusion, nonviolence, and trust) and to spot the two steps backward texts (which are usually about vengeance, exclusion, a rather petty and insecure god, law over grace, incidentals over substance, and technique over actual relationship).
The Bible is an anthology of many books. It is a record of people’s experience of God’s self-revelation. It is an account of our very human experience of the divine intrusion into history. The book did not fall from heaven in a pretty package. It was written by people trying to listen for and to God. I believe that the Spirit was guiding the listening and writing process. We must also know that humans always see “through a glass darkly . . . and all knowledge is imperfect” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Prayer and patience surrounding such human words will keep us humble and searching for the true Living Word, which is exactly how the Spirit always teaches (1 Corinthians 2:10,13).
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 12-13; and Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos, The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament, (Franciscan Media: 1988), 1.
Father Richard’s 2016 Daily Meditation Theme
Richard Rohr’s meditations for 2016 invite us to discover, experience, and participate in the foundation of our existence–Love. Throughout the year, Fr. Richard’s meditations follow the thread of Love through many of his classic teachings in 1-2 week segments. Read previous meditations and view a video introduction at cac.org/category/daily-meditations/.
This pamphlet, by the Rev. Walter Wink, may be ordered in print online from the Fellowship of Reconciliation for just $1.75 per copy — and even less in bulk amounts.
Sexual issues are tearing our churches apart today as never before. The issue of homosexuality threatens to fracture whole denominations, as the issue of slavery did one hundred and fifty years ago. We naturally turn to the Bible for guidance, and find ourselves mired in interpretative quicksand. Is the Bible able to speak to our confusion on this issue?
The debate over homosexuality is a remarkable opportunity, because it raises in an especially acute way how we interpret the Bible, not in this case only, but in numerous others as well. The real issue here, then, is not simply homosexuality, but how Scripture informs our lives today….
Read the entire article here:
Hood County Clerk Katie Lang appealed to the Bible as the basis for her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses. She is reported as saying: “I do believe that marriage is for one man and one woman because it did derive from the Bible.”
Reports indicate that other supporters have also appealed to the Bible.
Marriage, however, takes various forms in the Bible. The Bible does not offer a “one-size-fits-all,” single version of marriage.
In fact, marriages in the Bible often differ significantly from contemporary understandings of male-female marriages…….
The Old Testament scholar says the “military consumerist mentality” is on of the most pressing problems faces churches today.
January 9, 2015 by Marlena Graves
something this Protestant learned from a Jew about reading the Bible: a story
One day I was eating lunch with a Jewish classmate who grew up in Israel. We were both in our first year, and somehow the topic turned to the story of Adam and Eve.