No specific passage today, just some musings.
A couple of days ago I talked about the twelve year old Jesus in the Temple, the story of Samuel, and the importance of spotting obscure references in the Bible. In that sense it was about how a geeky characteristic can help us in studying scripture.
Well, today’s entry is along similar lines – not geeky as such, but arising from geek culture’s love affair with technology.
For centuries, we’ve read the Bible as a book. The stuff about the creation of the universe is at the start, the stuff about the end of the world is at the end, and everything’s in (broadly) chronological order. And so, when people pick up the Bible and decide to read it, they start at the beginning and often get discouraged when the family soap opera of Genesis gives way to Leviticus and its laws about mildew.
Now, there’s something to be said about the A-to-Z model – you get an idea of the sheer scope of the Bible, how God’s salvation plan progresses from a handful of people to a nation to a worldwide church. The story has a beginning, a middle and an end.
But there’s another way to read the Bible alongside this, one that has always been around but which is getting increasingly hardwired into us by technology, specifically the internet. So let’s take a moment to look at the Bible not as a book but as a blog.
It’s important to remember that while the Bible is a unified story, it’s not a unified book. It’s a collection of writings from a range of different authors, written across hundreds of years. Paul is a very different writer to the various Psalmists.
So in order to manoeuvre our way through this text – sorry, these texts – we can use some of the skills we use to navigate the blogosphere and the internet in general.
So Jesus was talking about an injured man ignored by religious leaders – hmm, why did they ignore him?
But wait, the story starts with a quote, what does that say in its original context?
Anyway, then a Samaritan comes along – wait, hasn’t Jesus talked about Samaritans before?
So that means loving others, right? What else does he have to say about that?
*Click Click Click*
You get the point. There’s something to be said for this networked model of looking at the Bible – it gives us a way to work through the mass of allusions, quotes and references that illuminate the story (and which aren’t always obvious when reading it through as a straight story).
Of course, anyone who’s ever got lost browsing through endless Wikipedia articles for hours can see the drawback of this model – not seeing the wood for the trees. That’s why I’d also recommend reading it as a narrative – the big story is what’s ultimately important, with the reference-surfing serving to add further meat to the bones. And all this needs to be supporting by prayer and an openness to God, because there’s a danger in Bible study simply becoming an intellectual exercise. Not that I have a problem with intellectual exercises but they’re not always the best path to spiritual formation.
And maybe, just maybe, there’s a project here for someone – an online Bible based around the blog model, with hyperlinks, images and everything else that makes the internet a great information repository. Online Bibles exist, sure – I’ve got one on my phone – but they’re still based around an ebook format. Maybe there’s room for someone to take it to the next level…