The whole Bible

You shouldn’t study the Bible without studying about the Bible as well.

In case that sounds repetitive, let me explain. To study the Bible is to learn its message and meaning. You may memorize passages and stories to do that. Studying the Bible helps you learn from words shared for thousands of years. 

Studying about the Bible serves the same purpose, learning from scripture, but it does so in a different way. We’re used to talking about studying the Bible. So, let’s consider studying about the Bible.

The Bible did not fall into place, and we have not always had the Bible. There is much to learn about how it came to be.

In one sense, the church compiled the Bible to serve as its moral compass and guide. That makes sense and sounds like something you would expect the church to do. In another sense, the church compiled the Bible as we know it to ward off heretics. Controversy surrounded the process of reflection.

I suppose that’s more true than we realize about anything worthwhile. Tough decisions we can look back on today that seem obvious and faithful now often had much strife, bickering and bitter arguments in the moment.

Marcionism was a heresy denounced in the second century. As far as we can tell, Marcion was the first to put together a New Testament canon. He did not include the entirety of the New Testament as we know it. For example, scholarship believes he formed his own version of the gospel of Luke. In doing so, he removed any connection between Jesus and the Old Testament.

His belief was that the god portrayed in the Old Testament was not the God Jesus called to attention. The first was a god of wrath. The second a God of love. So, Marcion discounted the Old Testament altogether.

Again, information like that helps us appreciate the kind of reflection and decisions that went into making up the Bible. And it informs what we know about what is included and what is not. There are many more examples we could use. I chose Marion’s efforts because they help me consider something important about our reading today.

I’m not someone who disregards the Old Testament. Today, there are teachers who consider it to be the lesser testament. As such, it doesn’t warrant our attention all that much. But how can we fully understand the New Testament without it? Its message and meaning lay the foundation for all we read of in the gospels and other NT writings.

For example, the prophet Isaiah begins his work with a word from God. God wants heaven and earth to bear witness to the inability of God’s people to live as faithful image bearers. They are rebellious children. They are sinful and have done much evil. But God has not given up on them!

I love when God says, “Come now, let us argue it out.”

The Lord gave the people a chance to justify their failings. It wouldn’t make sense, though. But if they would acknowledge their waywardness, God would save them.

I’m sure you can see how that message permeates the New Testament as well.

Part of reading the Old Testament is learning how unable the people of God were at living into God’s wisdom. They always needed God’s help. Come to think of it, that sounds just like us, doesn’t it? All of scripture teaches us to trust in God’s faithfulness and mercy. So, don’t leave any of it out!

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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