Skip to main content

Reading the Bible in a strange land

I thought I would start by explicating (or unfolding) the subtitle of this blog a phrase at a time. This will create the 'mission statement' for the blog, so that anyone interested in what might follow will know roughly what to expect.

I live in New Zealand. It is a strange land to read the Bible in for two reasons.

First it is strange for me because I was born and raised in Britain, and New Zealand is a long way away. I still feel new here, although I have now adjusted to the different flavoured Marmite.

But more importantly it is strange for the Bible. The Bible was written in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek of thousands of years ago and in lands thousands of miles away. New Zealand has two official languages Te Reo Māori and English. New Zealand is also a 'developed' democratic nation with the technology, infrastructure, welfare state, and police services that go along with that. When the Bible talks about thirst, poverty, injustice, politics, or even worship, we have difficulty understanding what it could mean because our experiences are so different from those who wrote it. The Bible didn't make it to New Zealand until the 19th century, by which time it was already old, old, old.

When we read the Bible as if someone like us had written it, we are being careless and disrespectful. The Bible is an ancient and strange text, we need to treat it with respect, as an honoured guest. The other day I invited a Malaysian-Chinese family to our home for dinner. I had only recently met them. I knew I did not fully understand their culture, I had to work hard to see if they were comfortable or merely being polite. I had to constantly ask questions out loud and to myself. As host my concern was not that they would fit into my idea of a pleasant meal and conversation, but that I would fit into theirs.

The Bible is not 'my Bible' and it's not 'your Bible' either. If it really is God's word, then it is God's Bible and God is not much like you or me at all (Isaiah 55:8-9). When I read the Bible I must read it as a stranger, eager and careful to please my guest, not to conform the Bible to my idea of what it should be, but to be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).

Comments

  1. Mate
    Great to see you doing this . I was going to set one up and several have asked me to, but I will see how yours goes (i am sure it will be well).
    I look forward to contributing over the next year - especially in systematic theology.
    Kudos.

    ReplyDelete
  2. oi! we have 3 official languages; NZ sign language beacame an official language in April 2006.
    Other than that, a lovely idea to set up this blog. Very appreciated to get a re-run of Sunday's message too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jane, oops sorry. Didn't know. I will remember that :)
    Ant and Jane, I'm looking forward to both of your contributions, so dont forget to coment on the content as well as being nice to me :)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Addictive Power of End Times Speculation

The mighty Rhett Snell has picked up his blog again (I wonder how long he'll last this time), check out his theory on why people get so into annoyingly unbiblical end times nonsense.

I think that where codes-and-calendars end times theology is dangerous, is that it can give a sense of false growth. We read a theory online, or hear it from some bible teacher, and we come to think that we have mastered an area of our faith. A bit like levelling up in a computer game, or Popeye after he’s eaten some spinach. At worst, we begin to believe that we’ve taken a step that other Christians have not; that we’ve entered an elite class of Christianity.

The false link between suicide and mental illness

One characteristic of human society is the tendency to keep doing something over and over again despite it not working. One example would be our approach to incarcerating criminals to punish them instead of rehabilitating them, compounding their trauma and making it harder for them to live productive law-abiding lives when they get out. But this is the "common-sense" approach, the intuitive human response to the failings of others, punish them and they wont dare do it again. It has never worked, ever, but let's keep doing it. Secular society is screwed because it cannot comprehend that its vision is blurred by sin and therefore knee-jerk, common sense solutions are usually destructive and counter-productive.

So it is with our response to suicide. To kill yourself must be the response of the weak minded and sick - so the thinking goes - so to combat rising suicide we treat individuals medically. Yet suicide is a perfectly rational response to a world as broken as ours and…

Wars and Rumours of Wars

I write in the morning after the USA 2016 Elections, which featured the historic election of Donald Trump. Apart from my personal interested as a resident of planet Earth at this time, it is interesting to note some of the apocalyptic language emerging in discussions of what this means. Even archaeologists are turning to the medium of prophecy. Hear the word of Tobias Stone,
So I feel it’s all inevitable. I don’t know what it will be, but we are entering a bad phase. It will be unpleasant for those living through it, maybe even will unravel into being hellish and beyond imagination. Humans will come out the other side, recover and move on.  Stone suggests that future historians will be able to draw clear lines from Brexit to Trump to the 3rd World War, or something equally bad. Mind you, just because historians can draw those lines doesn't mean they are here.

Then there is the word of Thom Hartman who is more interested in the domestic fallout than the fallout shelter. 
The last …