Friday, June 30, 2006

How do you read the Bible? Synthetically? Or Analytically?

Dan who blogs at Lumen Fidei, Stella Borealis' resident theology student, and whose wife, Joy, is a published author at Dappled Things, from time to time freshes or refreshes our reading habits. When I saw the word "synthesis" I thought that he was going to be discussing Marx and Engels, but I guess not today. Something exceedingly more important and more truthful, to be sure.

syn·the·sis: The combining of separate elements or substances to form a coherent whole.
a·nal·y·sis: The separation of an intellectual or material whole into its constituent parts for individual study.


One of the tasks of the past year was learning how to read Scripture synthetically. A tall order, for people in our age of analysis. We analyze everything - it's how our brains are wired. Give us the Bible, and we will sit down and break it up into pieces and try to understand all we can about those pieces. If we read the Gospel of John, we want to know who John was, when he wrote it, what the cultural setting was surrounding the writing, and what he meant with every turn of phrase that came from his pen.

There's nothing wrong with that, in and of itself. But it's an incomplete way of looking at the Word of God, if that's all that we ever do. And, interestingly enough, it's not how the early Christians read Scripture. They certainly wanted to understand the meaning behind each passage. But they were more apt to spend their time making connections between passages throughout the whole of scripture than they were to sit down and analyze one particular section.

It's for this reason that we modern folk often have a hard time understanding what the church fathers were talking about in many of their writings. [snip] Interesting reading follows!

Father Michael Giesler also address the question in depth.

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