I am near the end of reading the entire Bible for the third time. Recently a good friend asked me why I was doing this. Good question!
Reading the Bible has become for me a spiritual discipline, something that I sorely lack. Beyond that, though, I believe that reading sacred scripture of any sort is to accept an invitation.
I don’t believe there is a correct interpretation to anything in the Bible. Rather I believe it is an opportunity for interaction with some profound spiritual ideas and experiences. Thus, for example, I find myself reflecting on forms of idolatry in my own life when reading about God’s amazing patience with the Jews. I find myself struck with the realization that we Catholics are far more connected to Judaism than I thought. I find that the Song of Solomon is first and foremost a beautiful erotic poem celebrating sexuality. I find that Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am?” is directed at me as well as at his disciples.
If I believe that someone else knows what the Bible means and I don’t, then I am practicing what Marcus Borg calls “secondhand religion”, i.e., “a way of being religious based on believing what one has heard from others.”(Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, p.87-8) This line of thinking applies to any form of sacred scripture. If you tell me what you think the Book of Job is about, I will listen and even learn something (as I did with Harold Kushner’s book The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happen to a Good Person). But if I then accede to the other person’s belief as “correct”, I may be missing the invitation.
Finally, reading the Bible has made me very skeptical of political agendas derived from any sacred scripture. Politicians as well as some religious leaders of any stripe pick and choose from scripture depending upon their agenda. Such self-serving manipulation of wisdom must be met with suspicion. And I have to say that anyone who claims to have the right interpretation of the Book of Revelation should especially be met with a raised eyebrow!
So pick up the Bible or the Torah or the Koran or any other form of sacred writing. Read it for yourself. See what interests you and what bores you. See what confuses you or what gives you hope. See what you think.
1. What are your own thoughts on the role of sacred scripture of any sort on your own spiritual journey?