Part of the hotly contested landscape of Western Christianity today is the Bible. How do we use this, read this and make the claims about it that our parents and grandparents did?
The widening definition of “evangelical” means different people that consider themselves theologically conservative are reading the scriptures in different ways. In “The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book” author and teacher Timothy Beal offers his own personal thoughts about using the Bible told from the story of his own faith journey.
I appreciated his writing because he tells a story of someone who struggled and wrestled with how culture has read and used the Bible over time, and focused on the last thirty or so years. Always interpreted in context, the Scripture means specific things to specific cultures.
To quote Beal;
“The Bible creates community by providing space for community to happen. It offers storied worlds and theological vocabulary around which people can come together in conversation about abiding questions. It calls for creative, collaborative participation...In its many voices, perspectives, and contradictions, it both embraces the diversity of voices among us and provides a context in which we can affirm unity within that diversity-not by agreeing about what it means but by joining in the creative, meaning-making process of interpretation that it hosts.”
Beal gives great information about the power of the publishing world and how scripture sometimes gets a modification in order to function better in the marketplace. Beal also looks at the affect publishing has had in the last 500 years regarding how people read the Bible.
Ultimately, Beal writes about what it means to believe the book and believe it deeply while understanding the human involvement in its process. He does this without discounting commitment to the word of God. While we wrestle with questions over authorship, redaction and narrative it is easy to simply give up on keeping the Holy in Bible. Beal carefully explains how our views function in sacred time and action.
If you are interested in scripture and how it is read, I recommend this book.