How do we become good readers of scripture?
God encounters us in his word. When I read the Bible I am confronted with God. This remarkable reality underlies out beliefs about scripture which we explored last week. However, God has chosen to give us his word in a historically particular way. The eternal divine word is given through particular human beings, in particular places at a particular time in history.
Not only the Bible, but each one of us is also a historically particular person! We all have our lenses through which we see and understand the world. Our language, culture, history, experiences and knowledge inevitably effect the way we ‘understand’ everything we encounter, including the Bible.
These two realities mean that the Bible always has to be interpreted. We have to go through a process to understand God’s word. Now much of this happens automatically, without us even realising we’re doing it. Some has already been done for us: we read the Bible in English, which is an interpretation of the original writings.
However the Bible itself indicates that it is possible to be a good reader or a poor reader: Paul tells Timothy to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim 2.15), which implies that it is very possible to ‘wrongly handle the word of truth’.
How do we make sure we become good readers rather than poor ones? What is necessary to rightly handle the word of truth?