The Bible is a Text

The Bible is a text.

Well, that’s obvious.

And how does one understand a text?

One reads it.

If you feel like those sentences are basic then you understand how I felt in my Old Testament courses at The College at Southeastern. Why did I leave home, rent a house and commit four years to hear a professor tell me something I already knew? That’s what I asked myself. I know the Bible is a text. Does he think I’m stupid? He didn’t think I’m stupid. But, he knew why our generation doesn’t understand the Bible; not like we should. In the last 100 years two things happened.

1. Our culture shifted from being text driven to image/sound driven. Radio and TV changed how we learn so we jettisoned the skills we used to understand literature.

2. Questions of the Bible’s accuracy dominated the conversation about the Bible. Conservative Christians concerned themselves with proving the Bible’s reliability. Thank God they did, but many believers forgot that, as Voss once put it, “The Bible is not a dogmatic handbook but a historical book full of dramatic interest.”

If you want to understand your Bible better, you don’t just have to read it. You must become a better reader. Don’t just increase the quantity of your reading. Increase it’s quality. Christians make resolutions every new year to read the Bible more. I hope they do. But, instead of reading the Bible more, I wish they’d resolve to reading it better; with an eye towards the dramatic interest Voss told us about. 5 minutes of thoughtful, observant reading is to be preferred above an hour of mindless scanning. I continue to find 2 common denominators in the Bible teachers I most respect. They have an inextinguishable love for Jesus, and they are the best readers I know. They know how a text operates. They care less about the facts a text holds, and more about the function the text plays. They don’t just read often. They read well.

The Bible is a text. It’s basic. It’s profound. The more I consider it the more I am overwhelmed and challenged to become, not just a frequent reader, but a better reader to the glory of God.

Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948), 24, 26.

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