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In a Nutshell... Thoughts from Rev. Zack
This week we are focusing on the Bible. It reveals to us the story of God and God's people throughout the ages. It helps us to see God at work in each of our stories still today. We had a rich discussion on Sunday about what the Bible is, where it came from, and what it means for us today. I have provided some notes and slides from our discussion below. Please feel free to reach out with any questions. - Zack
The Bible is not a singular book; it is a collection of 66 diverse books, written over the course of about 1,100 years between 1,000 B.C.E. and 100 C.E.
The Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) is the account of the Jewish People, the Israelites, and their journey with God. The common thread lies in a key verse, which Judaism refers to as the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." This statement proves to be significant, as Judaism uniquely became the largest and most prominent monotheistic religion in the world. Their scriptures revolve around what it means to know and follow this one God above all others.
The New Testament gives witness to the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, along with letters written to the early church.
The Bible contains many genres of literature, including:
Law (commandments and rules, such as the Ten Commandments, which shape the People of God)
Fiction or Myth (whimsical and mystical stories, such as Jonah in the belly of the whale)
Poetry and Song (such as the Psalms, the original hymnal of the Judeo-Christian tradition)
Parables (Short teachings using everyday symbols and metaphors, such as the story of the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son)
History (Such as Kings, Judges, or the Acts of the Apostle)
Prophecy (Books of the Prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and Amos)
The Bible is like the manger; it contains the Christ Child, but also a lot of straw. This is a paraphrase of Martin Luther. Not all scripture is created equal. Faithful and mature Christians should be discerning when assessing which biblical texts are essential and meant to be take as literal or authoritative.
As Christians, we believe the Bible is inspired by a perfect God, AND written by imperfect humans. The Bible taken as a whole is inspired by the Holy Spirit and tells a wonderful love story of God and God's people. However, it is not without the influence of flawed humans. This should always be taken into consideration, especially when reading passages which may seem to support violence, the degradation of women, or the promotion of slavery.
The Bible is not and was never intended to be a science textbook! This is clear from the beginning. Genesis 1 and 2 contain two very different creation accounts.
The Bible contains the written Word of God; Jesus Christ himself is the Living Word of God. The fulness of God's word cannot be experienced or encountered through the Bible alone, but through the opening of our hearts to the presence of Christ the Living Word, who is active and present within ourselves, within our neighbors, and in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are many versions. I recommend:
the New Revised Standard Version for serious study,
The New International Version or Common English Bible for casual reading, and
The Message paraphrase for a fresh take.
Each of these translations are available at www.biblegateway.com
Why Read the Bible?
Reminds us of our common family story
Reminds us our identity as beloved children of the Living God
Offers wisdom and guidance for holy living and comfort in times of need
Challenges us and the world to a better way (think MLK Jr.)
Ultimately, because God speaks to us in scripture and is present through the power of the Holy Spirit
Some Tips for How to Read the Bible
In Community - The Bible is meant to form us in community. By reading it together with our siblings in faith, we are able to discern how God is at work in the bigger picture of our lives together. We can also receive guidance and correction when our personal interpretations may be off base.
In Context - Recognizing the setting in which it was written, and where it is positioned within the whole of the Bible
With Curiosity - Jesus asked more questions than he gave answers. We should ask questions. Lots of questions. What genre is this passage? Who wrote it? When? What did it mean to the original hearers? What are the main themes? Etc...
With a Plan - Don't open up to a random page and put your finger on the first verse you find. Instead, have a plan that will help you to read the scriptures with purpose and devotion. I recommend the Our Bible App. It offers a full Bible in multiple versions, along with devotions, prayers, and reading plans from a highly diverse range of contributors and perspectives.
With Prayer - God is still speaking! Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you and open your heart and mind to God's Word before and after reading the Bible. Pray the words, "Here I am, Lord, send me," and ask God to reveal to you people and places in which you are called to share love and peace in the world. We don't read the Bible just for self-help. It should direct our hands and feet into loving action with and toward our neighbors.
https://biblegateway.com - Many Bible versions to read