How to read the Bible….and anything else!

I’ve recently been given a book called “A Rabbi reads the Bible” by Jonathan Magonet and it’s really excellent reading. I’m only a few chapters in right now but I’d like to quote some for you all to ponder on:

“In 1968, our progressive Jewish youth movement hosted a group of young Czech Jews for a conference in Edinburgh. They stayed on for an additional week- and the Russians marched on Prague, cutting them off from their country and their families. Many of them became refugees overnight. That would be enough to bring them to mind, especially in the light of the radical changes that have happened in Eastern Europe, but they taught us something very special about the Bible in the time were were together. We studied some Bible texts and they were incredibly good at understanding them, picking up all the nuances very quickly. I was surprised as they had never studied the Bible before.

“It’s easy,” they explained. “You see, in Czechoslovakia, when you read a newspaper, first you read what is written there. Then you say to yourself, ‘If that is what they have written, what really happened? And if that is what really happened, what are they trying to make us think? And if that is what they are trying to make us think, what should we be thinking instead?’ You learn to read between the lines and behind the lines. You learn to read a newspaper as if your life depended upon understanding it-because it does!” 

I found this a profoundly revealing and really rather powerful way of looking at things. You can apply it to how you read the newspapers( even in the UK, you need to take it all with a shovel full of salt) or to how your read your sacred texts, or how you read publicity statements or advertisments. And you can even use it for finding your way through what has become a very crowded and rather dangerous “spiritual” market place. I do recall a chappie with beard and sandals bearing down on a similar market place with a whip made of ropes and driving out those who sought to make the house of God into a den of thieves.  I do wonder what happened to him….

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3 thoughts on “How to read the Bible….and anything else!

  1. This is brilliant. I am going to adopt the method used by the Czech Jews, especially for finding my way through the spiritual market place.

  2. I love the reading method you describe. I might add to it:

    What’s been lost in translation?

    How is meaning of the words made different by the times when it was written?

    What is likely fact and what is more likely hyperbole as people fill in the gaps in what they know with assumption?

    After all that, does it speak to me? Why or why not?

    Thanks

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