CTM101 The Bible
How do we read it?
An introduction to biblical
Aim of this session
Toget an overview of what kind of
authority the Bible has and how
Christians can use it well
By the end of the session you will:
Be familiar with a range of
metaphors to talk about the Bible
and its authority
Be able to identify some of the major
interpretive strategies used in biblical
‘The Bible says…’
What reactions might you encounter if
you were to:
challenge the behaviour of a friend
justify a moral judgment
critique the actions of the
on the basis that , ‘The Bible says…’?
What responses might you get?
Power to enforce obedience, to
Power to influence action and belief;
power to inspire belief
Extrinsic authority- arises from the
authority of the one behind the text
(eg letter from the Principal)
Intrinsic authority- arises from the
text being convincing and realistic
(The Principal’s forthcoming Grove
Are we consistent in our approach to
How do we understand biblical
authority given the untidy way in
which the text came into being and
has been handed down?
If we question some passages, does
that undermine the rest?
What kind of authority?
‘Yourword is a lamp to my feet and
a light to my path.’
What other metaphors- biblical or
otherwise- can you think of which
help to indicate the kind of authority
Love letter not hate mail
Stephen Barton Invitation to the Bible
3 ground rules for reading wisely:
1. We need to be set on loving the triune God with all our
heart, soul, mind and strength
2. We can’t read wisely on our own- we need to be part of
communities of discernment
3. We need to practise- like playing a musical instrument
or laying bricks
Does this reading lead to faith in Christ and good works
towards my neighbour, or does it undermine them?
Does this interpretation fit with what the Church down the
ages has come to confess as true, or is it a departure from
Does this understanding build up the Church and
strengthen its witness, or does it weaken the Church?
‘ The Bible is like the manger and
swaddling clothes which contained in
them God’s precious gift to the
Jesus the Christ.’
‘God’s Home Page’
Mike Riddell God’s Home Page
Why this metaphor? Riddell lists what the Bible is NOT:
A book of answers
A book of spells
A divine verbatim
A handbook of doctrine
An instruction manual
A collection of moral precepts
‘God’s Home Page’
An intermediate place, somewhere between the cybersurfer
and the hyperauthor where the two can meet and interact
It gives a feel for the style and interests of God- it’s lots of
bits and fragments relating to God’s dealings with humanity
over a long period of time
A home page allows intuitive and multi-directional roaming
through all the material- a linear approach is not
necessarily the best
It’s an interactive site. There is no end to it.
You need a connection to get on line.
The art of understanding; the
method and techniques used to
interpret written texts.
Often uses the concept of ‘horizons’:
the horizon of the text merging
with/meeting the horizon of the
When we read the words, ‘The Lord
said to Moses…’, what do we
understand them to mean?
Do we believe that God really wanted
Sabbath stick gatherers to be killed?
Some approaches to OT
Allegorical approach (eg Paul in
Typological approach (eg Hebrews
Negative approach (Marcion)
Hermeneutics of suspicion
We are all situated as readers
We need to interrogate our own
vested interests as readers, and the
vested interests of those who wrote
and edited the texts we read