Friday, December 15, 2006

Training in how to read the Bible

Excellent stuff from Alastair:

If I were to construct a course, training students to be biblical scholars, I would go out of my way to avoid critical theories for at least the first two years. During that period I would expect my students to read the biblical text from cover to cover four times, at the very least. I would expect them to learn at least a dozen passages of ten verses or more by heart and at least a dozen important psalms. I would expect them to be able to pass challenging comprehension tests on their reading. I would get them to express the arguments of books such as Romans in their own words from memory. I would get them to sing psalms and would expect them to participate regularly in worship.

I would teach them methods of biblical reading before I ever began to teach them critical methods. For example, I would teach them lectio divina and would expect them to have a good knowledge of various church’s lectionaries and the manner in which they shape biblical reading and the reader of the Bible himself. I would get them to think critically about the way in which they read, teaching them to be critical of their own posture towards the text before they ever learn to be critical of the text itself. They would be expected to have some knowledge of the relationship between modes of engagement with the Scripture and theology and to have thought about the way that technology moulds our relationship with Scripture. Later in the course, they would be taught such things as the art of public Bible reading.

After this extensive and intensive training in the art of biblical reading I would hope that my students were sensitive, attentive and receptive readers of the biblical text. At this stage I would expose them to the biblical critics and train them to read them sensitively also. Delaying this exposure to the biblical critics by a few years would, I believe, do the field of biblical scholarship a world of good. I have no problem with reading biblical scholars and critics, but I believe that there is something very seriously wrong when the training of such students focuses on the reading of biblical critics and scholars to the neglect of the ability to read the actual biblical text well.

I couldn't claim to have read the Bible from cover to cover four times(!) - once was enough...

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