Reading the Bible

by Richard on September 14, 2006

Reading the Bible is a new resource book from those good people at the Student Christian Movement. It has been written to encourage fresh engagement with the scriptures, to take seriously the best of modern scholarship but also to enable the personal journey of exploration that every Christian needs to take.

There is no ducking of hard issues here. In fact, this little book (56 pages) revels in highlighting many of them. How do we deal with those parts of the Bible we find distasteful? Should we take the Bible literally? Who has the final word on interpretation? Through a series of articles, helpful asides in the margins and Bible Studies, the reader is guided through an exploration of the Bible that would take many young Christians into new and challenging territory.

Although it works quite well as a book for the individual reader, it is as a resource for small group study that ‘Reading the Bible’ really comes into its own. It would certainly suit student groups, but any church study group that is prepared to try something different would find much here that would be of benefit. There is a wide range of contributors and some very helpful short articles on the perspectives that other faiths have on the Bible.

The book includes a CD-Rom containing printable versions of the Bible study pages as well as a number of other useful resources. I particularly enjoyed the video ‘vox pops’ about people’s attitude to the Bible, and they are certain to be finding their way in to my group work over the next few months.

Reading the Bible is a bold and imaginative book that will benefit anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of what the Bible is, where it comes from and how to read it with integrity. At £10, it’s pretty good value too. Recommended.

Order now!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }


Kim 09.14.06 at 4:12 pm

Sounds interesting. I only hope that Reading the Bible transcends the tired antitheses of liberal/evangelical polemics. And I hope that the “hard issues” you mention aren’t merely the distraction they often are - distraction, that is, from the real issue of Bible, the issue of the Deus loquens, the Christus praesens, and the testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti - the “speaking God”, the “present Christ”, and the “inner testimony of the the Holy Spirit”.

In other words, is there help in this pamphlet for Christians to read the Bible as scripture? If so, it will have to deal not just with modernist historical questions, and postmodernist aesthetic questions, and the usual moral questions (”bashing-the-babies’-heads-against-the-rocks” texts), as well as the question of the so-called “gap” between the then of ancient times and the now of the contemporary (Lessing’s ditch). For all these questions, though not unimportant - indeed, for the sake of integrity they are very important - are certainly not primary, and to get bogged down in them is to avoid the real res, the real “matter”, of the Bible. As William Willimon observes in his recent, brilliant Conversations with Barth on Preaching (2006), there are many ways to evade this res which is the risen Christ - and “One of them is biblical interpretation!” It is a rare book on the Bible, liberal or conservative, that doesn’t implicitly assume that Jesus is dead.

In a few more other words, does this little book deal with the Bible dogmatically, i.e. as the church’s book, meaning the book that the church stands under, not over? Does it insist, for example, on the sine qua non of prayer for reading scripture, on assuming the posture of a pupil, on coming with the imagination of a child, on waiting and listening before analysing and interpreting? That is, is it made clear, as John Webster puts it, that “what is required of the reader is not simply intellectual skill, but above all a certain brokenness, from which alone truly attentive reading can follow? . . . [For] however genuine they may be, exegetical difficulties are, in the end, not the heart of the difficulty in reading Scripture. The real problems lie elsewhere, in our defiance of grace.” Again, it is a rare book on the Bible, liberal or conservative, that doesn’t advance a pelagian hermeneutic.

Knowing some of the contributors to Reading the Bible, I hope that my concerns are baseless - and that it will shut me up!


Richard 09.15.06 at 7:35 am

Well, it’s quite a short book - 56 A4 pages - so I doubt it quite has the depth ou’re after, Kim. It is very much and introductory study guide aimed at non-specialists. But it does introduce in a very helpful way some approches to scripture that readers may not have encountered before. I wish it had been published 25 years ago, though if it had the chapters on feminist and liberation readings would have been very forward looking!

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