The Bible is an invaluable gift in my personal relationship with God. More importantly, it is a gift that has allowed a community of faith to be sustained for two millennium around the life and teachings of Jesus and the amazing and continuing acts of God through Jesus.
In the last post on this same topic, I noted that an important part of what I have learned as a pastor over the past 40 years about the Bible has included (1) The Biblical writers themselves saw the scriptural revelation as recording an ongoing process in the history between God and humans – they did not think that either they themselves, nor their writings had “arrived,” and (2) no part of the Bible was written TO us, but every part of the Bible was kept FOR us. Both of these truths deeply impact how we should interact with the Scriptures in our attempts to hear God speak to us through them. Now I’ll explore some of the other important things I have learned about the Bible in my years as a pastor.
ALMOST ALL OF THE BIBLE WAS WRITTEN TO BE READ ORALLY TO A COMMUNITY OF SEEKERS
Once long ago, I took the time to count the uses of “you” in the short little letter “To the Ephesians.” I did this because I was beginning to realize that most of us were reading these “you” statements as though the “you” was singular and to be primarily interpreted as applying to each person as an individual. Of course, the count would vary slightly depending on whether it was done in Greek or on what English translation was used. My count was 124, and if I remember correctly, I did the count in Greek and included the Greek noun and verb endings that signified a plural “you” as well as the pronouns. Of that 124 uses of some form of “you,” 121 were plural, and the 3 that were singular were quotations from elsewhere.
Now, your count might vary by 4 or 5, but the point would still be made: This was a letter to be heard first as a member of a community, and then, secondarily as an individual. What a difference it makes when we can remember this one simple fact as we read, hear, and preach from the Biblical materials. It is first of all a challenge to be a faithful community. So many misunderstandings and misapplications of the Bible could be avoided if we could push past our Western individualism when we attempt to hear God speaking to us through the Scriptures. (more…)