It constantly amazes me that so many people who believe the Bible never read it. My undergraduate students (to this day) have read the Harry Potter books. But when I ask if they have read the entire Bible, the answer is almost always no. And yet most of them will say the Bible comes from God. So I ask them: “I can understand why you’d want to read a book by J. K. Rowling, but if GOD wrote a book wouldn’t you want to see what he had to say?”
My puzzlement is old news to long-term blog members – I’ve talked about it before. But here’s something else that I find puzzling: Why do people who do read the Bible read it in such an unusual way?
If I want to read a short story by Mark Twain, O. Henry, or (to pick one of my modern favorites) William Trevor, I do so after having some idea of where he was from and when he was writing, and then I start with the first word on the first page and read straight through, either at one sitting or in stages, depending on the length, up to the end.
Why don’t most people read the Bible like that? Here we have a collection of sixty-six writings, most by different authors, though some wrote more than one. Why not read these individual books the way we read books?
It’s no wonder that people come away with almost no understanding of what’s actually in the Bible–for example, what the book of Amos is actually about, or Judges, or Mark, or Romans. They don’t read the books that way and they don’t usually care about who the author was, when he was writing, what circumstances he was facing, how he structures his book, what its main and repeated ideas are, how it flows from one passage to the next, and what, in the end, its actual point is.
Instead, most people who read the Bible approach it in ways they never *ever* would with any other book. Presumably it’s precisely because they believe this is one big book. I’ll be addressing that issue at the end of this post.
For now, I want to point out two of the common ways that people read the Bible. (This is on my mind because of my study of Revelation, which almost everyone misreads in part because they don’t actually read it when they read it. I’ll explain.)
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