Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Living Word of God

Just started reading Ben Witherington's book The Living Word of God: Rethinking the Theology of the Bible. Ben is a former professor of mine at Asbury that I am grateful to have studied under for nearly 4 years. He's a great theologian and historian as well as a very giving person. I wanted to comment on what I've read so far that I thought might be helpful for you the reader when it comes to reading the Bible.

First, we have to remember that the world of the New Testament was primarily an oral culture. In fact, the literacy rate back then was never higher than 20 percent. During the time when the New Testament would have been written (first century), if one could read, this was usually a sign of someone being of a higher social standing and because of this, with more education. Moreover, those who could read were largely males, not females, which is not a surprise in a male dominated culture.

Secondly, it's helpful to remember that the Old Testament was the Bible of the earliest Christians as the New Testament was not yet written, collected, and then canonized. Even then, the OT canon (the books that eventually made up the OT that we have in our Bibles today), was not completely settled much before the final years of the first century. Because of this, a distinction needs to be made between the "Bible" as one form that God's word took (written form) and the "Word of God" which is a much broader category that includes both written and oral words; but also an Incarnate person of Jesus identified in John 1 as the Word. Nevertheless, the source is God who, in the words of Dr. Ben, "inspires, speaks, and empowers the words with qualities that reflect the divine character."

I found this a healthy reminder as I read God's written word (the Bible) and I hope you might find a nugget or two that might be of help. I'll be commenting on this book more in the days ahead so stay tuned...