Reading the Bible as Literature

John Meunier over at Come to the waters has a great post entitled, ‘Don’t Let English Majors Read the Bible‘. He has been musing a fair amount lately about reading scripture and he offers a unique perspective as he is an English major. I might not say things exactly the way he does. I think it is the story of what God has done in humanity’s history (not like a history book as we think of it) and not simply a story as God would have it (though John’s right in seeing some of this in there). But, I think the whole force of his thoughts challenge us to read the story as narrative rather than a rule book, a summary of some basic truths (or even a book that says some true things), or a science textbook. I like his phrase, ‘a book full of imagination and memory.’ That may at once sound like an oxymoron, but I believe captures what the bible is to do to us when we submit to it. The bible shares with us the story that has formed us, while at the same time calling us to re-imagine the world as God sees it. Richard B. Hays (also an English major as well as a New Testament professor) uses ‘imagination’ to say this is what Paul is calling us to in his epistles (The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul As Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture).

At most, this is a challenge to stop reading the bible through the lens of that awful acronym that I wish could be burned at the stake of bad theology: B.I.B.L.E = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.


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