On Reading the Bible Again

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?

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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4 Responses to On Reading the Bible Again

  1. Since I was raised (force fed) on a literal interpretation of the bible as a child, it has been extremely helpful to me to read the books of the bible that were excluded by the institutional church. I love the Gnostic Gospels and other excluded books which I believe shed tremendous light on the deeper message of Jesus and others. These sacred texts are remarkably expansive and paint the Christian tradition with much broader and richer brush strokes.

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  2. mulchmantrc@aol.com says:

    my hat’s off to you old timer — when we hung out together jonny carson did the trick

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  3. Susan Bass says:

    Ah yes, spiritual discipline. I seem to remember a mentor once telling me, “Self discipline is not supposed to be fun”. I do need to work on this. May or may not be by reading the Bible. I do need to pass this spiritual discipline concept on to my son as life is many times harder without a spiritual component. Another of my mentors could be seen reading her spiritual notes every single evening that I knew her since 1975 (never missed a day) and probably long before I knew her. She always said, “Dios me ayuda mucho” (God helps me a lot). I believe it.

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  4. Michele says:

    I like your analogy Rich that reading the Bible is an invitation. I have read it several times and am following a year long Bible reading plan again this year. So I do not lack the discipline to READ the Bible, but I do lack the discipline to meditate on what I’ve read. I often find myself reading but not paying attention to what I’ve just read. I will go a few lines and realize that I was thinking of something else while I multi-tasked with my brain. This “realization” is where the real miracle happens. I stop immediately when I realize I am drifting and re-read what I just missed. Always it was something personal that God wanted me to know and the enemy, or just my stubborn self-centeredness, wanted me to skip past it and miss the blessing. I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit has a loud voice and yells at me to get my attention when I am passing up my invitation to hear from God. This time through the Bible, I am working hard to follow Pastor Charles Stanley’s advice to meditate on what I’ve just read – to be still and listen to what God is saying to me with His Word. As always, God bless you Rich for sharing your journey and stirring me to contemplation.

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