Fragmented or Unified?

Of course, this is a rather simplistic sketch. However, it effectively illustrates these two different approaches to the Bible. 

Academically, the Bible is a group of texts from an historical and geographical context that is very different from our own. Its tools not only emphasise this difference, but tend to create an even greater fragmentation. Although the Gospel Synopsis places material which is paralleled in the Synoptic Gospels together, its effect is to draw attention to those places where there are differences and divergences.

On the other hand, the Church approach creates a unifying aspect. The Bible is treated as a text. Study Bibles which include cross referencing emphasise the way books and topics are interlinked through the text(s) and, unlike the Gospel Synopses, present a feeling of unity.


Towards Syneidon

These differences should not be that surprising. Writing an undergraduate essay is very different from reading the same text for spiritual well-being and therefore necessitates a very different approach. 

Nevertheless A sees the Bible as a (rather loose) bundle of ancient texts, produced by cultures that are distinct (historically and geographically) and the only copies of which we possess have endured a tortuous transmission from tongue to ink, to printer's block to pixel. A's tools reflect and even accentuate this perspective. In other words, the academic approach and its tools reinforce in the reader's mind the distance between the text and reader.

However B sees the Bible as a unified whole; one text that spans countless generations - including our own. The structure and language of B's Bible serve to contract that historical and geographical distance. In this way, B's approach acts as a telescope which shortens, in the reader's mind, the distance between text and reader.

Of course, it must be noted here that A is very aware of the relevancy of (say) Mark 13 to the very different contexts presented by the present day. It would also be wholly wrong to suggest that B (and all the other readers who use B's approach) are totally unaware that Mark 13 was not nearly two thousand years old and describing a very particular historical event.

Nevertheless, speaking in broad terms, A and B share very different perspectives of Mark 13 and the Bible as a whole. Neither perspective is wrong. A would have failed to accurately understand the text if there is no recognition of its scriptural/sacral function from the time of writing to the present. Moreover, to fully understand the text, B needs to appreciate the distant horizon over which it has come and to feel the fire from which it was given birth.

In other words, to see the whole, the As among us need to listen, discuss and share their particular perspectives with the Bs and vice versa. By looking together from our different vantage points we might begin to truly see the whole.

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