Let the Bible into Your Life: How to Make Bible Study Meaningful
I asked Lynne Bundesen to talk about her experience studying the Bible. She shared how we can study it so that it comes alive to us, individually.
The best thing to do is to read the Bible for yourself with good research tools. To really own it and be owned by it requires you to read it for yourself, by yourself, so that you can grasp something that speaks to you outside of any religious pool or denomination. It's just you and the words.
Let the words speak to you. To hear, receive, accept, and identify with a Bible story or phrase is to be born again. But it's not a one-time event; it's not a theological system. Being born again is incorporating the Word into your experience and allowing the Word to incorporate you into Its experience.
So often we can read something and love it. But what does it really mean when we say, "I love that verse or story"? Does it mean that this idea works for my friends or me, and so you should like it, too? That's fine, but it's derivative. It's not the same as the Word swallowing us up. What we're all longing for is our own authentic experience, which happens when the Word incorporates us in to its own rhythm, majesty, and narrative, and your breath is taken away, and you are born again.
Now, what constitutes a good research tool is different for everyone. One research guide that everyone should have is a Strong's Concordance in book form. It's online, but there's nothing like looking up the info in a book. You have to love Strong, who devoted his entire life to this work. Having the Hebrew and Greek words is indispensible to solid research.
Right now, I'm studying John's Gospel in Greek, taking it sentence-by-sentence, word-by-word. We read, "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1), which we know is Logos and Principle. But in the Greek, there's a rhythm to the syntax. The sentences are not declarative; rather, they present a process, which gives a whole new meaning. The words speak to you and identify with you.
I also like Robert Alter's work. He's a professor of Hebrew studies and literature at UCSB. Frank Kermode is another writer I like. I'm always interested in finding out what people who read and write Hebrew fluently think. I'm just getting into the Greek. Marchette Chute is very readable. She writes in a way that makes you feel a lot cozier with the Bible.
I'm also a big fan of having more than one translation of the Bible. It helps clarify meaning and provides much more opportunity for fresh insight. Varying translations prompt us to see the Word as living, individual, and we spare ourselves getting stuck. While I would be content with The King James Version alone, I find so much inspiration and humor in The Jewish Publication Society translation of The Hebrew Bible and in Eugene Petersen's The Message. I also am fond of The Bible: An American Translation published by The University of Chicago Press in the 1930s. Of course, now all these translations are online, with study tools and translations back to the Hebrew and Aramaic. It's a feast of soul for those who love the Bible.
Lynne Bundensen, Santa Fe, NM