Reading the Bible in the 21st century is a dynamic experience that requires us to imagine the lives and worldviews of people living thousands of years ago and, for most of us, in another part of the world. Cultural, theological, and linguistic differences between our world and theirs present challenges to understanding these texts and figuring out how the stories those people told might be relevant to our lives.
To interpret the Bible faithfully, there are two contexts that must always be kept in mind: the ancient context of the passage, and our own context as modern readers. These two contexts constantly interact with each other during the reading process, and any attempt to ignore one or the other leads to trouble. If we ignore the ancient context of these documents, we disconnect them from the world that gives them meaning. We may also end up with a Bible that reflects our own image, since we will simply accept what fits with our own culture and reject the rest. On the other hand, if we focus only on the ancient context and not at all on our own, then we end up with an oppressive Bible that imposes its ancient realities and values on our very different lives today.
To read the Bible faithfully, then, it is necessary to live in the interaction between these contexts, which often means living with tension and uncertainty. That’s the beautiful adventure of reading the Bible–the interesting, inspiring, illuminating, and sometimes messy interaction between the ancient world and our own.
Exploring the literary setting, historical context, and original languages of biblical texts helps us dive into the interaction between the Bible’s context and our own. There has been a wealth of scholarship through the centuries that helps us with that exploration, but most of it is largely inaccessible to the average church member. One of the goals of this blog is to bridge that gap, making excellent biblical scholarship available to interested laity. While this site is designed primarily with lay church attenders in mind, church professionals and non-church people are also welcome here. I hope you’ll join the conversation.