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On reading the Bible

On reading the Bible

Today’s essay on the Daily Episcopalian has provoked a lot of comment.

The Rev. George Clifford says that perhaps reading the Bible indiscriminately and only as a devotional tool de-values the Bible, hurts the church, and inadequately prepares Christians.

If we really believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God and contain all things necessary to salvation (Book of Common Prayer, 513, 526, 538), then the Church needs to get serious about Bible study. Classes for youths and adults could offer the substantive introduction to the Old and the New Testaments similar to those in seminaries but appropriately geared to level of academic achievement.

Ironically, encouraging devotional reading of the Bible, with its implicit promise of relatively effortless access to God, devalues Scripture and insultingly presumes that people lack the intellectual ability and spiritual commitment to engage in serious Bible study…. Better yet, groups of Christians, after completing introductory studies, might gather for Bible study with commentaries, Bible dictionaries, historical references, and other resources.

Reading the Bible with understanding is hard work; perceiving God’s light is even more difficult. Dumbing down the process demeans God’s people, alienates many, and forms a dead church in the image of biblical literalism rather than the living God.

Check it out!


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Murdoch Matthew

When he was dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal, Michael Pitts preached helpfully

on this topic:

. . . most of us in the West read these texts as members of communities, either secular and religious, which for centuries have been majority communities, which have possessed most of the wealth and power of the world and which have been the dominant force in shaping the culture, society, economics and politics of that world. We simply cannot take most of these texts and apply them directly to our situation. We cannot draw directly from them, moral, political, social or even religious and theological lessons for our own times and churches and societies. Such a process may work for the liberation theologians working with the poor of South America, but even the least powerful in our society are touched by the power of our society as a whole, and this must be taken into account in our hermeneutical method.

Pitts also touches on one of the horror texts in Numbers and questions an assumption by the author of Ephesians. I wish we’d noticed this sermon when this posting was new.

William F. Hammond

The Rev. George Clifford: “If we really believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God and …”

By way of being more serious about Bible study, let me point out that to say the Scriptures ARE the Word of God, as an ordinary English statement, is logical nonsense unless a particular written version of the Scriptures is identified. Rather, I suggest we mean to say that the Scriptures SET FORTH the Word of God.


That’s an “Oy Vey!” thread if ever I saw one. Absolutists to the Right of me, Absolutists to the Left of me: Ready, Aim, Fire! :-0

Yes, you need scholarship to—as an Episcopalian (w/ Scripture, Tradition and REASON)—faithfully read Scripture.

AND, even the relatively uneducated CAN be guided by the Holy Spirit to the Truths of the Gospel.

Paradox, people. Paradox.

JC Fisher

Want to put my 2c in for the “Kerygma” 1 year-long scripture study I did back in the late 80s (EFM lite? ;-/ FWIW, I later went to seminary, and felt Kerygma was a big step-up from cradle-Episcopalian Scripture upbringing I’d had till that point.)

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