The $70 million mistake
In this series, "Lost in Translation(s)" we're going to talk a lot about the Bible. But it can be a different exercise altogether to consider what the Bible has to say about...well, the Bible.
The letter to the Hebrews begins (1:1-4) by reorienting the original Jewish audience to the person of Jesus. The author of the letter makes it clear that Jesus was and is the new "lens" through which all other scripture should be understood.
So, what does the nature of Jesus as superior to angels have to do with how we read the Bible? It's a reminder that any audience must come to terms with their intrinsic biases in order to understand what they're hearing or reading. The Jewish audience of this letter would have taken certain theological realities as given, so the author of the letter had to raise their awareness of that bias and reorient them in a new direction.
It's not that a listener is unwilling to hear. Sort of like the game of "Telephone" (when no one is cheating, that is). As the message gets around the room, it inevitably changes, not because of an unwillingness, but because of the natural cognitive gap between speaker and listener.
Here are four realities that influence our perspectives in life, and certainly in the way we read the Bible. Understanding them and learning to adjust them can narrow that cognitive gap and help us humbly develop a broader understanding of the Bible.
1) Social Location
- Whether we like it or not, we all inherit biases that we don't automatically think to analyze. A fish doesn't really understand the water it's swimming in, after all. Our inherited biases are influenced by our history, family, culture, ethnicity, language, and even our physical existence like our degree of health.
- A good example of this is the way we read a familiar story, like the parable of the "Prodigal Son." People who have had a personal experience of famine might notice Luke 15:14 more readily than those who haven't.
- The way we automatically see the world (our "worldview") is also the reality we map onto what we read. If we attend church in a heated building, we may presuppose that it would be odd for people to come to church in winter coats, because they meet in a place without climate control.
3) Blind Spots
- Our social location and presuppositions also mean there are realities about our world which we naturally miss, or are "blind" to. For example, people who can walk can easily overlook that a particular place isn't ADA compliant...until someone else points it out.
- If we don't learn to recognize our blind spots and remain open to seeing new things, our blind spots can have powerful repercussions (usually harmful) for how we interpret and apply scripture.
- Finally, the natural outworking of #1-3, if unattended, is individualism. If we ignore our social location, our presuppositions, and our blind spots, we all too easily give in to the tendency to read the Bible as though our own perspective it the only perspective that matters.
So as we continue to explore how we read the Bible, let's consider the possibility of cultivating a "Community Hermeneutic" wherein we learn to read the Bible in collaboration with other sisters and brothers who love the Lord, but who have unique perspectives that help us develop a much more thorough and well-rounded sense of what God is communicating with us. When we remain open in this way, Jesus is there.
1) Take a moment to describe as many features of your "social location" as possible.
2) What sorts of presuppositions do you bring to the Bible? Remember, the only wrong answer is "none."
3) Have you ever realized any of your blind spots? About the Bible, or anything else? What was that experience like?
4) Do you have a place where you can read the Bible in community (small group, family devotional, other?) If not, do you know where you can look to find or create a community like that?
Thanks, Mike. This is my new Monday habit :) Kathy
Glad to hear it, Kathy!
Can we get to this blog through the App?
Good question John. I'll look into that this week. Glad to see you visited!
I always appreciate this! Any chance we can still get a link sent to our email each Monday?
Good question, Pam. I'm hoping so; we're looking into it with our website people. I'm glad you're using the blog!