Sunday, June 26, 2011

Commenting on the Bible

If you know anything about me you probably know that I like the Bible.  In fact, I think it is great.  Every time I let it, it amazes me.  But it didn't used to.  In fact, I used to think the Bible was...well...kind of boring.    There's a simple reason for that - I had no idea what this book was.  I mean, I knew it was "the word of God," "inspired," even "infallible."  For all that, I thought God could really have used an editor.  I thought I knew what the Bible was, and indeed I knew quite a few facts about it.  I could win Bible bowls with the best of them.  But when I started taking these books (and realizing that they are different books, not merely chapter divisions by another name is a good start) seriously, they blew me away.

It turns out the Bible was not something that I could domesticate - far less so is the God it reveals.

I've been learning how to take God's book on its own terms.  To survey its landscapes and inhabit its world.

Anyway, I've been thinking about an undertaking that's probably way too ambitious for me, but I want to start blogging through the Bible.  I was thinking a while back about what my ideal Bible commentary would look like, and I came up with a few things.  (For starters, I wouldn't write it, I'd leave that to smarter, more eloquent people.)

How have people read the text in the past?  Are there intra-biblical readings of the text by later authors? How did earliest Christians, at least up to Nicaea read the text?  What did they take for granted?  What did they debate?  What were their insights?  How did they preach it?

How are people reading the text today?  I want to know what modern and post-modern scholarship has to say.

How we can't read the text.  i.e. interpretive fallacies/pitfalls.  Leaving room for legitimate ambiguities while warning where others have seized upon a word, phrase, or image to import foreign beliefs.

Background information.  Of the factual/historical/linguistic/social context variety.

Literary context.  Connecting a passage with the larger narrative/logical flow, showing where it fits and how it functions.

Paths for contemplation and application.

...aaaaaaand it would probably have a music playlist for each book of the Bible.  :)

So I'll be working on this a bit, and I invite you to contribute.  When you're reading your Bible and have an insight great or small, when you feel like sharing your knowledge of scribal traditions in the Ancient Near East, when you read an epistle and notice features of its outline, when you see the relevance of Jesus' words for today, when you reimagine the poetic verse of prophecy or feel moved by a song, head over to The Christian's Bible wiki.