The Bible: A Text in Travail
Finding the Golden Thread
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
The Bible is an anthology of many books. We Christians believe they are inspired; that is, we trust that the Spirit was guiding the listening and writing of the Bible, even though, like all things human, “through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). If we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit as we read, we can come to see that there is a development of crucial divine wisdom inside this anthology of books. There is indeed a golden thread tying it all together. Woven throughout the Bible are what I called “the great themes of Scripture” in my very first cassettes in 1973. If you do not discern the great themes, you will confuse individual trees for the great big forest. You will cut the golden thread into disconnected strands and tie it into impossible knots.
It is vital to realize that no single passage of the Bible can be taken in isolation from the others. In one sense, the first books of the Bible were not completed until the last book was written. Each book has to be read in the context of all the others to be properly understood. If we do not do that, we inevitably sink into fundamentalism, basing far too much on single phrases and isolated sentences. Almost every church has done this to prove its preferred points. The fact is, if we simply go searching after “proof texts,” we can assert anything we want from the Scriptures. In order to interpret each passage properly, the whole trajectory of the Bible must be honored. And surely this takes time, study, and experience. Heady seminarians (soon to be ministers) who have not yet loved or lost are hardly the best interpreters.
Franciscan theology teaches us that love must precede knowledge. We truly know only that which we also love. When we stand back analyzing and coolly calculating things, we will normally distort their meaning to serve our small egoic purposes. It is only in stepping beyond and outside ourselves and allowing another person (or text) to change us that authentic and new revelation can happen. Otherwise all that gets in is what we already agree with, and all growth stops. Overly defended people do not change, grow, or “realize” anything that does not confirm their illusions. What a terrible recipe for death!
Either you allow Holy Scriptures to change you, or you will normally try to use it to change—and clobber—other people. It is the height of idolatry to use the supposed Word of God so that my small self can be in control and be right. But I am afraid this has been more the norm than the exception in the use of the Bible.
Gateway to Silence:
Seeing with eyes of love