NEW BIBLE BLOG FOR 2015
My archives show me that I’ve been over the bits of the bible favoured by the church’s lectionaries several times in the history of my blog. My intention was to use the material provided to find some daily wisdom for my life and the life of the world as seen in a daily news headline. This method has been fruitful for me and I hope for some readers, but I feel that it has run its course.
From the start of 2015 therefore I’m adopting a new method. I hope to read through the entirety of the Gospel of Mark in tandem with the book of Genesis. The link between the two is that they both represent faith in a creator God who wants creation to reflect his/her goodness. Genesis does this by means of a “history” of creation, humanity and the ancestors of Israel; Mark through the “history” of a few years in the life of Jesus called Messiah.
Both are sophisticated works of art and theology, although they may seem simple to modern readers. Both use storytelling as their main method of communication; both edit and re-present stories from oral tradition as well as written sources. Because modern readers are skilled in understanding a great variety of information media, they lack the specific skills of those whose main source of information was the story, and tend to read the bible in an over literal fashion. I don’t just mean fundamentalist habits of reading, but also all methods of bible study which take its narratives as basically historical, that is, as providing factual information about events in the past. Sometimes indeed that is the intention of the authors, but more often other purposes are more important to them. The assumption that they are historical also leads to an assumtion that their mode of storytelling is similar to that of a history book or perhaps a historical novel; ignoring the readiness of the writers to set the reader puzzles, diverge into parody, quote poetry or design whole scenes as if they were Japanese manga artists.
So I’ll hope to be sensitive to what the stories are doing; but I’ll also be looking for any inspiration they can give me for living as a believer today. On the face of it, it seems a daft hope that books of which the youngest are 2000 years old should provide any assistance for life in the 21st century. I have neverthless just finished reading Homer’s Odyssey for the 20th time and still feel inspired by its marvellous realism about humanity. Is the Bible just doing the same? Well perhaps for many people, it is, but for Christian believers it is said to do more. After all, it has (often wrongly) been called the Word of God. I say wrongly because Jesus is believed to be God’s Word, the communication to humanity of God’s being. The Bible is only the word of God as it provides a witness to Jesus, is understood in the light of Jesus, in the context of the whole community of believers past and present, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is moreover only God’s word when it is treated as a human word, rather than a supernatural book, inerrant and ever-wise. It is human, fallible and sometimes foolish, requiring to be understood in its own time, place and language by using all the tools of scholarship available for understanding any ancient writing. Only when all these conditions are met can it “speak for God.”
I’ll continue in a variety of ways to pay attention to the news of each day as “God’s word” is spoken to all people and not merely to the pious blogger in his study. If it doesn’t speak to the day’s news, it’s not the word of God. In fact the prophetic tradition of the Bible, shared by Jesus, suggests that it is by understanding contemporary events and holy tradition together, with the help of the Spirit, that human beings may receive God’s word.
So that’s the prospectus, dear readers. Although most of you are anonymous, I appreciate your secret presence, and hope that you may feel encouraged to join my project, by questioning, criticising or simply commenting on the blogs. If at this stage you want to suggest a modiifcation to the project, tell me now!