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3 Methods to Grown-up Bible Studying

I do know the title of this submit may sound offensive, however don’t give in to that feeling. I’m in all probability not even speaking to you.

The title channels one thing I learn by C. S. Lewis someplace previously (that I actually don’t really feel like wanting up proper now) and that I additionally heard from Jon D. Levenson whereas sitting in a doctoral seminar in 1991.

Levenson remarked that he is aware of a variety of very clever and educated adults who had been introduced up in non secular houses and who’ve very nuanced, grownup views of all kinds of issues like economics, historical past, politics, math—even different religions.

However in terms of the Bible, their pondering hasn’t modified a lot from their childhood views. For some purpose, progress to maturity has bypassed their understanding of the Bible.

This isn’t about being “silly.”

Complexity in Understanding the Bible

It’s concerning the nature of spiritual coaching, the place too typically staying nonetheless in a single’s view of the Bible is lauded as a advantage, an indication of “robust” religion that doesn’t “give in” to alter—for change is just a well mannered means of claiming “compromise,” a weak or dying religion.

And that’s fairly unlucky.

The Bible is a wealthy and sophisticated e-book. It deserves—in truth, calls for—greater than being saved secure in our youthful methods of pondering. Finding out the Bible with grownup schools alerts us that the character of the Bible requires of us a extra nuanced appreciation.

Not “compromise” however nuance, the place naïveté provides option to an appreciation of the Bible’s extra “grownup” nature—like youngsters who develop as much as maturity and their view of their dad and mom grows proper together with them.

So listed below are 3 ways of seeing the Bible that mirror such an appreciation of the complexities of the Bible’s manufacturing and historical past. These three overlap considerably, and for what it’s price, they aren’t in any means controversial amongst biblical students.

(1) The books of the Bible weren’t written within the order during which they seem.

It’s comprehensible to imagine that the order of the books within the Bible mirror after they had been written.

This can be very true for Christians, for the reason that Bible’s macro-structure—New Testomony follows the Previous Testomony—signifies a chronological order.

However that doesn’t maintain after we get all the way down to particulars.

Simply because Genesis is first doesn’t imply that Genesis was written earlier than Exodus, or Deuteronomy was written earlier than 1 Samuel, or Leviticus earlier than Ezekiel and Jeremiah.

When the books of the Bible had been written is a posh challenge, however we must always not assume that David or Hosea had a replica of the Pentateuch they might seek the advice of simply because we are able to flip again to these books in our Bible.

They might have been conscious of traditions of say Adam or the exodus or the ten Commandments, however that isn’t to say they had been conscious of books that we all know immediately.

Which ends up in my second level. . .

(2) Canonical/scriptural consciousness grew over time.

Historic Israel’snotions of Holy Scripture developed over time, and it wasn’t till the exile to Babylon (586-539 BCE) and it’s aftermath {that a} “canonical consciousness” arose.

This isn’t to say that nothing was written down earlier than the sixth c. BCE. Removed from it. It solely signifies that a set of authoritative canonical writings is a later improvement.

That consciousness appears to have been nurtured first through the exile, when beforehand recognized technique of communion with God had been off the desk—specifically Temple worship. Prophets turned much less frequent, too, till they pale from the scene.

In different phrases, the want for a “Bible” arose later, as a method of listening to God’s phrase from the previous then and there. The custodians of God’s phrase handed from the prophets to scribes—from the spoken phrase to the manufacturing and transmission of the written phrase.

This results in my third level. . .

(3) The biblical books are the merchandise of nameless writers and editors.

Even when David is accountable for some psalms, Solomon for some proverbs, and Moses for some legal guidelines, the books of Psalms, Proverbs, and the Pentateuch are nameless.

We don’t know who particularly is liable for giving us the books we all know so nicely by identify and placement in our Bibles. We will make good stabs at roughly when books—and components of books—had been both written or edited, however typically it’s arduous to say greater than “earlier than or after the exile,” “generally through the early monarchy,” “seemingly pre-monarchic”—or one thing like that.


These 3 methods of pondering have all kinds of ramifications, after all, which can and needs to be talked about and labored by by folks of religion. Which is absolutely my level right here.

These observations—and others like them—should not the top of a dialog, however the starting of a greater one, the place the Bible’s complexities and lots of layers come to floor in ways in which gas our ponderingabout religion and life, not issues that need to be submerged or held at bay to be able to keep religion.

In any other case, we’re telling those who to take care of their religion, they should stay as youngsters.

Now, I do know what Jesus stated about changing into like a baby to enter the dominion. However I additionally know what the Bible says about rising in knowledge and perception, forsaking infantile issues, and choosing meat quite than milk.

As I see it, acknowledging and embracing “grownup” observations of our complicated Bible really pressure us again to a child-like belief in God, quite than leaning on a false sense of safety {that a} little one’s understanding of the Bible provides us.

The extra I be taught, the extra I see the knowledge of not leaning by myself understanding—not as a result of I’m ignoring complexity however as a result of I refuse to.

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