I have found a great podcast… if you are into such things. It is called The Bible for Normal People. It is worth checking out for the title alone.
Having listened to a few of these podcasts, I think that it is a couple of bible scholars who used to read scripture (or at least were brought up in a faith tradition that read scripture) in a literal way. That is, the bible said what it said, and that was that.
Now, even though we ELCA Lutherans don’t read scripture at the literal word of God, there are certainly still parts where we think literally about scripture. Like, if I were to say that perhaps Jonah was not literally swallowed by a big fish, that might catch you off guard. Or if I said that there may be parts of Luke or Matthew that the writers “made up” you may take offense.
So, right away we can see that we all interpret the bible pretty much the way we want: taking what we want it to say to be what it says. And, you may take offense at that as well.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Hebrews 4:12
Back to the podcast: while it says many interesting things, the thing that keeps hitting me in the head is when the podcasters say “It all depends on what you are expecting from the bible.”
Yes. So, what is the bible for you? Is it a history book? If so, then you will find a history of God’s people along with all sorts of historical inaccuracies and contradictions. Is it a guidebook? Then you will find that God speaks on many topics and leaves us bereft of guidance in others. Is it a sermon? Then you will find inspiration, but you will also find that the preacher is preaching to ancient audiences and it doesn’t make sense for you. It is “Word of God”? Then you will find God Words of judgment and solace, condemnation and grace, confusion and clarity.
Even Jesus in the Gospels takes scripture and reinterprets it — maybe because he is looking at bible from a new perspective.
So, where do you come down on “bible”? Maybe you have never thought about it. Allow me to point to what the writer of Hebrews says: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” To me, this means that scripture (as part of God’s Word) is doing something within and among us. And because it is living and active, it probably won’t do what we think or want it to do.