I am teaching Introduction to Biblical Interpretation this semester. Inevitably I need to show the students some complex concepts of literary and historical-cultural analysis. But one thing I keep saying to students is that the best way to learn is to read and re-read the entire Bible. It takes time, but it’s worthwhile. None of the techniques and skills I teach can replace a consistent life-long prayerful engagement with Scripture.
Interestingly Tim Gombis mentions something similar in his blog yesterday. (Click here for his post.)
Gombis lists some popular concepts about reading the Bible (in North America).
We’re told to “get equipped” to get out there and “make an impact,” to be prepared to change the world. We need to get trained so we can be maximally effective… And what does this involve? Well, we need to get all the Bible knowledge we can, master the information, know all the facts, and be prepared to respond to various challenges with all the right answers.
But listen to Gombis’ advice.
My advice is to get to know the Bible over time—like, over decades. There aren’t five easy steps to Bible knowledge. I’ve told students in the past to measure their knowledge of the Bible in 5-year increments. And when I’ve said that, I could hear sighs of relief.
Remember that the aim of getting to know Scripture is not to be equipped to get out there and have “impact.”
The purpose of knowing the Bible is to develop Scripture-shaped minds so that we get to know and love God more faithfully, being transformed so that we love and serve others more creatively. The goal of Bible knowledge is the cultivation of virtue. And this is something that only happens over time.
And the learning process itself transforms us, so we shouldn’t think that at some point we’ll be finished, “fully equipped” to get out there and put our knowledge to effective use.
Studying the Bible is, ultimately, not so much about finding which view is the most convincing, even though it is necessary for credible research. Nor is it about working out what we think should be the right interpretation, although the thinking and discerning process is important. Rather, reading the Scripture is about listening for God’s address, hearing God’s purpose through Christ, and allowing the Spirit to shape our thinking and life orientation.