Friday, April 27, 2007

Why people read scripture - - an excerpt

I'm quoting from someone else.
"a paper at the Yale conference in February in which I argued that the reason that most people don’t read the works of Biblical scholars (LDS or otherwise) is that most people don’t read scripture in order to understand what scripture says; most people read scripture in order to interpret it in light of their own experience or to have a revelatory moment with God. Actually understanding the original intended meaning of the words is secondary to this personal divine experience and it is possibly entirely unnecessary to having this experience. This explains, I think, why most scripture readers don’t seek the original meaning"

People read scripture in order to have a personal divine experience, as a path to connecting with God. Given the audience to whom most scriptures were addressed and the vagaries of time, scripture is a Rorschach inkblot or a dark glass through which we look.

The essayist catches that very well. But that is what scripture is, else how does it remain relevant and speak to us now if it is not really a medium that is spoken through. We read scripture not so much for what it says, but for what God says to us through it.

3 comments:

Doc said...

Stephen,
Thank you for a wonderful insight. I have begun to tire of the incessant exegesis in certain circles of the bloggernacle. It is nice to have a little reminder of where the real meat of the gospel is.

Stephen said...

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to have a written canon in a world where everyone reads. Why narratives are important (without buying into the theory that everything is a narrative), what scriptures mean if they are verbal instants frozen in time and transmitted to us with the frailties of our language and why we have them.

I'm convinced that the conclusions I reached as a late teen, that the scriptures are a tuning fork more than anything else, those conclusions are right for the vast majority of those who read and study the scriptures.

Thanks for your input Doc.

Barb said...

I think on so many subjects including religion. And yet, I find that when I read the scriptures that I am not very engaged in wanting to know the deeper meaning or even much of the surface meaning.

I have had times when the Scriptures really speak to me and my life. They have been an inspirtation to me. I am possessive of the scriptures that have touched me at times or that have stood out to me. When someone quotes that scripture, it is like they are quoting my scripture!

As Joseph Smith said, there are so many people who interpret the same Scripture so differently as to make it impossible to settle any dispute in religion by going to the Bible alone as authority.

I do wish that I could read the scriptures with a more scholarly mindset though with a lot of background knowledge in Middle East History and Judaism etc. It would be even better if I could read the ancient languages.

I do think we have to have discipline to read the Bible as we are not always so blessed to feel like we are receiving personal revelation. I think the limited quanity of those personal experiences in reading the scriptures in a meaningful way makes the times that the words go into my heart all the more special.