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When You Are Reading, You Are Interpreting

I grew up in the South in a small Pentecostal church. Several things were important to the folks that attended this church. They were important because the pastor drilled them into the flock. First, they must come to church on Sunday morning, including Sunday school, plus Sunday evening and Wednesday evening. Second, they must tithe. Third, they must read the Bible daily. What I began to notice as I grew in this environment was that there was no public reading of the Bible when the church gathered in the building on these appointed occasions and there was no help for those who were trying to follow the guideline of reading their Bible daily. How reading the Bible worked out in my home was the “Promise Box” method. 1 This little box was filled with 200 colored cards each one with a different verse or fragment of a verse printed on it. Reading the sacred text was executed by picking a different colored “promise card” every morning and reading the verse or fragment of a verse that was printed on each card. In my home and in my early church experience, reading Scripture was a combination of reading “small bits” from the “promise cards” and hearing “small bits” expounded in topic after topic. It was years before I discovered the beauty of the whole story of God. Even then I still had to learn that just reading was not enough to understand what God was saying. I had to acknowledge that when I was reading, I was interpreting and that I needed to become a better reader-interpreter of the sacred text so that I could live into its story.

Every reader of Scripture is an interpreter of Scripture. We will either do a good job or a bad job at this task. Have you ever thought about why Scripture is interpreted so many different ways? Why two perfectly capable teachers can draw opposite conclusions from the same text? And then, as you read it, you draw yet another conclusion. Each reader, then giving ample praise to the Holy Spirit for their reading of the text. How does this happen?


  1. Winn Griffin, “Promise Box Syndrome,” gen2rev.com. http://gen2rev.com/readingthebible/promise_box_syndrome/ (accessed January 16, 2011).
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