On applying Tim’s not-reading to the Bible

I’ve been too busy today trying to incorporate dead and still living German scholars into my reading of Amos that I have not read my RSS feeds, but I took a few minutes out to Facebook, and saw Bill’s post “Y Jnny Cnt Rd d Bbl“. He mentioned my how not to read books (Thanks :) and also a Christianity Today article and Johnny Can’t Read the Bible. He discusses the interesting thought that clerical attempts to assist ploughboys [to borrow an idea apparently shared by Wycliffe, Tyndale and Luther among others] to become more biblically literate, may be by their nature self-defeating.

This caused me to reflect on how well my not reading advice works with the Bible (it is after all intended for not-reading modern academic and scholastic writing) sadly, or perhaps happily, it does not really work with the Bible. Or only to a limited extent… Clearly the start of the whole thing in Gen 1-3 is a big help, perhaps the end in Rev 21 also assists us… but looking the start and end of most books do not really help, and there is no table of contents provided, nor pictures or diagrammes :(

NZ is currently enjoying such an attempt, Bible Society New Zealand, Scripture Union and Wycliffe Bible Translators New Zealand are encouraging people to read 100 “essential” Bible passages. To which I (as the very model of a modern cleric) am offering 5 minute audio reflections.

In preparing these I have been reminded how interesting it is to compare the way the four Gospels each begin and end. The podcast of that 5 minute bible study will not appear for another month, so here’s a link to a special preview edition of the file ;)

5 comments on “On applying Tim’s not-reading to the Bible

  1. David Ker


  2. Bill

    Thanks for the thoughts, Tim. I agree the Bible is far more complicated in its organization than most academic books. Tyndale seemed to have this simplistic idea that putting things into a readable English translation would solve every problem.

    I’m in favor of focus on “essential passages” (whichever those may be). I just want us to find new ways of getting holistic with it all. For example, it’s common to insert outlines in study Bibles, but those outlines often take us away from wholeness and into minutiae. In some ways, the BibleMesh guys have the right idea. But what does it amount to? We’ll see.

    Meanwhile, I’ll keep on reconstructing chronological context, hoping that if we make that more solid, it’ll give us that overarching framework I feel might help (for the NT at least).

    1. tim

      Often knowing about the setting helps a lot, it seems to me a case where a little knowledge, at least applied in the humble understanding that it is little, is much better than none. On the “perspicuity” of Scripture, I imagine that what Tyndale and others meant was not that every part of Scripture is so easy that any fool could understand it fully on first reading, but rather that the overall sense of the whole of Scripture is so strong that only the wilfully ignorant (like the powerful) can miss it!

  3. Roger Driver-Burgess

    I think a part of our problem is the whole “5 min.” thing. We want to achieve a good grasp of the whole in as little time as possible. Fine with an academic tome which is largely irrelevant to everything and heavily padded in the first place, but with the sparsely written scriptures holding the hermeneutical key to life, the universe and everything..? It really needs a sustained discipline of ongoing, indepth reading. A life-time of dwelling within the word so that the word more fully dwells in us. And It needs to be corporate, not individual.

  4. Sayeth

    I thought you’d like to know – I’ve put up a review of Woman in White on my audiobook blog . Thank you so much for being the voice of Walter Hartright – I enjoyed him immensely.