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Encountering the text in jail

Encountering the text in jail

On his “Experimental Theology” blog, Richard Beck writes of the experience of reading the Bible aloud to the members of a prison Bible study – how the text is so self-sufficient, requiring neither spin nor supplementation.

[I]magine reading Psalm 56 in a prison. Nothing needs to be added. The text fits that context perfectly. All I need to do is read it. Without embarrassment or commentary. More, the text is absolutely riveting! Every line is an explosion of recognition, a word directly aimed at the lived experience of the audience. It’s like looking into a crystal ball or a mirror.

And I don’t do a thing. I just read Psalm 56. The Word does the rest.

I’m reminded in all this about how William Stringfellow came to be completely dominated by the biblical text, reading it almost exclusively late in his late [years]. The categories of the bible, the way the bible described the world, took on greater and greater relevance for him, the most truthful and accurate way of describing the world. I always considered that to be a curious detail about a theologian I greatly admired and didn’t give much thought about why that happened to him. But more and more, though I’m still embarrassed by the text at times, I think I’m starting to see what he saw.


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That’s a really good article – thanks for the link.

Interesting, too, the thing about Stringfellow; I know what he means about finding “truth and accuracy” in reading the Bible – and that nothing else is quite as bluntly powerful or talks about unvarnished reality so well….

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