3 biggest reasons why Bible reading is down

Apparently, Bible reading is way down in churches, and Biblica has dug into finding out why. Here’s what I learned at the conference I attended last week sponsored by Biblica (see here).

Bible reading is down because people read it

  1. in fragments,
  2. a-historically,
  3. in isolation.

In fragments, meaning in the verse level rather than in large sections. A focus on verses not only encourages prooftexting but  prevents readers from seeing the larger points of biblical works–whether we are talking about a letter like Romans, or large narratives such as we find in the Old Testament.

To remedy this problem, Biblica has formatted the NIV (New International Version, 2011) without chapter and verse numbers, calling it The Books of the Bible, which is also available in 4 separate volumes: The New Testament and the Old Testament in three volumes (Covenant History, Prophets, Writings).

A-historically, meaning without a feel for the historical context of the texts being read. To help remedy this, Biblica has reordered the books of the New Testament to reflect something of the historical order in which the books were written (although no order can claim certainty).

Paul’s letters begin with 1 Thessalonians and end with 2 Timothy with Romans in the middle. Luke-Acts begins the NT as one work, and Matthew and Mark follow Paul’s letters.

In the Old  Testament, Israel’s “covenant history” takes you from Genesis through 2 Kings. Chronicles is grouped with the “Writings,” as is Daniel, thus reflecting a bit more the traditional Jewish canonical, which I think is a huge improvement over the standard Christian order.

Many Christians might be unnerved to learn that the present ordering of the books of the Bible is relatively late and wasn’t “finalized” until the mass production of the 16th c. Geneva Bible made possible by the printing press. There is nothing whatsoever sacred about the order we are used to, and switching things up can actually help people connect more with the texts.

For example, reading 1 Thessalonians first–where the younger Paul is more of a Jewish apocalypticist–and then moving to his later writings highlights Paul’s own growth as an apostle to the Gentiles.

In isolation, meaning individual “devotions” rather than in groups. The idea here–completely correct, if you ask me–is that reading Scripture is mean to be a community task for mutual enlightenment and encouragement.

So, the response to the three reasons why Bible reading is down is:

Read big, read real, read together.

 

 

  • Lise

    In addition to Bible reading being down, reading is down period. It’s a societal issue, not just a church one. When most American kids go to college with the sole aim of “getting a good job” vs. to learn, we’re now in a climate where the bible will be read “in fragments, a-historically and in isolation.”
    Remedies will be difficult but movements like CBE are a start. Here are some other ideas although nothing is new under the sun….
    1) More adult Sunday school in church taught by someone with some degree of theological background

    2) Instead of Bible studies where only a few lines of text are illuminated, Bible studies that cover entire books of the Bible.

    3) For point #2, use aids written by theologians that are delivered at a more general level. I love TL 111′s series, “How to read —– .” The Story of God Commentary series is also very user friendly and I intend to order your books for kids and “Genesis for Normal People.”

    4) Leverage the fact that Hollywood is releasing a number of Biblically oriented films by actually reading the books of the Bible that are covered in cinematic portrayals.

    5) READ THE BOOK OUT LOUD with others like savoring a good glass of wine.

    6) READ THE BOOK as performance. When I read Job, I think wow. This would be a great opera. I mean Job takes God to court for crying out loud. That is sooooo theatrical. Most of the prophets are like street theatre artists anyway. Might as well say their words out loud. Or how about “Song of Songs” recited at a coffee house open microphone event? That would get people’s attention for sure! The poetry is gorgeous. Why not speak it? It’s so R & J balcony scene.

    7) Get non-believers interested in reading the Bible as literature. Have it read in conjunction with other sacred texts.

    8) Make the Twible required reading.

    9) Deconstruct the text as performance. Let key biblical characters have a voice – either as a collage of voices or as a one woman/one man show. This gets people intrigued enough to read the text in the original.

    10) Explore the text imaginatively and psycho-analytically.

    11) Be more like the Brits. I remember years ago purchasing a children’s book on kings and queens of England at the British Museum. Complete with illustrations, it looked like it was intended for a five year, yet it was erudite and comprehensive. I bought it to help me keep tabs on who was who in the Houses of Lancaster and York for the Shakespeare history plays are hard to follow without some understanding of the Wars of the Roses. I was impressed that Brits seemed to value history more than Americans and that they would have this nifty little guide for kids. I also bought an impressive children’s bible there. I still refer to it (and the pictures). I mean let’s get SERIOUS. Who can keep all the kings straight in the Bible? I still have to resort to family trees and charts…. And with such funky names to boot?

    • WhatChrisLikes

      Who is TL 111?

      • Lise

        Sorry. I was being lazy there. Tremper Longman. He has a couple of books in this series: How to Read the Psalms/How to Read Proverbs/How to Read Genesis/and How to Read Exodus. They are written in a very simple, easy to read fashion but are packed with great information.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Pete,

    Thanks so much for the heads up on this. I just downloaded the Kindle version of both the NT and the entire Bible. So far I’ve only had the chance to check out the essays and indexing (which seems to work just fine). In the section headed “At the Back” There are several essays where many readers may want to start – especially the short essays entitled “The Drama of the Bible in Six Acts” and “Living the Script”. The project itself is clearly explained there as well under “About the Books of the Bible”.

    I can’t resist listing the titles of the six acts as they are inspiring in and of themselves.

    God’s Intention
    Exile
    Calling Israel to a Mission
    The Surprising Victory of Jesus
    The Renewed People of God
    God Comes Home

    Well done Biblica!

  • Mark Chambers

    I actually have wanted to write an opera on Job for sometime. :)

    • Lise

      Go for it! It would be wonderful!

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    When I hear Bible scholars talk about how human the Bible is, my Bible reading is discouraged. I can find other human books much easier to read.

    On the other hand, when I hear Bible scholars remind me that the Bible was written by men who claimed to be speaking on behalf of the God who created heaven and earth, I think to myself, well, now there’s a reason to make some time to read an ancient, and sometimes difficult, book.

    • Bev Mitchell

      Hi Mike,

      Have you thoroughly checked out what Biblica is doing with this project? Have a look at the material at

      http://www.biblica.com/living-the-script/what/

      It would be interesting to know, specifically, what you object to in this material, and why.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        Bev,

        I am not objecting to what Biblica is doing. I’m appealing to Peter to hammer away less at the humanness of the Bible and emphasize more its divine characteristics. After all, didn’t the prophets and apostles speak in the name of the Lord rather than in their own names?.

        • Bev Mitchell

          OK, glad to hear it! But I don’t think Pete is saying that the prophets/apostles hadn’t heard from the Lord. He is saying that, like all contributors, to the writing, editing, arranging, internal interpretation, canonization etc. of Scripture, the prophets/apostles were human, products of their time and speaking to people culturally far removed from us. The miracle of Scripture is that it, through the Spirit, accomplishes its goal of revealing Christ, despite all of the human involvement in its production. And, we should not forget, it was God himself who chose to involve human beings, sometimes quite challenged characters like Sampson for example, in the development of Scripture. So don’t blame people today who point all of this out more frequently, and effectively, than you would like.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Blessed are the prophets and apostles who at the risk of their own lives spoke and wrote that we might hold in our hands that which we can know is the word of the living God.

          • Eric

            “emphasize more its divine characteristics”

            Why? Plenty of people have done that and continue to do that, but Peter and others call for greater attention to the humanness of the biblical texts because of the long history of people misusing those texts and claiming their “divine characteristics” as a justification. If some scholars “hammer away” at the humanness of the biblical texts, there is good reason for doing so.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            A recent Harris poll (http://bit.ly/1acHsTt) shows that the percentage of Americans who believe in evolution has risen from 42% to 47% since 2005, while the number of people who believe that the Bible is the word of God has declined to just under 50%. Perhaps you and Peter feel these trends are not moving fast enough.

            As for me, however, I will honor the prophets and apostles who spoke in the name of the Lord for our sakes. They may have been human, but it is not necessary or helpful to diminish their divine commission and divine message in order to make that point.

          • beau_quilter

            Here’s a direct link to the Harris poll:

            http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/mid/1508/ArticleId/1353/Default.aspx

            These trends will probably continue. The poll notes that the younger responders were progressively less likely to express a belief in God than the older responders – “(64% Echo Boomers, 75% Gen Xers, 81% Baby Boomers, 83% Matures)”

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Yes, the only dynamic able to turn back this encroaching darkness is that of the bright fires of revival in the hearts of those who truly love God. God grant it…please!

          • beau_quilter

            A movement in the number of believers in either direction is fine with me. I’m not a Christian myself, but I’m not interested in “converting” anyone, and many of my dearest friends are Christians.

          • Gary in FL

            I hope the statistics you report are accurate, because I’m convinced this is a GOOD trend.

            And I read Dr. Enn’s blog precisely because he DOES hammer away at how the Bible has been traditionally read.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Traditionally, the Scriptures have been regarded by Christians as the word of God. To emphasize their humanity at the expense of their divinity is regarded by you as a good thing?

  • Jim

    The OP is interesting, because recently I found out that I have the gift of heresy and therefore assembled my own Bible to read this year. The whole Bible is way too long so using a Word version of the NRSV, I took a Marcion scalpel and turfed the whole OT and about 35% of the NT. What I was left with were the seven authentic Pauline letters, the Gospels and Acts, which I pasted in approximate chronological order (it looks somewhat like a reduced version of Marcus Borg’s “Evolution of the Word”). Result, a way shorter Bible for people like me who don’t like to read.

    This does lead me to one question though, re chronological ordering of the NT. Borg places Luke/Acts in the early second century (he clearly admits this is a bit arbitrary and not the consensus). Does anyone know if an early second century date for Luke/Acts can be supported? I guess it could depend somewhat on if a few copies of Q were still floating around at that time (for the Q believers).

    • Seraphim

      An early second-century date for Luke-Acts is impossible. Read the letters of Ignatius of Antioch to get the feel of the Church in that period. By this time, bishops and presbyters were clearly and definitively separate orders of Christian ministry (whether this is simply a change in language or in actual practice is irrelevant) while Luke-Acts still presents the two-order language of Christian ministry, presbyter and deacon. A Q community is also totally hypothetical. Richard Bauckham challenges the whole idea of gospels being associated with a narrowly defined “community” but even if you disagree with him, we don’t know what WASN’T in Q or why it was written. It’s hard to base a historical group of Christians on a hypothetical reconstruction of what wasn’t in a hypothetical document.

      • Andrew Dowling

        Acts is painting a picture of early Christianity, so why would it mention bishops . . .

        • Seraphim

          The Fathers of the second century believed that the monarchical episcopate was of Apostolic origin. I happen to think that this has good historical credibility, but one thing is clear- the rigid, terminological distinction between bishop and presbyter was clearly in existence by the beginning of the second century, but not in existence in the first century. Both the New Testament and 1 Clement bear witness to that fact. Luke’s terminology is wholly out of place in the second century.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Again, the evangelist was writing about events in the 30s-50s, before there would’ve been any bishopics. That they were established by the early 2nd century, when Luke wrote, makes no difference. He’s not describing the present.

      • Jim

        I can see your point Seraphim and I guess I should have said Luke second edition instead of Luke version 1 (proto-Luke as Andrew has corrected my use of the gospel title). It could be possible that the version of Luke we have in our NT is this second edition from the second century. I’m going to check out Tyson’s book.

    • Andrew Dowling

      Read Joseph Tyson’s “Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle.” Makes a very strong case for canonical Luke (being revised from a proto-Luke) and Acts being early 2nd century documents.

      • Norman

        Andrew,

        Your are one of my favorite posters: I like your openness to thinking logically. However you and I have gone in different directions on dating the NT. I keep an open mind to late dating but it just doesn’t stack up logically IMHO :) unless one accepts several unsubstantiated suppositions. That’s a shaky way of establishing such an important concept as dating the NT because it has ramifications for both arguments and can seem like either position is trying to make their concepts fit. However It almost boils down to a conspiracy among all the late NT writers having to pretend to write as authentic authors and having no clue about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. I know that Daniel and 4Ezra (although I would date 4Ezra earlier than most) were written in that vein but we don’t have to think all Jewish writers were exploiting that approach. I think modern critical scholars overstate their concepts and get carried away with their late dating. I may indeed be in the wrong and will come to grips with it if I need to but I think you need to be more open minded to some earlier dates for a lot of NT literature.

        Blessings

        Norm

        • Andrew Dowling

          It’s not a conspiracy; I plead Norman that you attempt to recognize that you bring a major presupposition onto the text, primarily “the prophecies must be true” and then twist the text into the preterist pretzel machine (:) ) to make that make sense, that forces almost all of the NT to be written pre 70AD and states that early Christian apologies about Judaism actually represent 2nd Temple Jewish thought. All due respect, it’s an extreme minority opinion among scholars for a reason.
          The Gospels, in my and the majority scholarly opinion, CLEARLY represent the works of people writing after the Jewish dispersion following the rebellion, and early Christianity’s subsequent conflict/break.with Judaism. Yes, there were always Jews critiquing other Jews, but the allegory and general anti-Jewish sentiment you find in the likes of the Barnabas epistle would’ve been considered blasphemous by Essene, Pharisee, and Sadducee alike. Those are documents showing the beginnings and birth pains of a new religion breaking off its former ties.

      • Jim

        Thanks for the reference Andrew and I will order the book soon. I have heard that we may actually have the second edition of Luke in our NT, and that possibly large chunks of chapters 1 and 2 may not have been in version 1.

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    The new arrangement in “The Books of the Bible” by NIV is one good though small step in a healthy direction. Does anyone know how closely it parallels the arrangement by Marcus Borg that I’ve glanced at but not recalled (not purchased it)?

    I’d add other elements, including reading comparatively. In the NT, particularly Paul’s letters, especially Gal. and 2 Cor., with Acts. This helps one get a bit of a check on how the author of Acts promotes his purpose and agenda… critical understanding to gain here in that Acts was a pivotal work that basically shaped the way Christian origins came to be seen (quite distortedly in my view).

    Along the lines of reading historically, Christians should also read some of the major first-to-second century works that were often and fairly widely also taken as authoritative but did not ultimately make the canon of the NT. Along with this, read some ABOUT these books and about the situation while both these and the NT books were being composed and circulated, from about 70 AD, the destruction of Jerusalem (except 7 books of Paul’s from 10-20 yrs. earlier), on up to end of the 2nd century or later…. It gets exponentially wackier after about 200, in terms of fabrications, forgeries, etc.

    But authorship (along with dating) and forgeries, false attributions, etc., are vital subjects that must be explored for any realistic sense of both assumed authority for NT books and for understanding the Bible and the development of orthodoxy. One doesn’t get the picture well by reading only traditional and/or Evangelical commentaries or “introduction” books. We are basically forced (fortunately in my view) to go to “historical critical” sources. One excellent and fresh angle on many of these issues, with specifics on the dating and authorship of many of the NT books, is “Forged” by Bart Ehrman…. If you’ve not read it, and carefully (I just finished my 2nd read of it, plus add’l review), don’t make the mistake of discounting it, knowing he is a former Evangelical now agnostic. It is very solid research, and explores some fresh and important ground re. forgeries.

  • Steven

    Or… because it has been 1. used as a weapon. 2. mistranslated. 3. We have been .taught to seek the Bible for all our answers instead of having fellowship with the Word that became flesh.

  • LukeBreuer

    I wonder if there’s another reason: people don’t expect real-life experiences to ‘deeply connect’ to scripture. I know the Bible fairly well; it’s pretty easy to read a section and not get too much new out of it. However, when I’m experiencing something difficult in life and read relevant passages, it’s like they pop out of the page, from 2-D to 3-D. I wonder if lots of people don’t expect this to happen or aren’t well-read enough for this to happen. Perhaps we need more Second Temple hermeneutics to make passages come alive more. :-)

    Now, part of the problem with the above ‘applied theology’ is that one generally needs a minimum level of competence with the Bible for it to work easily. To get there, one typically needs one-on-one discipleship—how often does that happen? I attended a church which ejected the main pastor because he wanted more focus on discipleship, while the elders wanted to keep doing things as they’d be doing them. :-(

  • Ian

    Luke-Acts is chronologically before the Pauline epistles and Mark?

    Does any scholar claim that? Or have I misunderstood something.

    • Andrew Dowling

      Yeah if we’re talking about when they were written then the ordering is all screwed-up (if putting in chronological order I’d end with 2 Peter, the Pastorals, and Acts . . and if we’re thinking of theological development, that ordering makes a lot more sense) but beginning with Thessalonians instead of Romans is a start . .

  • Dan Jensen

    I think the lack of Bible reading in our land today must be put in perspective. Compared to large pockets of church history, American evangelicals are remarkably biblically literate, despite the many problems that result from the fact that most are not nearly as literate as they should be. And far too often church critics today, both conservatives and progressives, are constantly looking for the reason or reasons why the church is lacking and is failing to grow. While this is certainly a noble quest to an extent, we need to realize that God throughout Christian history has taken the gospel to different parts of the world and rarely does the gospel ever remain the dominant force forever. Hence, it may be that God has done the bulk of His work in America and may be moving on to Asia, South America, and Africa and we need to accept that fact. Maybe not, and so we should continue to do our work here, but that may indeed be what God is doing and keeping this in mind can protect us from overly pragmatic approaches to Christianity that are plaguing the church today. The reasons Enns gives may play a role in the lack of Bible reading today, but I highly, highly doubt they are the core factors. Maybe it’s just unbelief.

  • NB

    Brevard Childs is somewhere screaming.

    • Isaiah

      That would include my shriek too. There is wisdom in the canonical arrangement of the books of the Bible.

  • Penelope Feliciano

    I think it’s really because most people don’t want to know what God thinks. Instead they want to live life their way. Do people really want God to Save, Heal and Delver them? When coming to GOD ~ Will they as the Bible says “count the cost” = We must come to God on HIS TERMS not ours. ONLY JESUS SAVES! ~ JESUS IS LORD! ~ GOD IS LOVE! Father Son and Holy Spirit ~ WELCOME TO THE TRINITY

    Psalm 9:8
    And He will judge the world in righteousness;
    He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
    GODS CONDITION IS THAT ONE MUST ACCEPT OWN PRECIOUS BLOOD
    AMEN IN JESUS AMEN!

  • http://juliemwalsh.blogspot.com/ Julie Walsh

    I haven’t seen this done, but I wonder if a church or a blog community read daily through something like a lectionary reading schedule or a One Year Bible and then made comments on their readings, if this would encourage more people to read? It seems like that would take scripture reading out of the “private devotional” category and give more group support. Unfortunately many people often don’t like comment, though.

    • Mark

      Plenty of churches do just that. You can find the breakdown by day in the back of most episcopal prayer books. I am sure it is on line. I believe the revised common lectionary is what you’ll want to search for.

  • Gene Gregory

    In know that biblical literacy is down, but could it possibly be that folks are not challenged more directly to read their Bibles and perhaps equipped to understand what they are reading? Many from our church read through their Bibles last year, and this year we began a 31/2 year journey to read our Bibles chronologically, with devotions provided to help with understanding/application. Some folks will probably never care enough to read their Bibles, but some folks just need help in knowing how.

  • MG

    Maybe Bible reading like Bible memorization is down because we have thrown such a mass of different English translations at people that it has undercut a high view of authority of Scripture. Every time you turn around a new translation is telling you what is wrong with the other100. Simpler times led to simpler faith in Biblical authority. Where there used to be a new major revision every100 years let’s say, now there is a new one every100 months. Just my thought.

  • Charity Brown

    http://www.disciplingnewconverts.org has a great chronological approach in NASB, LEB, and NET!

  • dangjin1

    the main reason Bible reading is down is because of false teachers like James McGrath, Peter Enns, Jim West Joel Watts and others keep proclaiming it is a human book which provides no answers. They also claim that God lied in the Bible, that secular science is smarter than God and contains the answers God did not provide..

    Why read a book that doesn’t have the answers for your lives nor contains the words of God? If some of the people who claim to be Christian do not believe the Bible to be God’s word why expect the unbeliever or young people of the church to read and believe it?

    If people went back to believing the Bible and proclaimed it the true words of God, you would see Bible readership rise.

    • beau_quilter

      I’m afraid I disprove your point dangjin. James McGrath and Peter Enns always inspire me to read scripture far more often.

      • dangjin1

        I guess it must be nice to be all the people in the nation. You do not disprove my point. The Bible speaks of a historical Adam and Eve, Enns doe snot believe that, so he doesn’t believe the Bible, I would suggest you do not follow suit.

        • beau_quilter

          I would suggest Enns reads the bible far more often than you do, and certainly understands it with greater depth.

          • dangjin1

            I highly doubt that as I believe every word of the Bible and that God wrote it.

          • Happyg

            I think I liked it better when dangjunk just entered a comment and left the conversation.

          • brittany

            i think christianity is down because of close minded people who think they’re right and everyone else is wrong. i used to be that way. and as soon as i let loose of my death grip on certain non-essential beliefs/doctrines/whatever you want to call them, God changed my faith and i have never felt closer to Him. hope both sides of this argument can let go just a little and see what God does!

          • dangjin1

            Obviously you do not care about true and false teaching, you want what you want to hear and nothing else.

          • Derek

            Hey dangjin

            I think claiming certain people are false teachers and leading people astray is perfectly fine because its true – it has gone on before and will continue to be that way. There are indeed false teachers, so raising your voice and sounding the alarm is great when you are sure you are dealing with one.

            However, I would encourage you to equip yourself with more thoughtful reasons as to why you think Enns, etc. are false teachers because at this point it appears that you are simply unacquainted with the material that Enns tracks in and your comments are not hitting the target.

            Which teachers do you listen to, if you don’t mind my asking?

          • dangjin1

            I am not unacquainted with his work and he is quite clear in his denial of Genesis, his acceptance of evolution plus he cannot supply chapter and verse to the question:

            where in the Bible do both God and Jesus give their followers permission to listen to unbelieving people?

            Maybe you should try to answer it.

          • Granth

            Well, Paul (through whom God wrote, right?) says Christians should submit to the ruling authorities. And, in Paul’s time, these were unbelieving imperial Romans. It’s pretty hard to submit to someone if you don’t listen to them at least sometimes. How else can you obey their orders? I mean, I’m sure Paul/God didn’t expect Christians to stopper their ears and say la-la-la-la-la… every time one of Caesar’s proclamations was read out. So God, through Paul, does at least tacitly permit his followers to listen to unbelieving people, no?

            Or am I taking you too literally, dangjin?

          • dangjin1

            Wrong analogy and one you use to provide you an excuse to listen to lies.

          • Guest

            dangjin wrote it. I believe it. That settles it!

          • Granth

            At the Jabbok ford, the unnamed God, in the shape of a man, permitted the trickster Jacob to wrestle with him, to look upon him face-to-face, and even to prevail over him. Jacob departed with a wound and a blessing.

            In the very act of encoding himself in the dust of scripture, the Almighty invites, incites, yes provokes a wrestling match with his people. And, as long as they strive for a blessing from him, he will even allow them to prevail. Like Jacob, they will survive the encounter, and depart wounded and blessed.

            To contend thus is not to disobey. God honours Jacob.

          • dangjin1

            it wasn’t God but an angel. At least get the main people correct.

          • Granth

            Genesis 32:30
            “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

            Jacob thought he had seen the face of God, not an angel. Was Jacob wrong?

          • dangjin1

            you just proved that you do not understand the bible.

          • Granth

            Then explain to me where I am wrong; or, if you prefer, where Jacob was wrong. Genesis says Jacob wrestled with a man at Jabbok, and the man was understood by Jacob to be God, as evident in my quote above. Now, I am reading the Bible quite straightforwardly here, and you say I’m not understanding it. Pray tell, how should I be interpreting this passage?

          • dangjin1

            The Bible only says ‘a man’ wrestled with Jacob. To see the face of God one can only interact with his messenger.

            It is interesting that you would be so literal here yet probably not literal with Genesis 1.

          • Granth

            So I take it, then, you’re implying that Jacob was wrong. He had not seen God face to face, as he exclaimed, only an ‘angel’, as you claim above (even though the Hebrew term usually translated as angel does not appear in this passage).

            Do you, then, know better than Jacob – and God – what happened at Jabbok?

            According to Genesis, at Jabbok Jacob wrestled with a man whom he concluded had God’s very face. No mention of angels or messengers; those are your interpretations. And Genesis does not correct Jacob’s conclusion, either.

            In effect, dangjin, you have overlaid the clear testimony of Genesis with your own assumptions.

          • dangjin1

            again you are wrong and simply trying to be a pain. No iI haven’t but thanks for the accusation.

          • Granth

            Given that virtually every comment you make is an accusation of some sort, you’re welcome.

            You merely assert that I am wrong, yet I have demonstrated from Scripture that you are as prone to interpretive bias as those you love to accuse of same. Unlike you, they at least try to make a reasonable argument for their position.

          • Granth

            dangjin wrote it; I believe it; that settles it!

          • Derek

            Yes, but you need to explain why Peter’s interpretation of Genesis is false, and how your’s is more faithful to the text and times.

            Regarding evolution, well, I think you need to settle that issue on scientific grounds – and you can talk this over with some Christian theistic evolutionists if you feel more comfortable that way.

            Where does God give permission to listen to unbelieving people? Well, we are not supposed to believe false doctrine but we must listen to it first in order to correct it, or even know its false, right?

            Also unbelievers have contributed much good in this world and they continue to do so. I have no problem listening to an unbeliever discuss new technology,for example. After all, that computer you are using was most likely created by an unbeliever.

          • dangjin1

            No I don’t you and Enns have to produce the scripture where God and Jesus give permission to use human interpretation over their word.

            No, science has nothing to do with it. It is not the final or even an arbitrator in all of this. It is also not been promoted to authority status by God.. Science has no say in this issue.

            First, you misuse the word ‘listen’ and apply the wrong definition to it in order for you to open your ears to lies. Second, where in the Bible does ‘making a good contribution’ mean you get to disobey God and his word and listen to unbelievers?

            As for the computer, who provided the intelligence and raw materials?

            So far neither of you have produced an answer to my question.

          • Guest

            At the Jabbok ford, the unnamed God, in the shape of a man, permitted the trickster Jacob to wrestle with him, to look upon him face-to-face, and even to prevail over him. Jacob departed with a wound and a blessing.

            In the very act of encoding himself in the dust of scripture, the Almighty invites, incites, yes provokes a wrestling match with his people. And, as long as they strive for a blessing from him, he will even allow them to prevail. Like Jacob, they will survive the encounter, and depart wounded and blessed.

            To contend thus is not to disobey. God honours Jacob.

          • Derek

            Dangjin,

            1) You state that we are not to use “human interpretation” of Scripture. So, does that mean you believe your interpretation of Scripture is non-human? As a side note – I do believe in the illumination of the Holy Spirit, but I also am aware that regenerate believers disagree about a great many things in Scripture

            2) We ought to be open to science informing our interpretation of Scripture. After all, we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of history such as arguing for a geocentric view because of a well-meaning but faulty interpretation of Scripture.

            3) Do you have an issue with listening to an unbeliever talk about non-biblical things like technology? Moreover, unbelievers can speak truth when it comes to biblical matters as well, the only difference is that it means nothing to them (no conviction).

            4) What is your question? You have raised several.

          • dangjin1

            #1. e to follow the Holy Spirit to the truth.

            #2. Science is NOT an authority nor does it have any insight into scripture. Geocentrism came from secular science not bible believers.

            #3. Not according to Jesus.

            #4. read my posts..

          • Derek

            Thanks for the discussion dangjin.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Yes I take back my earlier comment :)

          • Jim

            Maybe I’m weird, but on the other hand it’s my morning entertainment (possibly because I was once that way) and I might actually miss dangjin-like comments. Just call me Satan already.

          • dangjin1

            Insulting others just means that you do not follow Christ. God said, why do ye call me Lord BUT do not do the things I say?

          • beau_quilter

            But insulting others is all that you seem to do, dangjin.

          • Granth

            With the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

          • Granth

            God must like to argue with himself.

        • Granth

          If Scripture were the machine you make of it, Christ would not have been born.

    • Jim

      Does anyone actually think that a supreme intelligence wrote something as convoluted as the Bible? Although not totally impossible, it’s very improbable. The Bible was written by humans, and that accounts for all the errors.

      I do however acknowledge that most of the writers were sincere and conveyed their honest perceptions on how God interacted with their world, thus the document provides useful insights. But in the end, it was written by humans. Seems to me that you are reading your own theology back into the Bible texts and are disappointed when others don’t subscribe to your personal theology.

      I definitely appreciate the posts by James/Peter/Jim/Joel and others along with those who provide meaningful comments to the OP.

      • dangjin1

        Yes I do. Your thinking means that there is no Jesus, no resurrection, no salvation. You cannot cherry pick and say that part is true and of God, because you benefit from it, but the rest isn’t.

        • Jim

          Not really sure how one can say that if there was no Adam, there was no Jesus. A reasonable number of NT scholars are confident that Jesus was a real person (from more than just NT references only). Adam on the other hand comes from only one source, which was not designed to be a historical account as Jewish scholars have pointed out (they know their own literature well). Adam is only mentioned in one other OT reference (Chronicles) outside of Genesis (loved the Evolution of Adam book). So to me, just because Adam didn’t exist has no bearing on whether Jesus did unless you begin layering theological views (like original sin etc) onto history.

          • dangjin1

            First, Jesus said that if you do not believe Moses how will you believe him? John 5:45 to the end of the chapter. Doesn’t matter what scholars say, it matters if you believe God. The Bible doesn’t say ‘If you believe scholars you will receive eternal life’,

            Nor does the number of sources matter. The existence of someone doesn’t depend upon the number of sources one has talking about him or her. They key is faith an dif you believe God or not. If you do not believe God then you are an unbeliever.

            The Bible is both a revelation and a historical work. It is also a teaching guide, and it was designed for all of the subjects it covers.

            Again, existence and historical reality do not depend upon the number of references to a person. All you show is that you lack belief and faith and God said Faith pleases him not accepting scholars words for the bible.

            You just prove you do not believe, just like Enns did in his podcast interview recently. You also prove you will only accept things you like and will cherry pick while casting away those things that you do not like or are difficult to prove outside of using faith.

          • Jim

            I would agree that by your definition, I’m certainly an unbeliever. I also lack faith because to me, John 5.45 is just one verse written by an author who was not an eyewitness and who wrote 60 years after the event. There are several ways of understanding verses 45-47 (not worth arguing about since we are at opposite poles anyway).

            But the one thing that puzzles me a bit is your statement on cherry picking. You focus on a quote that has limited appearances in the gospels yet overlook the weightier sayings of Jesus regarding judging others. Could that not also fit the description of cherry picking?

          • dangjin1

            No you confuse identification with judging.

      • Grant

        YES WE DO. If you look at the amazing perfection of the human body, reproduction and many other convincing proofs, of just nature, plants, the earth in relation to the sun and on and on one can go… we can only realise that there is an all powerful creator. Does it make any sense that this amazing creator would create mankind and not give him a step by step manual to live a successful life and apply certain principles to everyday life that each person’s life can be significant. If you haven’t had the basic logic to realise you were created and your life has deeper meaning than just the flesh, you haven’t really started living.Jesus said “I have come that you may have life and life more abundantly, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me”

        • Andrew Dowling

          “and not give him a step by step manual to live a successful life”
          So THAT’s what the Bible is?? Now you tell me . . .

          • Grant

            We will only experience true joy and successful living when we embrace the lover of our soul. John 10:10 Jesus said” The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. When we walk in that abundance then yes, it’s a God ordained successful life…all wrapped up in Christ. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. Jesus won the victory, rescued us from death, hell and the grave and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, making intercession. Yes, different people have different perceptions like the fools who hid their talents and had the totally wrong perception of the master…funny how the guys who saw the master(God himself) accurately lived in success and abundance…. as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. The plan that God has for me is abundant life…hallelujua

          • Grant

            The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2.

        • Jim

          I’m just wondering through all of human history, how many people were in a position to read a ‘step by step’ manual? The idea of a manual seems to me more suited for a one size fits all dogma (and it better be “my religion” :) ) I’m wondering if the view found in the gospel of John and some of Paul’s letters (re God/Jesus living in humans0 is closer to reality than the need for a step by step manual. Even Jesus never “clearly” prophesied/predicted that a NT canon was coming in the next few centuries and was required reading.

          • Grant

            2 Corinthians 3:6
            Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.

          • beau_quilter

            Ah … that verse rather supports Jim’s point, doesn’t it?

      • Dan Jensen

        In what way is the Bible convoluted? And yes the Bible was written by humans, but how does this in any way disprove that it was also written by God. I’ve been studying theology at the academic and personal levels for almost fourteen years now and I have heard this argument again and again from Liberals, Neo-Orthodox, radical emergents, and many others and I have still never ever heard a consistent argument as to why the humanness of the Bible proves that it could not have also been written by God. It’s often the case that people seem to believe that the mere assertion of the humanness of Scripture is enough to disprove the traditional position. But how is this remotely the case?

        • Jim

          To me one of the significant indicators of convolution is that many (not a few) have ended up with the conclusion that the God of the OT (relatively cruel) is different than the God of the NT as revealed by Jesus. This is a major confusing issue imo – I’m guessing the nature of God would be important enough to be conveyed ”clearly” if God authored the Bible. Instead, the Bible seems to reflect several human perceptions. And of course re; “how to [absolutely] prove that humanness proves that the Bible was not written by God”, that’s a toughy because it’s as difficult as proving (absolutely, not just because a few of the (anonymous) Bible authors says so) that it was written by God.

          • Dan Jensen

            Please don’t take any of my comments in an overly harsh manner as that is not at all my intent. People need to realize that for us conservative evangelicals this is not a side issue, but cuts to the very heart of our faith. Therefore, often our passion is interpreted as mean spirited because the other side is often foisting its own presuppositions as to how they see this issue as one that should be debated and discussed rather than something that needs to be vigorously fought for upon us. You seem like a very nice and intelligent person and so at every point understand that I am attacking your position and not you personally.

            With all of that said, you essentially proved my point. Often the deniers of inerrancy make bold assertions, but when challenged it is almost surprising how weak the response is. I mean the best you could come up with is the old canard about the “god” of the OT vs. the “god” of the NT. Both Testaments very clearly proclaim the tremendous love, mercy, grace, longsuffering, and goodness of God along with proclaiming the sternness, holiness, justice, righteousness, and wrath of God as well. Jesus Himself at the outset of His ministry made it clear that He in no way came to repudiate the OT (Matt 5:17-20). There is of course a greater emphasis upon grace in the NT because of the cross, but that is just a difference of degree and not one of kind in any way.

            And the doctrine of inerrancy is overwhelmingly supported philosophically, biblically, theologically, and historically. All people can do is point out difficulties with the doctrine, but there is no position in any area of study that does not have its attendant difficulties and so pointing these out proves or disproves nothing.

          • Jim

            I don’t take your comments as harsh, and appreciate your point that for conservative evangelicals, inerrancy is at the heart of their faith. For me the old canard is pertinent to the OP, and for many unbelievers (who represent people to be “reached”), those who hold to inerrancy can’t provide convincing arguments to anyone outside of their own inerrancy circles (i.e. credibility).

            I would agree with you that the “doctrine of inerrancy” is well supported (by institutional churches), but to me that is not the same as “inerrancy” being well supported.

            It is sad to me that defending inerrancy takes higher
            precedent than focusing on issues like feeding the poor. Does it really
            matter if one holds on to the doctrine of inerrancy or not, and is this
            doctrine becoming more of an effort to impose a new “one size fits all”
            orthodoxy?

            I totally admire Peter for sacrificing his lifespan in order to provide a blog for dialogue between the two currently opposing (conservative and progressive) views .

          • Dan Jensen

            First, I thank you for taking my comments in the way they were intended, I appreciate that. Second, what is OP? And the notion that convincing arguments cannot be provided outside of our own circles simply is not true, as I said there is a mountain of evidence in favor of the doctrine, people just don’t like the doctrine.

            And you are presenting a false dichotomy between the doctrine and feeding the poor. We can be both orthodox and feed the poor and we are commanded by God to be both. I admire Mr. Enns for being a very nice man, but I can share your admiration for a man who has committed himself to trying to disprove traditional orthodoxy.

          • Jim

            I’m taking OP as meaning original post. I respect what you are saying, but I guess for me the typical inerrancy arguments aren’t very convincing when I look at it from the outside in (I was a conservative evangelical for many years). By that I mean the arguments typically involve listing Bible addresses that imply the Bible is God’s word. In discussions around scientific topics like evolution, this is not that convincing of a strategy.

            I wasn’t going to prolong the conversation, but decided to opt for a necessary clarification on my previous comment: I sincerely hope I didn’t come across as implying that conservative evangelicals are *never* involved in feeding the poor. That’s simply not true. Rather, I was alluding to priority (defending the Bible seems to rank higher). The evangelical missions efforts that I know of clearly involve feeding the poor, however this activity is often accompanied by evangelizing with Bible verses. Again, not saying this is necessarily bad, but it doesn’t seem to have that element of personal touch.

          • Dan Jensen

            Got it, and I didn’t take you in a negative way at all. We are just going to have to agree when it comes to the evidence and I would suggest that you engage in a thorough study of the topic from both sides and I think you will be quite surprised.

          • John Schmidt

            Why is the God Of the old testament cruel? God is the same as from the beginning until now. Man is cruel with his abortion and selfishness. God is the author of the Bible. The creator of the atom and Adam has enough power to write the Bible through humans who penned it. The Bible is without a doubt the best written book and most purchased since the beginning of time. To us who understand it is priceless and precious. To you a blind person it means nothing. Some trying to persuade others of your own foolishness as you will perish. Must you strive to take others with you.

          • Jim

            I think that humans are free to arrive at their own conclusions regarding the Bible and for me, I’m hoping to arrive via knowledge based assessments. I am quite confused by your statement “Must you strive to take others with you”, as I perceive this blog site focuses on “progressive” Christian thought. Just by way of curiosity, if you are a conservative/evangelical/fundie Christian, why do you even visit sites with a progressive approach? I personally never “troll” conservative blog sites and the times I read a conservative Christian blog, I don’t leave any judgmental comments. Why not? Because I *clearly recognize* that the site is dedicated to conservative Christian theology. But hey, that’s just me.

  • Mark

    Because when certain “religious teachers” taught it by verse and used to argue points incorrectly, it makes people not want to look at it again. When sermons don’t explain the context and timeline (which can be done with some certainty) people can’t see why the bible is nothing more than a Bunch of writings that aren’t really connected. The bible was never supposed to be read this way.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lotharson

    This is certainly a Bible I should take a look at.

    This post analyzed the reason why Christians don’t read as much as they should.

    Another related question would be why so many non-Christians in America are utterly disgusted by the Bible.

    I think that the answer is pretty simple: conservative Evangelical scholarship and apologetic.

    Due to their insistence that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, they incite people to set extremely high standards for judging the text.

    I find it only possible to appreciate the Bible if it is considered as human words about God, in the same way Evangelicals consider the writings of C.S.Lewis or Martin Luther.
    It becomes then a lot easier to answer many objections against the Bible which are to my mind fatal if you want to hold fast to its inerrancy.

    • ounbbl

      NIV Bible in such a format may be o.k. when one wants just read through and assumes one can read each book of 66 in the Bible in one setting!

      Someone must be kidding to come up with such a brilliant idea. He seems to believe when people read, the numbers of Chapters and verses are also read (prob. with brain malfunction).

      But if one wants to dig even tiny bit deeper, forget about it. I have a Gospel translation (Rieu) with no chapter or verses numbers. It was a terrible experience when I tried to check and do cross comparison as I read. I had to write in some verse numbers along the margin so that I can know where I am reading! What a frustration!

  • Pati

    Christians know this is no accident. We need to get back to basics, and stop trying to please the world. It hasn’t worked. Please read the KJV Bible; The Spirit is lost in most of the new translations. Also, churches need to get rid of all those video screens on the platform. Congregations stand and read some new, watered-down translation off a screen. Hold the Word in your hands, read the KJV aloud with your pastor and fellow Christians. It makes all the difference in the world. And while we’re at it, lead the congregation in hymns, not just make the congregation listen to a bunch of kids “onstage” singing something they wrote last week that no one will remember. The songs we sing regularly in church will stay with us all our lives, and God will bring the words to our remembrance, just like words of the Scriptures.

    • askGod

      i think you miss the point of worship if you think the point is to sing some 300 year old song for the sake of holding on to it for your life. the point of worship is to give reverent honor to God. im not saying that singing hymns isn’t worship, but if i sing some T-swift for the glory and honor of God, then that is more so worship then if i sing a song just because its a song that we sing every week in church. The bible says there will be a day when the people will truly worship God because they will worship in spirit and in truth. worship is not for you to remember or hold on to. its to give to God because you know he’s greater than yourself. i personally find it offensive that you would talk down about “kids on stage singing something they wrote last week”. the bible specifically says “do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers…” for them to get on stage after writing a song for worship, oh my goodness, how much more sincere can you be? how amazing would that worship be? when rather than just reading the notes from a book, you decide to create something for God from your own heart. THAT is worshiping in spirit and truth. though its true many preachers are reading a watered down scripture, and many “kids on stage” may not even be sincere in their faith but the same goes for anyone else on stage. Also, you spoke of the Spirit being lost in newer translations, but let me tell you, the Spirit is not in kjv. im not saying that the word is not of God. im saying the Spirit is in you. God is omnipresent. to say that he’s is not somewhere you might as well say he’s not there at all, so that’s why im not say “God isn’t in the KJV Bible,” but if he wasnt in any other translati0n than he is not in that one. but since he is in that translation, he is also in every other.

    • Jim

      I think I shall go offer an ox or a sheep as a freewill offering for an acceptable act of worship (instead of the unacceptable bunch of kids singing). Uh oh, all I can find for now is the neighbor’s cat. Guess I’ll have to glue some wool on it to make it without blemish. It’ll be just so basic. :)

    • ounbbl

      Yeah, if you are 350 years older, KJB is highly recommended. Otherwise, don’t waste your time on it. Thus saith King James from the grave …

    • fattybolger

      ppl who get hung up on this topic need to learn latin so they can read the original bible. its not the KJV. its the vulgate. the same argument that ppl use against other translations, that they are watered down, could be used against the KJV that it is watered down from the vulgate. some may say that the vulgate is watered down from the original hebrew and greek manuscripts

  • Lynn

    I stopped reading the Bible fifteen years ago because after being raised with inerrancy, I decided It was a pointless book at best, hurtful at worst. Without any other way to understand it besides a literal grammatical approach, I hated it. God was a monster when viewed through my inerrancy lenses.

    Then last year I decided enough time had passed, that I was secure enough in my unbelief of monster-God, and had enough distance to try reading it again.

    A friend created a Facebook group and we invited some others to join, and we started reading the Bible together. We were a ragtag group of evangelicals, mainliners, atheists, agnostics. Three in our group had been through seminary. We talked online in our Facebook group as we read.

    It was a fantastic experience. I read the whole Protestant Bible cover to cover in 10 weeks. And without those ridiculous inerrancy lenses over my eyes, I found myself really enjoying the Bible. It was so much richer and more interesting when I allowed it to be what it is: a collection of human writings about the Jewish and Christian faiths.

    I am still an atheist in belief but found a whole new appreciation and tolerance for the Bible. Maybe even love.

    • ounbbl

      Lots of people are tempted to read the Bible as the canon of their religion or read from theological doctrinal mindset (book of rules, rites, rituals, and liturgies) and some as an application book, not different than any book colored by psychology, prosperity, possibility, purpose-driven, prayer-inspired, etc. Quality of Bible translation itself would not help in this matter as most recent easy-read and paraphrased works further obscures the truths the Scripture delivers.

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    Bible reading is down because the world is overflowing with a Noah’s Flood of fascinating stories in novels, plays, films, videos, even the world of science has its own origin tales, as well as apocalypses, and tales involving the panoply of human experience.

  • GoFish

    I read of the Welsh revival. It occurred as a result of a small group. Two sisters, if I remember correctly, storming the throne of God day and night for years. Then the desire to know the truth enveloped the land. That same scenario has repeated many times through history. People dont just read the Bible (and understand and repent and hunger and thirst after righteousness) by accident or because of some fad or trend. “If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face… Then …”

  • Jerry Eng

    Where can I get hold of a copy of the survey by Biblica on “Why Bible reading is down at Your Church?”

    Thank you

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