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Bible Reading for the Biblically Illiterate - And We're All Illiterate! (Part 5)

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The Great Pattern


The Old Testament
Walter Brueggemann has noted a “lexicon” of verbs typically connected with YHWH’s actions of liberating grace:


-Yahweh brings out
-Yahweh delivers
-Yahweh redeems
-Yahweh brings up[1]


The exodus from Egypt is the paradigm case of YHWH’s liberation. It’s a pattern deeply inscribed in the Bible. Its formative impact is seen in its rehearsal annually at the Passover festival. And they celebrated an event that did not merely happen “then and there” in its history. On the contrary, the community saw themselves within the Story and believed it happened to “us.” This was the formative story of their lives, not just those of their forebears. Listen carefully to the creed they used:


“My father was wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor. Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our Fathers … So the L…

Bible Reading for the Biblically Illiterate - And We're All Illiterate! (Part 4)

4. The Big Picture



“The whole sweep of Scripture” N. T. Wright


Between God’s purpose inaugurated in Eden and fulfilled in the New Jerusalem the whole thing nearly falls apart. Would have fallen apart but for God’s intransigent unwillingness to accept that state of affairs. After Adam and Eve’s defection from God in the garden in Genesis 3 the plan God intended to pursue became infinitely complex and complicated. God’s passion to draw near to humankind and share his life with them forever on this globe now had to deal with this crisis. Jesus was always going to come in human flesh to be part of us as one of us – I mean, how much closer can God draw to us than that? Now his coming will need to include a resolution to the problem sin has infected both creature and creation alike with.
Thus we have Genesis 3 – Revelation 20 in our Bibles.
How can we read in a way that keeps us focused both on God’s work to resolve the sin problem and further the fulfillment of his “big picture” purposes? Fort…

Bible Reading for the Biblically Illiterate - And We're All Illiterate! (Part 3)

3. From End to Beginning

You can’t read the story right unless you know where it is going. Our school teachers may have warned us against reading the end of the story first to avoid having to read the rest of it. None of us want to read the end of a mystery first. That destroys the pleasure of reading it through and trying to figure out the ending. Yet even if we heed this warning, once we have read the end and see how things work out, the rest of the story makes better, deeper sense and we recognize some of what we missed along the way that that becomes clear at the end.
The Bible can be read from beginning to end. However, without knowing the end of the story, it is easy for us to be misled by other factors that impact and shape the way we think into misreading it. We’ll look at some of that distorting influence here and more on it in ch.6 on Filters).
I propose them we start from the end, the every last vision of the Bible found in Revelation 21-22. John the Seer beholds a new creatio…

Bible Reading for the Biblically Illiterate - And We're All Illiterate (Part 2)

What is the Bible?
Barth’s question of the nature of the Bible is critical and misunderstanding here leads to confusion all the way down the line. A symphony is my image for what the Bible is doing. Three further images help me to think through how the Bible works (or does not work) – a window, a mirror, and a stained glass art.[1] These images capture the three primary ways readers approach the Bible and picture the expectations they bring to their reading.
The Bible as Symphony
The Bible is one long sprawling story.  It tells this story through many authors, most of them unknown. Further editors shaped the Bible into its final form. It contains many genres and styles of writing. Different views are found in its pages, due largely to the vast span of time the Bible covers. Ample diversity of form and thought must be factored into any viable view of the Bible.
On the other hand, the Bible is not a mere miscellany of religious literature. Some style the Bible as a library which fosters thi…