Too Far Removed
The so-called historicity of the Bible questions the Bible’s acceptability as a history. Ever since the 17th century, when scholars first dared to criticize the validity of Biblical teaching, there has been conducted extensive research to verify whether the described events actually happened. Two schools of thought with opposite views emerged and created a maximalist-minimalist dichotomy that has long been seen as intractable (Klein, Blomberg & Hubbard, 2017). Biblical maximalists took a fundamentalist perspective toward the interpretation of the Scripture and claimed the historical accuracy of the accounts provided. Biblical minimalists, on the other hand, assume that the stories have an aetiological character. Both schools have a point, and it is possible to find a middle ground, namely, accept that there is no certainty that every story took place. Researchers have gathered a body of evidence on some of the described events. The rest does not lose its spiritual and historical significance and can still be highly educational.
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Following the minimalist approach, one can say that a devoted Christian who is committed to pursuing God can make use even of those parts of Scripture that lack archaeological evidence. That is not to say that such a person is in Christ because of his or her naivety. To such an individual, the historicity of a passage might not really matter because they are intelligent and conscientious enough to learn something on their own. The Bible, specifically the New Testament, describes people’s encounters with the Divine. Such encounters are not limited to those brought up in the Scripture. Each person is capable of creating an eventful relationship with Christ and, thus, draw their own evidence.
Despite the personal nature of the connection that a Christian builds with God, it cannot be said that he or she has the freedom to attribute whatever meaning they see fit to the Scripture. Many passages are relatable, and the reader can easily think of an event in their own life that reflects what is being taught. This does not mean that they have an understanding of the multilayered, multidimensional text that is the Holy Bible. Some parts of it only make sense if the reader is aware of the reality of the time when they were written (Hill, 2014). It is advised that Christians deepen their understanding by attending service and Bible study groups. There they can find the guidance they need to enhance their interpretation skills.
Reflection Journal Entry
Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (2014) provides an extensive set of tools to interpret the Scripture. One of the most compelling ideas that Fee and Stuart (2014) had to offer is that every reader is an interpreter of his or her own. It does not mean that their unique understanding of the Bible is correct. Reading the Bible is both a highly challenging and rewarding task, which makes a Christian a scholar and a philosopher in a way. Seeking exegetical meaning requires studying history, whereas applying hermeneutics means that the reader searches for ways in which the analyzed text could be relevant.
The book would be of great use in church and ministries. Many people who claim to be Christians abstain from Bible study due to their unwillingness or discouragement due to the complexity of the document. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth provides a comprehensive framework that even beginners could use in their journey with Christ. A good minister could guide and support them by igniting their curiosity and inspiring them to strengthen their commitment to God. At the same time, he or she could help their parish to avoid typical mistakes such as redefinition or personalizing.
Fee and Stuart (2014) also discuss how to interpret stories whose contents are not entirely clear. At some point, they conclude that “everything beyond affirmation is mere speculation (Fee & Stuart, 2014, p. 45).” This rule of thumb makes sense since inconsistencies in religious texts often leave out too much space for the readers to use them as they please. If the Church let Christians interpret passages freely, some people would try to abuse this right and manipulate others by claiming the righteousness of their understanding. No matter how confusing and disappointing it might be, Christians have to accept that some parts of the Holy Bible are lost in translation and that they are powerless in trying to make them complete.
While reading the book, it was reflected on the ways it was speculated about the meanings of some passages in the Bible. It appears that the main personal problem was that it was tended to decontextualize what it was being read. It was learned that many readers fail to realize that the Bible, both New and Old Testaments, is a Jewish book filled with Hebrew idioms. One of the ways that the Hebrew language allows its speakers to describe a person is by using the expression “son of…” Thus, when in John 8:44, Jesus tells an old Jew that he is of “[his] father the devil,” in no way does he assume that some people might be Satan’s descendants. Now that it is known about this particularity, it is possible to be more skilled at reading between the lines.
It was learned that the process of Biblical interpretation is far from chaotic. While the volume of the Scripture is genuinely overwhelming, each reader can ease the task with a step-by-step guide such as How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Another valuable idea that is agreed upon was that the reader should draw the line between engagement and personalizing. While reading the Bible requires devotion, it is futile to try and make each passage relatable. The book is exhaustively logical and well-written, and there is not much to disagree with. Probably its tone and the implication that the reader needs to abstain from attributing personal meanings could discourage some people. Fee and Stuart do not foster autonomy in the reader, which could be both their work’s strength and weakness.
Fee, G., & Stuart, D. (2014). How to read the Bible for all its worth (4th ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Hill, H. (2014). The Bible at cultural crossroads: From translation to communication. Abingdon-on-Thames, UK: Routledge.
Klein, W. W., Blomberg, C. L., & Hubbard Jr, R. L. (2017). Introduction to biblical interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.