Friday, April 9, 2010

Studying the Bible by Reading the Bible

I almost saved this for a simple link post on Sunday, but it was a little too good to get shoved into a list of other links.  Fred Sanders put up a long but excellent piece on The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (you can buy it here, or get it free online here, if you don't already have it in your Bible software bundle).  In short, the TSK is organized in Biblical canonical order, but with cross-references for every verse.  It's your study Bible's cross-references on steroids: it has a total of 500,000 of them (averaging 62 references per verse).

I've never used the TSK, but I admit that I scoffed inside as I read Sanders' explanation of the book. The hermeneutical elitist in me thought, "That sounds like out-moded, Fundy, simpleton Bible study that I'm well beyond, what with my commentary language that discuss historical backgrounds and original languages in scholarly detail..." I might have even stopped reading if Fred Sanders (who is a real live super-genius, if you didn't know) wasn't the one who had written it.

Here is the paragraph that pulled me off my pedestal:
    In our time, Christian theologians are praising canonical readings, the theological interpretation of Scripture, and lectio divina with varying levels of trendiness. Richard Hays has argued persuasively that a resonant canonical memory is necessary for the proper interpretation of the Bible. The TSK was a tool for carrying out all of these projects at the level of Fundamentalist Bible readings. Christians of our day can hardly claim to have advanced beyond what our grandparents were capable of doing with the TSK in hand. The TSK is for serious Bible students without specialist training; it presupposes, validates, and reinforces the twin theological claims that the canon is the most relevant (and the only mandatory) context for understanding scripture, and that scripture is self-interpreting.
This is a really discerning comment.  I have found just recently that following the cross-references has been perhaps more beneficial than any reading I have done recently as I have led my adult Sunday school class on Revelation recently.  The reality is that I scoff at using the TSK not because I think it sounds like a bad idea, but because I'm lazy.  I don't want to track down a ton of cross-references.  I just want to read and get it and move on.

How well would I understand the Bible, how good would my preaching and teaching get, and how saturated would my mind be with the whole counsel of Scripture if I disciplined myself to study with the TSK at hand?  As Sanders says, the TSK is for "serious students without specialist training".  Specialist training or not, the study will be serious.  I figure it's at least worth a shot, right?

1 comment:

Evan Thibodeau said...

I was also impacted by Dr. Sanders post and fully agree with you. I certainly want to spend more time cross-referencing before jumping to the answer a commentary can give me. The best part is it means more time spent in the inerrant, divinely inspired, Word of God.