How Jesus Read Scripture
For many years, I wrestled with a way to help growing Christians read Scripture. I taught and practiced methods known as “form criticism” or—later and more helpfully—a tool called “redaction criticism.” I used these methods in my teaching and preaching, but with no desire to be confrontational or always “right.” I was helped along the way by such writers as Neill Hamilton, Brian McClaren, and Marcus Borg. But nothing seemed to connect and stick. I knew what I believed and wanted to communicate, but my passion and convictions about this—while (mostly) received appreciatively—did not seem to take hold.
Recently, I read a very helpful meditation from a Roman Catholic Franciscan writer and teacher named Richard Rohr. His simple advice: read the Scriptures like Jesus read them!
Here are his words:
…we have no consistency or authority in our interpretation of the Bible. My methodology is very simple; I will try to interpret Scripture the way that Jesus did.
Jesus taught us how to see, what to emphasize, and also what could be de-emphasized, or even ignored. Jesus was …in no way a fundamentalist or literalist. He was a man of the Spirit. Just watch him and watch how he does it…
Jesus consistently ignored or even denied exclusionary, punitive, and triumphalistic texts in his own Jewish Bible in favor of texts that emphasized inclusion, mercy, and justice for the oppressed. He had a deeper and wider eye that knew what passages were creating a highway for God and which passages were merely cultural, self-serving, and legalistic additions. When Christians state that every line in the Bible is of equal importance and inspiration, they are being very unlike Jesus . . . .
Jesus read the inspired text in an inspired way, which is precisely why he was accused of “teaching with authority and not like our scribes” (Matthew 7:29).
I really like that way of seeing and thinking about the Bible. And I have a hunch that a lot of bickering and wrangling in the church would cease altogether if we received and understood Jesus and the Bible in this way.
I invite you to read Father Rohr’s passage several times. Then start reading the sacred texts with a new eye and mind and heart.