Michael Pahl on Reading the Bible Better

It’s tempting to read the Bible as an aloof, metaphysical text untethered from a historical reality. But the various writings that make up the Bible were written by very real people in very specific historical circumstances. While it is true that in many instances we have no idea who wrote these texts and, in a few cases, no idea when they were written, we nevertheless can be certain that someone did at some point in time. Our reading of the Bible should reflect this; we should appreciate historical readings of the Bible. But how do we do this?

In a recent blog post, Michael Pahl offers five ways to do just that. In “Five Simple Hacks to Revolutionize Your Bible Reading,” he offers his audience – primarily Christian – a way to get more out their reading of these ancient texts that I think even those who do not believe in God or Christian can benefit from. They are

  1. Read “Jesus” as “Jesus of Nazareth,” thereby contextualizing him.
  2. Read “Christ” as “Messiah,” establishing the Jewishness of the position Jesus-followers believe he held.
  3. Read “kingdom of God” and “salvation” as “God’s reign of justice and peace and life.”
  4. Read “faith” as “devotion” or “allegiance,” since pistis means something closer to “faithfulness” than it does belief.
  5. Read “love” as “Jesus’ way of love.”

That last one is not as helpful as the rest, in my opinion. But then, I’m not a Christian trying to understand these texts through the lens of Jesus. In the end, it matters little.

I think if we take heed of these five “hacks,” we’ll learn to read the Bible better, or at least the New Testament!

3 thoughts on “Michael Pahl on Reading the Bible Better

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  1. I like this list overall, and I get what he’s trying to do in #3. My quibble with it is that defining kingdom of God in that way still leaves it a little ambiguous and spiritual. It does bring the “king” element back to kingdom and also defines the characteristics that make the coming of that kingdom good news, but the NT expectation is an actual political kingdom on the earth. I don’t have a better idea for a phrase that doesn’t get ridiculously long.

    In the same way, “salvation” is God saving his people from their actual historical circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree. When I translate ‘hē basileia tou theou’ I render it as “the reign of God” since I think “kingdom” places too much emphasis on geographic borders and not on a true political entity with a king at its head.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a good thought as well and several evangelicals who are a little more “with it” in terms of the Bible’s historical context are going that route.

        My main thing is we misunderstand the concept if we make it something generic and spiritual – as if Christianity today (the phenomenon, not the magazine) is “the kingdom of God” in the sense that Jesus envisioned it because of the spiritual rule of Jesus over his followers or what have you. God always ruled His people in this way throughout the OT. Jesus (and Paul) are not looking for a day when individual followers will worship God or obey Jesus; they’re expecting an actual kingdom in the same sense that anyone would have thought about a kingdom.

        Liked by 1 person

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