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