Reading the Bible Through Modern Eyes| Right or Wrong?

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Reading the Bible Through Western Eyes- The Eyes of “Me”

Our good friend Tony Denton shared the material below, on the Facebook page “As It Is Written,” owned by Steve Baisden. Tony is sharing a section of a book: “Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes” by E. Randolph Richards & Brandon J. O’Brien, beginning at page 204. Tony says this is a great book with lots of great thought-provoking material in it to take seriously when we read our copies of the Bible.

Tony makes the following comment as a lead in to the article: “PLEASE, if you have a couple of moments, read the following excerpts from a book our group here just finished up today which deals with the question, “AM I A PESHER?” (No, the authors of this book are not fulfilled believers, but, to be consistent with themselves, they should be from so much of what I read in this it.) The sections I’m quoting below are from a larger section on how we westerners tend so much to read “ME” (i.e. ourselves) into the Bible.”

Reading the Bible Through Western Eyes– or the Eyes of “Me”

Here is that excerpt:

“Preacher / broadcaster Harold Camping predicted … the world would end on May 21, 2011. If you’re reading this book, he was mistaken. Camping is just the most recent in a long line of commentators who believed God’s appointed end times would come within their lifetime. …

“Why do Westerners seem convinced that Christ will come on our watch? The truth is, we aren’t the first. The Dead Sea Scrolls are copies of OT books discovered near Qumran, the commune of the Essenes on the rim of the Dead Sea. This reclusive group of Jews from Jesus’ day had several peculiarities. One of the lesser known was a method of biblical interpretation that scholars often call ‘pesher.’ This method requires two presuppositions. First, it assumes a verse of Scripture is referring to the end of time even if it doesn’t originally. …

“Second … the ‘pesher’ exegete interprets his or her current time as the eschaton. Thus, step one is assuming a given passage is actually about the end of time; step two is assuming that that time is now. [An example is that the Essenes forced Habakkuk 1:6 refer to them and their time related to the Romans, when it obviously wasn’t about that at all; they just wanted it to be.]

“[This is the method] Hal Lindsey used to bring communism into God’s plan for the end times. And it remains a popular way for Christians to read the Bible, especially books like Daniel and Revelation and passages like Matthew 24:3-8 when Jesus spoke of ‘the end of the age.’ Its persistence in the West may well be due to our focus on ‘me.’ For ‘pesher’ to work, the interpreter has to feel that his or her times are the end times. As we have argued, North American Christians are predisposed to this element in our worldview that emphasizes ‘me.’ God’s Word is a message for me. These apocalyptic texts would be irrelevant … if the events they describe were not planned to occur in my lifetime. Perhaps the sensibility runs even deeper. Do we think, ‘Of course I would be on stage when the world ends. How could God do such a dramatic event without me?’ We don’t say it so bluntly, but the subconscious reasoning often runs this way: ‘Of course the world couldn’t end before I got here; but now that I’m here, there isn’t any reason for God to wait any longer.’ When we state it so blatantly, we immediately see it as absurd; however, we should not dismiss that it was driving our (mis)reading [of Scripture]. It is the part of the iceberg under the water that sinks the ships. It leads us, unconsciously, to read Jesus’ words [in Mat. 24:6-7] and apply them immediately to our contemporary situation. Aren’t all these things happening right now? Yes. Doesn’t that mean the end is coming in my lifetime? No. Such things have been happening for two thousand years since Jesus uttered this prophecy. …

“This cultural assumption about the supremacy of ‘me’ is the one to which we Westerners are perhaps most blind. We rightly search for the center of God’s will, but with the unspoken assumption that once we find it the seat will have my individual name on it. We have hundreds of years of cultural reinforcement driving us to read the Bible with ourselves as the center [with each / every generation]. …

“When we realize that each passage of Scripture is not about me, we begin gradually to see that the true subject-matter of the Bible, what the book is really about, is God’s redeeming work in Christ, about God restoring creation, but I am not the center of it. … A couple of tips follow:

“First, beware of thinking of the Bible in terms of ‘what this means to me.’ Remember, the Bible means what it means. [It never means what it never meant.] When we’re talking about the relevance of the Bible in our personal lives, we should ask, ‘How does this apply to me?’ But remember also that you should try to answer the question, ‘What did this passage mean to the original audience?’ before asking, ‘How does this passage apply to me?’

“Second, to avoid deriving a strictly individual interpretation of a biblical passage, ask yourself how you might apply the passage differently if you interpret it in corporate terms rather than in individual terms. Practice asking, ‘How [did or] does this passage apply to God’s people?’ …”