Today in the morning after waking up, a common song I used to sing in Sunday school lingered in my mind;
Read your Bible,
Pray every day, Pray every day.
Read Your Bible,
Pray every day, if you wan’t to grow…!
The thoughts of the song came as a reflection of the many things I had read in the last few weeks on a must read book for all, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.
I know that we all read the Bible, but we wonder why we read the same Word but we get a hundred and one interpretations of the texts. These interpretations has led to birth of many religious cults and denominations!
I am therefore compelled to share few insights I got from this book;
First, the authors in their first two chapters of this book, “Introduction: The need to interpret” and “The Basic tool: A good translation,” makes it clear that every reader is an interpreter. Am sure that you are also trying to interpret my message here!
Additionally, the authors reminds us that the translation of the Bible, whichever translation we use, is our beginning point but is in fact the end result of much scholarly work. A fact that many do not recognize and especially with the ongoing discussions in social media today on a certain Bible translation.
The authors also introduces two key words to all Bible readers, Exegesis and Hermeneutics. The authors note that the Word of God was first written to “those” living in period of between 1600 years, then to us living today.
In emphasis, Gordon and Stuart tells us that God’s Word to us is to be found first in his Word to them and thus the need to understand what was said to them, Then and There (Exegesis) and need to learn to hear the same Word in the Here and Now (Hermeneutics).
The book puts an emphasis that a text cannot mean what it never meant to its initial audience or readers. Though there is much difference between first century and the twenty first century, the meaning of the Bible text is one and remains the same.
The duo in the subsequent chapters stresses on reading the Bible texts carefully and putting them in the right historical and literary context. Context, as they articulates, majors with time and culture of the author and the purpose of the book and its parts.
To help us understand the Bible context, we need to read Bible dictionaries, commentaries and handbooks.
I was stunned by realizing that, “To make a text mean something God did not intend is to abuse the text, not to use it!” After reading this, I paused and repented for many times that I have abused the text rather than using it. I saw the need of being faithful to the Bible texts.
Interestingly, the book emphasizes the need of reading the books of the Bible in one reading or sitting, if it is possible. This helps us as readers to form informed reconstruction of situation the author is speaking to in the book. During this sitting, one is able to easily identify the authors attitude, the recipient, specific things mentioned and book’s divisions.
In addition, Gordon and Stuart points out several errors of interpretation when reading the Bible that has led to major divisions in the church today. Among them are allegorizing, decontextualizing, selectivity, moralizing, personalizing among many others.
In conclusion, the duo advises that one should not start Bible study with use of a commentary. They counsel us, “You go to commentary after you have done your work. Commentary helps you answer questions you raise during your study”
I urge all of us to read our Bibles for all its worth, for the Word of God is living and active, Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)
By: Kenneth Irungu
iServe Africa Apprentice 2015/16