When I was a young ministry pup, I had been hard into learning the critical analysis and historical context of the Bible and deconstructing it before it was cool. I would (and still do) argue about nuanced things people over look in order, not to prove why my interpretation was correct but, to show that it is a much deeper well with many interpretations (and not in a bad way). This has been a repeated theme in my life over the past month, and while I do enjoy the battle of the scholars (Brueggemann vs. Enns, etc.) I have grown a little tired of it. So in an effort to branch out and learn something new I turned to one of my “rainy day books.”
This particular book has been sitting on my shelf since 2011/2012. This was during a time I was deep into my critical analysis phase and wanted to learn more. My friend Don, whom I have spoken about many times before, gave me a recommendation that he encouraged would speak to this analysis but also help me shake loose the Western approach. The book is, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. As I have started reading it for the first time this week, I’d like to share a quote from the opening chapter:
Is there a critical distinction to be made between the text and the traditional understanding of it? Have the centuries added meanings to our understanding of the text that are not there?
A diamond ring is admired and worn with pride, but with the passing of time, it needs to be taken to a jeweler to be cleaned to restore its original brilliance.
This resonates with me to the core. I love tradition, and believe it is important, but every now and again we need to take it to the cleaners so we can appreciate the beauty that has always been there. Once we start pealing back the centuries of patriarchy and fire and brimstone approach to the Bible, we get to see it for the beauty it is. There is a saying in the Midrash that there are 70 faces of Torah, and that it is also like a gem. The idea is you can keep turning it and see it in new light. May you, going into this weekend, experience the beauty that has been around us for a long time, but in a new way.
Grace and peace.