In a fascinating article from Huffington Post, Susan Boynton and Diane Reilly write:
“Before the 13th century, however, the Bible as a physical object was very different from its modern counterpart. Bibles could be assembled in any order, incorporate only some of the books thought necessary to a Bible today, and even include added “non-biblical” texts completely unfamiliar to the modern reader. In fact, the texts that were thought to comprise the Bible were flexible for centuries, as the composition of the biblical “canon” (from the Greek word for “rule”) was debated in both Judaism and Christianity and some writings were eventually rejected as apocryphal.”
When we read the bible we’re engaged in a conversation in which several voices are heard. We’re conversing with the original writer, questioning what he said, and how and why he said it. But we are also in conversation with the culture in which the writer lived – and ‘Greek’ or ‘Hebrew’ hardly gives us the whole picture. Much like today, the worldview, societal and cultural life of an educated and wealthy person in Ephesus would be very, very different than that of a person living in a remote or rural area a few hundred kilometers away. We’re also in conversation with the customs and practices of the writer’s particular faith community, and with the history of the church, which has adapted, edited and preserved that text. And last, but certainly not least, we’re in dialogue with Spirit God as we read, think, wrestle with and pray over the bible texts we are reading.
And, amidst these many voices, one voice is noticeably absent. This is the voice of women, and.our ability to fully engage with the Bible is lessened because of that loss.
Understanding all this requires us to approach the bible thoughtfully, carefully and , indeed, prayerfully. It requires time to read the bible this way, and patience, and a desire to struggle with the text as well as struggling with the implications of what we’re reading. But it is in the midst of this struggle that we give Spirit God free reign in our spirit. I admire the simplicity of faith demonstrated by those who say “The bible said it, I believe it, that settles it!” What I suspect, however, is that statement doesn’t open us to hearing God speak but rather closes the door – hard – on anything new that God wants to say or do in our lives through this remarkable, holy and inspired text.