Welcome to Bible 101.
Biblical literacy in the U.S. among people of faith could stand some improvement. I see this all the time on social media when people make outrageous claims about the Bible and how simple it is to interpret as they take verses or passages wildly out of context to justify some abhorrent belief. Despite Christianity’s status as the most practiced faith in America, many American Christians are remarkably illiterate when it comes to the collection of writings we call The Bible. I’ve been to seminary and have taken classes on Biblical Interpretation, New Testament, Old Testament, Interpreting in Context, and a fascinating, illuminating, and challenging class called, “Gender, Sexuality, and the Bible” as well as a plethora of theology classes. Despite this academic background, along with my former fundamentalist status, and the self study I engaged in as I deconstructed the fundamentalist “training” of my youth and early adulthood, my own Biblical literacy is seriously lacking in my opinion, thus I see the need for this new section of this blog.
My goal is to stimulate interest in this incredibly important collection of texts (which are important regardless of one’s faith or lack thereof due to the Bible’s role in global history for good and ill) that we know as the Bible while increasing Biblical literacy among those who practice the Christian faith. It is meant to be a learning community that will inspire me and any readers of this blog to dig even deeper into the texts, to question them and wrestle with them, and allow these questions and our deepening knowledge to both inform and transform our faith. It is a place where I hope myself and others will take the Bible seriously and by that I most definitely do not mean what fundamentalist or evangelicals often mean by that statement, i.e. to proclaim it as the inerrant, infallible, without error “Word of God” as though God dictated it to people who then wrote it down or took the minutes at a meeting in the heavenly realm. Rather, I mean to take it seriously by putting it into its appropriate context, taking the time to learn what the writers and subsequently the hearers (when it was an oral tradition) and early readers understood the various texts to be about. In other words, the historical and social contexts that the texts were written and received in are vitally important to helping post-modern readers and interpreters to understand the Bible respectfully (without Antisemitism or bigotry clouding our hermeneutic* lenses) and theologically for our time and place.
The more I read the Bible, which I now do on a daily basis unlike when I was immersed in the “take the Bible seriously” camp of fundamentalism, the more I realize just how incredibly complex it is. There is much that is laudable in the Bible and much that is deeply troubling. Merely acknowledging that dichotomy is important and can be a stepping off point in a rich, rewarding, and truly serious respect for the Bible and all that it means.
Let us journey together. Feel free to email questions or polite comments to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The scriptural texts I am now using:
* Hermeneutics is a fancy seminary word for how we interpret and understand the Bible. For example, my own personal heremeneutic is to cross reference Biblical texts with the actual teachings of Jesus and if there is an inconsistency, I generally fall on the side of what Jesus said. Incidentally, the Gospels portray Jesus as having his own distinctive hermeneutical lens as is evidenced by the times he said things like, “You have heard it said…but I say…” This shows me just how open Biblical scripture is to many wildly different interpretations.