Editorial: Reading With the Heart

Each morning my Daily Office includes a reading from one of the saints.  It is related to the daily Gospel lesson.  As I have connected with this “great cloud of witnesses”, I have come to see the power of metaphor and analogy in my reading of the Bible.

We have been conditioned to think that the only acceptable way to read the Bible is through the Western lenses of exegesis and related historical-critical and form-critical methodologies.  But the fact is, the Christian church made it for about seventeen centuries without all the “scholarly tools” we often today consider essential to the study of Scripture.

The point of this post is not to denounce these more-modern hermeneutical principles, but simply to point out that there is a legitimate reading of the Bible that does not require the use of them.  Rather than limiting ourselves to the question, “What does this mean?’ we can also include the question, “What does this enable us to see?”

I have heard some say that an analogical reading can lead you astray; that only a more “scientific” hermeneutic can keep you in the truth.  And then I look at some of the commentaries scholars have produced with their historical-critical and form-critical methodologies, and I realize that as many errors have come into the faith through this means as through any analogical reading of the text.  A claim of intellectual erudition is no protector against heresy.  No methodology is perfect.

My point in posting this reflection is simply to call for an openness to all the ways God can speak to us through the biblical passages we read each day.  There is a reading “with the heart” as well as reading “with the mind.”  There is analogical reading, as well as exegetical reading.  My daily encounters with the saints have reminded me of that.  And I wanted to remind you of it as well.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Editorial: Reading With the Heart

  1. “What does this enable us to see?” sounds like a great question to approach reaching the Scriptures with. During the readings from John during Lent, I was struck by the invitation to see that’s so prevalent in John’s gospel. Who’s blind and who sees pervades the story of the man born blind in Ch. 9, and then in Ch. 11 even Jesus is invited to go and see where Lazarus had been laid. I don’t know what it all means, but I know John doesn’t do things like that by accident.

    I realize I’m using my analytical reading to reflect on your comments about not only relying on analytical reading… but you’re put words around the same invitation that my reading during Lent led me to in John 1: “Come and see.”

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