Three challenges in reading the Bible | Jesus’ Creed


The church’s own practices, and by that I mean what we learn in sermons and conversations and the things we read, from reading the Bible can become obstacles. Anyone who has taught the Bible as I have for nearly forty years encounters these obstacles in students’ questions as well as in their responses.

Here are three obstacles:

Many read the Bible in verse form. The Bibles we own, less today than when we all read the King James Bibles, are versified, so we have learned to read it one verse at a time. You get something or you take something and move on.

A second challenge is that our Bibles are split – rather arbitrarily or sometimes oddly – into chapters, which is good and wonderful if the chapters are meaningful pauses. Are they? Sometimes, sometimes not.

A third challenge is our theology and our propensity to synthesize the biblical statements – found in the verses – with each other so that we can form them into a theology, and then we learn to reread or impose on those statements our greatest constructs. theological. That is, Peter cannot really mean that baptism does what this verse seems to say since we know that baptism does not do that:

Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).

These three challenges can be met and lifted us to a new level if we learn to read the Bible as a story and learn to read each book as its own narrative creation, and especially if we learn to read each gospel as its own account of Jesus. .

Which allows me to turn to the new The Gospels as Stories.

But what is “narration” and, in the jargon of professors, what is “narrative criticism”. She describes it, and I want to look at those terms and see if you’d like to read, say Mark, and think about the whole gospel in light of those terms and ideas.

First, gospel studies have shifted from studying the sources of the Gospels (source review) to studying individual passages / pericopes in light of similar passages (criticism of form) to how each author / Evangelist edited and molded what was before him (editorial review) to a more holistic approach to each gospel (composition review) – all leading to narrative review.

Second, narrative criticism operates with certain ideas: from the story level (what we all see) to the rhetorical level (order, sequencing, use). So she uses an illustration that I myself have used for years and years – how Matthew organizes his gospel from 4:17 to 9:35 with the wonderful and almost exact use of Jesus preaching, teaching and healing in 4:23 and 9:35, both to start and end a section. Here we are given sequencing clues on how to read this gospel beyond the obvious.

Image: Cover photo

Third, stories have implicit authors and readers. The implied author is not the “real” author but the author as he is discerned in the text. She uses the illustration of using a female author of a novel (eg, Willa Cather) and then finding a letter from Willa Cather to a friend. The implicit author of the first is not the same as the second if we restrict knowledge to narrative presentation. The implicit reader is the one who accompanies each movement of the author in the text itself. Say, replying to Luke like the author wants you to answer.

Fourth, Brown claims that narrative criticism has adapted in two or three ways: it has adapted to narrative readings of socio-cultural and historical information so that the text is not seen as all of the information needed to read the text. . She also admitted to using modern narrative techniques derived from fiction and at times forced them on narrative readings of the Gospels. So in another movement he searched for 1st century categories in other narratives to discern the narrative strategies of 1st century authors.

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