The Art of Reading Scripture

The Art of Reading Scripture

The Art of Reading Scripture

The Art of Reading Scripture


Written by a group of eminent scholars and teachers, The Art of Reading Scripture clearly restates the proper approach to and goal of reading Scripture. Chapters range from theological principles for understanding the Bible to studies of ways the Bible has been interpreted in the past to examples of good exegesis. Also included are several model sermons on the subject. Above all, The Art of Reading Scripture shows that the Bible is neither a mere historical curiosity nor a therapeutic self-help manual but, first and foremost, the story of God's gracious rescue of our lost and broken world.


A cartoon in the New Yorker shows a man making inquiry at the information counter of a large bookstore. The clerk, tapping on his keyboard and peering intently into the computer screen, replies, “The Bible?… That would be under self-help.”

As the cartoon suggests, in postmodern culture the Bible has no definite place, and citizens in a pluralistic, secular culture have trouble knowing what to make of it. If they pay any attention to it at all, they treat it as a consumer product, one more therapeutic option for rootless selves engaged in an endless quest of self-invention and self-improvement. Not surprisingly, this approach does not yield a very satisfactory reading of the Bible, for the Bible is not, in fact, about “self-help”; it is about God’s action to rescue a lost and broken world.

If we discount the story of God’s gracious action, what remains is decidedly nontherapeutic. We are left with a curious pastiche of ancient cultural constructions that might or might not be edifying for us, in the same way that the religious myths of any other ancient culture might or might not prove interesting or useful. Indeed, some postmodern readers have come to perceive the cultural alienness of the Bible and to find it dangerous and oppressive.

The difficulty of interpreting the Bible is felt not only in secular culture but also in the church at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Is the Bible authoritative for the faith and practice of the church? If so, in what way? What practices of reading offer the most appropriate approach to understanding the Bible? How does historical criticism illumine or obscure Scripture’s message? How are traditional readings to be brought into engagement

1. Cartoon by Peter Steiner, New Yorker, 6 July 1998, p. 33.

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