Faith: How should we read the Bible?
When you read the Holy Bible in any of its translations, how do you read it? Have you ever started reading the Bible and then stopped because it became too complicated or you got lost in the interpretation? Do you feel that every book in the Bible should be read in the same way, such as it is all historical narrative or it is all poetry?
As an example, the readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for this upcoming Sunday include a reading from the Prophet Ezekiel dealing with a vision that the Prophet experienced from the Lord where he was placed in a valley full of bones. The bones were very dry, and the Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, to tell them that the Lord God will breathe on them and the bones will be covered with flesh and that they shall live again. Then the bones came together with sinews and flesh, but no breath in them. The Lord God then told Ezekiel to prophesy again to the slain, telling the breath (ruah or spirit, breath, wind, Spirit) to enter them so that they might live again. When Ezekiel prophesied to them again they became whole and alive and were a great multitude.
We then learn that the vast multitude are the whole house of Israel who have lost their hope and are cut off completely. Then the Lord God tells them that their graves will be opened and the people will be brought up from their graves and returned to the land of Israel. They are further told that the Lord God will put His spirit within them and they will be on their own soil and the people shall know that the Lord God has spoken and will act.
If you are a small child (in faith or age) this may sound unbelievably frightening, especially the thought of all of those bones lying in the valley. If you are unaware that Ezekiel was a Prophet speaking the Word of God to the Hebrew people who were in exile and slavery in Babylon, then you have lost the context of the vision given to Ezekiel. If you hadn’t caught on that this vision completely refers to the re-establishment of the slaves/exiles to their homeland in Israel, then you missed the message. If you were unaware of the two stage generation process of bringing life to Adam, then you have missed out on God’s love for the people that extended from the time of Genesis to their present time. If you have missed out on the meaning of the life coming back into the bones of the people, then you have missed the resurrection of the dead as a means of coming into the presence of the Lord.
To return to my initial questions above, the Holy Bible is composed of many forms of writing — poetry, historical narrative, song, prophecy, apocalyptic (writing about the end times) — and all forms should be understood for what they are and not combined in such a way as to confuse the reader. Allegory, use of metaphor, doublets and triplets in poetry, extreme sarcasm, huge double and triple plays on word meanings and unbelievably difficult suffering, as well as thigh slapping humor, are all involved in the reading and understanding of the Bible.
So, how do you study the Holy Bible? Join a Bible study group where you can actively participate, where you can express your opinion and hear the opinion of others. A place where you may hear about culture, history, geography, language and the faith of the people involved. Prepare yourself by having a good Study Bible, a desire to learn and a willingness to immerse yourself in the Word and learn about His love for us!
If you are desiring to learn more about the Lord God Almighty through the reading of the Holy Writ and His love for us, please consider joining a Bible study group at the church of your choice.
The Rev. Bain White is the priest/pastor at St. Mark’s Church of Grace in Craig. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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