Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Sunday, January 10, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©

After the Messiah sing-along, Helen and I were having milk shakes at Five Guys with Bob and Kathy, as they ate burgers, because they had missed lunch. [1] Kathy had missed lunch because she was returning from a grand-child run, and Bob missed lunch because Kathy wasn’t home to cook. [2]

Kathy had listened to Bible lectures by Amy Jill Levine as she drove to and from the grandkids. She was quite excited. Amy Jill is an excellent scholar and lecturer. Kathy said, “It almost makes me want to be a Bible scholar.”

I, of course, having been a biblical scholar, sort of, said something dismissive. Certainly not because Kathy is incapable of being a biblical scholar; she’s one of the smartest people I know. But because I was a theology scholar for 50 years, concentrating on Bible for about 20 of those, and I am now old and don’t want to do anything at all, and being a scholar just sounds like so much work, because I know from experience that it is, and if I’m too tired for it, then everybody else is, too!

That is one of the curses of old age. Everything we see is either been there-done that, or sounds like too much work, so we dismiss it for everybody, not just ourselves.

So, let me say to Kathy, and to you: Yes, be a Bible scholar, regardless of how young or how old you are.

The first thing to do to be a Bible scholar is to read the Bible. I recall a Peanuts cartoon strip in which one of the characters says, “I have begun to unravel the mysteries of the Old Testament; I have begun to read it.”

If that’s as far as you get, good enough. You’re a scholar.

The problem, though, is that it is so easy to read into the Bible what we already believe. Good scholarship requires good teachers, people who know more than we do about the subject, who can take us beyond our own experiences and prejudices. When Stuart Varney or Larry Kudlow declares on Fox News that Jesus is a free-market capitalist, they apparently have not read the Bible for themselves, at least not the direct words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24. So they need a teacher to help them expand their knowledge, maybe somebody like another Jew, in addition to Amy Jill Levine, like Jon Stewart.

I have had good Bible teachers in person, Victor Furnish and Ernest Saunders and James Flemming and Marcus Borg. I’ve had good teachers through books, by Albert Schweitzer and C.H. Dodd and Gunther Bornkamm and N.T. Wright.

No one has to be a biblical illiterate. You can be a Bible scholar. First, read the Bible. And get a good teacher. They are available in print and in voice, even if not in person.

The best Bible teacher of all, though, is Jesus. His words and actions are the prisms through with Christians read all the rest of the Bible. His words and actions trump Leviticus and Paul. After all, the Bible does not say that the Bible is God’s Word; the Bible says that Christ is God’s Word.

The main reason to study the Bible is so the Bible can study you.


1] The sign under the milk shake menu at Five Guys says “You can add bacon to any shake.” This bacon thing has gotten totally out of hand!

2] That is totally unfair to Bob. He is himself an excellent cook, especially if biscuits and okra are involved. But what are friends for, if not to misuse to make a point or get a laugh?

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