Tag Archives: interpretation

Hunting down a quote . . .

TCLC - Twentieth Century  Literary Criticism

TCLC – Twentieth Century
Literary Criticism
(Photo credit: CCAC North Library)

The other day in the daily message I get from “Seasons for Nonviolence,” I found this thought-provoking quote:

No two persons read the same book.

It seemed a pithy summation of a fundamental understanding of reading and interpretation that we share at BibleWorkbench. It is true of reading any book, and perhaps even more true when we read religious texts like the Bible. It’s one reason that we encourage group study of the texts, with opportunity for participants to share their insights- the Bible they have read- and hear from others about their reading. Continue reading


Practicing “Havruta”

A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Heb...

A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Hebrew Bible, is a scroll of parchment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of our BibleWorkbench contributors, Bill Lindeman, passed along a link to an article by Brent Coffin over at the Alban Institute, which describes an approach to Bible interpretation based on an ancient Jewish practice known as havruta. In this process, the text is treated as a “Third Party” in a conversation which connects the participants, the text, and the world around them- very similar to the BibleWorkbench process. Continue reading

Did Jesus Exist?

Did Jesus Exist?Bart Ehrman, a New Testament professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, has penned a series of books on the Bible with often provocative titles: Misquoting Jesus, Lost Christianities, Forged: Writing in the Name of God, God’s Problem and Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible.

Much of what he writes is a popularization of what most first year seminarians learn about the Bible- that it didn’t drop fully-formed out of the heavens, that the books themselves underwent a long process of development and editing, and that social location, historical context, and the emergent church movement all shaped the texts.

But for many of his readers, this is startling news, and it has made him the bane of literalists and the darling of those who are critical of the Bible. Ehrman’s latest book might be a surprise to both sides- Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. In it, Ehrman examines what we know about Jesus and concludes that, while extreme views on both sides of the debate are incorrect, there is solid evidence for Jesus in the historical record. Continue reading

“The Bible tells me. So?”

The Vizsoly Bible, in Vizsoly

The Vizsoly Bible, in Vizsoly
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of months ago, Bill Leonard, Professor of Church History and Baptist Studies at Wake Forest University wrote a reflection on what so often happens when people get into a “Bible quoting” mode. We wrote:

Lent, the season of reflection and repentance, offers opportunity for those of us who live in and out of the Bible to acknowledge that the church’s history is full of acts and imperatives thought to be grounded in Holy Scripture that led the church to make horrible mistakes. Continue reading

A Women’s Bible?

English: Permission is given in the text below...

Image via Wikipedia

Last week, a new Bible commentary was announced that would “seek to counter a prevailing view of women’s equality in the church and home.” You can read the story on the Associated Baptist Press website.

Published by the Southern Baptist Convention, the Women’s Evangelical Commentary seeks to instruct women in “biblical womanhood,” not “just what the world says about women.”

Managing editor Rhonda Kelley says that Bible students “are just stunned” by the contrast between “what the Bible teaches about us as women” and “what the world’s perspective has been.” “Really, feminism has crept within our churches and even into our seminary homes,” she said.

It’s just one more example of the struggle between conflicting understandings of what the Bible is and how it should be read. Are the limitations on women in scripture the residue of culturally-bound attitudes, or are they the eternal intention of God for all time? Are we challenged to conform our behavior to ancient worlds and texts, or to discover new insights into our contemporary world? Who gets to decide what “biblical womanhood” is?

What do you think?

Whose Bible Is It?

Bruce Gourley at the Baptist Studies Bulletin muses about who “owns” the Bible:

Growing up in church, I collected a number of Bibles by my teenage years. There were many Bibles in our house, and to distinguish my scripture from those of my parents or brother, I would write my name on the inside cover or one of the pages thereafter.

College, seminary and some years of ministry passed before I fully realized the inadvertent symbolism of the now-worn Bibles bearing my name: scripture is molded by individual believers, whether consciously or not. The reader, in short, becomes the owner of the text.

He explores how the Bible is read to support all manner of individual perspectives, but then notes:

Many of us own the Bible in both dimensions: at times we force scripture to reflect our personal prejudices or desires, and in other instances we permit it to feed the “better angels of our nature.”

You can find the full column at the Baptist Studies Bulletin.