Technology and wealth have shaped how we read the Bible. Many of us own or can access multiple versions of the Bible, a variety of commentaries, study tools, and so on.
There’s a sense in which we can study the Bible by ourselves.
Today I came across this thought-provoking post from Scott Baker. He wrote:
It doesn’t take a PhD to read the Bible.
It takes thousands of PhDs.
We can only read and understand thanks to the work of countless saints and scholars who have gone before us - to say nothing of the loving patience of our own parents and teachers who taught us to read and discern meaning.
Anyone advocating for a Lone Ranger approach to understanding the Bible is a danger to themselves and others, and is deceiving themselves to boot.
Every time we read the Bible, there’s an opportunity for gratitude. Gratitude for all the men and women who gave their lives to protect a manuscript from destruction, the scribes who copied them, the Christians who donated to sustain their churches, the institutions that preserved these documents, the scholars who created lexicons of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the translators who brought the Scriptures into languages we can read, and thousands of others.
What are some ways you are intentionally benefiting from the wisdom of other Christians?
So good. I think this is one great answer to my recent question:
It’s occurred to me through this post and the other conversation that the early disciples would still have had eye witnesses that they could discuss theology over with. They would have discussed all the stories heard from friends who were eye witnesses that are not even mentioned in the Bible (John 21:25) . Today, we have 2000 years of good theological studies as well as incredibly errant interpretations. We have a lot more material to work through when studying the Bible. We not only have to try and understand scripture in an entirely alien cultural context but also weigh up 2000 years worth of commentary on it. Of course we need others to learn from and with. I think it is a mistake to attempt study on one’s own. As you quoted, it’s not only foolish but dangerous. It’s the sure fire way to come up with a ‘new’ interpretation that leads steadily away from the Gospel into false teaching. I’m fully aware most people are wise and able to discern truth - they don’t need to be fed it from others - but community gives accountability. It also provides honest questioning when scripture appears awkward or downright unpleasant.
I don’t have time to research every topic and story of the Bible, let alone learn both Biblical languages. I have areas I choose to focus on, but there are others who favour other topics. Together we can share together what we’ve learned and condense that into something that feeds into spiritual growth for many people.
I couldn’t agree with you more that community is very important in understanding the Bible. In my own experience, in some Bible studies where the leaders and participants came prepared, relied on reputable resources, encouraged honest questions and discussions, the foundations for my faith got established. When I saw faith lived out in the context of a community, my own love for the Bible grew. When my faith was tested I had something to stand firm upon. Online christian communities have also been helpful as they have introduced me to an array of resources that I never knew existed, causing me to read the Bible more carefully with both my heart and mind. They have helped me discover my biases and blindspots. It is natural to want to share what we learn with someone and community creates the opportunity for it. It can help develop our gifts. I am thankful for the many servants of Christ who have wrestled with scripture to give us faithful interpretations.
That said, we need to be vigilant about what Christian sources we are taking in and the communities we join just as @alison also mentioned. There are many popular books/preachers with false teachings and there are many unhelpful communities. When a community is not open to honest questions, uses limited resources, doesn’t encourage critical thinking, or too controlling, it stunts our Christian growth. We may feel good or religious attending these kind of groups but they may not build proper spiritual discernment. Some Christians think that all we need is the Holy Spirit to understand the Bible but we humans are not always good at discerning the Holy Spirit. We need the help of a faithful community and rigorous study to understand some issues. I appreciate this online community where we can bring up questionable teachings for an honest perspective from Christians of diverse backgrounds.