I developed this single page overview handout for an eight week adult discipleship class on (click the title to download) “Reading the Bible as Scripture.” It was inspired by a book written by Joel B. Green. The book is called, “Seized by Truth: Reading the Bible as Scripture.” Like many pastors I have read so many books on hermeneutics and bible interpretation that I’ve lost count. Some of them simply seem like yet another reworking of similar themes, packed in new paradigms but with the same values and nothing really fresh to offer. Green’s book was a happy exception to that rule (more on that below). This handout summarizes the two main parts of Greens book: Reading the Bible as Scripture & reading the Bible in its many contexts. The first four aspects of reading the Bible as Scripture (Ecclesially Located, Theologically Fashioned, Critically Engaged, Spirit-imbued) can be divided into four one-hour long conversations. Placing them first in the course puts the emphasis upon reading the Bible as Scripture before any discussion of how to read it in context begins. This should help the class feel less like a “how to” course (we never master Scripture, God masters us through the Spirit with it). The second four weeks are spent on the four contexts we read scripture within: Text, Cotext, Context (social, historical, cultural), and Intertext. (There is enough in each of these subdivisions that this eight week course could easily be changed into a 16 week course. This single page overview will likely need to be reworked and simplified to fit your audience, I stuck closely to Greens terms and wording so keep that in mind).
The reading level of Green’s book, “Seized by Truth,” was hard for me to tack down at first. The layout of the book, along with the absence of original languages and footnotes, leaves the reader with the impression that he was aiming at a college level non-seminary trained audience (I still think he was); nevertheless the content of the book exhibited several technical terms throughout it and sections of it supposed familiarity with other books on hermeneutics and bible interpretation which made it feel better suited for seminary trained pastors. That criticism aside I still think it is a very accessible book, well written, and easy to follow.
One of the many things I appreciated about Green’s book was the amount of attention he gave to encouraging and arguing that the Bible is meant to be read as Scripture. That it is meant to be obeyed and to transform those who read it. Scripture is not merely an ancient text to be critically studied, but a living text to be counter-engaged by. Another thing I appreciated was Green’s critical realist approach to the role our assumptions play in our interpretation of scripture.
I recommend Joel B. Greens book to pastors considering creating series on reading the Bible as Scripture and I offer this handout to you with hopes to hear your criticisms and suggestions for how to improve it (just remember its meant to accompany an eight week class, not replace it).