The Multifaceted Bible

The Bible is read in a number of different ways around the globe.  I do believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about reading the Bible.  Different virtues are revealed when we approach the Bible from various ways.  However, I see there to be a good deal of merit to reading the Bible as scripture, and I think if one begins there and is careful to keep that in mind while reading it, the Bible can be interpreted in terms of its other qualities, such as literature, canon, and sacrament.

Too often the Bible is read out of context, and it harms the Church as a whole.  It’s important to remember that scripture is a grand narrative.  It defeats the purpose of scripture to merely read the New Testament and skip the metaphorical landscape of the Old Testament.  In the same way, it doesn’t do much good to read scripture out of the context of the church.  The church as the body of Christ is the proper setting for reading the Bible as Scripture.  Jesus spoke on the significance of community, and how we make up the body of Christ.  It’s very important to read the Bible in community because that’s how God is mediated to us.  God works with community, with all the prerequisite parts of His body. For example, we experience the power of the Holy Spirit when we pray for each other.  It’s troubling, then, when you realize that the disunity of the church has been increasing exponentially.  If we look at the last five hundred years since the Protestant Reformation, there’s a deep irony in that the whole Protestant movement promised that if we all went by scripture and if scripture was seen as obviously clear in its meaning, then we would believe what good bible-believing Christians should believe, but, as it turns out, Protestantism has been enormously divisive.  What we’re doing when we present to the world a divided church is contradicting the testimony that God did indeed send Christ. I don’t know what the answer is short of the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit, but the continuation of the dividing of the church is tragic because it suggests that Christ is divided and the Holy Spirit is of a double mind and that we cannot all gather at Christ’s table to share one body by sharing one bread and one cup.

Moving past the tragedy of reading the Bible as something besides scripture, if we did read it as such, it would free us up to see the Bible’s largely metaphorical significance in the grand scheme of the narrative.  Whether or not each event in the canon actually happened or not goes beyond the point, which is, “What of God’s character is revealed in the story?” This question leads to the bigger question, “Who is God?” And from that we arrive at “And who is He to me?”  If the Bible is read as literature, many detailed nuances are revealed to the reader just as Hamlet will elicit larger significance if the reader approached the book as it was meant to be read (as literature).  Of course there are other elements to the Bible that could be sought after that are very much valid and I’m sure hold much spiritual importance, such as reading the Bible as sacrament and canon, but without recognizing the Bible as scripture and understanding that it is replete with metaphorical language that lead to a greater understanding of the text, the reader will miss the point.

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