Lectio divina, part 1
Layers upon layers
Unbeknownst to far too many Christians is the fact that there is a right way to read the Bible. It is a sound, intelligent tradition that dates to the earliest centuries, is richly spiritual in nature, and can be said, without exaggeration, to be the way the Bible should be read by literate disciples. I must be unequivocal on this point: what I will outline in this post and the next is the authentic practice – developed, schematized, and refined over time, but essentially the same “way” of reading that would have been recognizable to literate ancient Hebrews and Christ-followers alike. Indeed, we find evidence of its use by Paul (rabbi and apostle) in his letters, among others, whenever he “exegetes” passages from Greek translations of the Hebrew scriptures – nor should we fail to notice that he never once explains them as a modern literalist would. For Paul, they are “spiritual” and, frankly, allegorical texts. Now, I’m not saying that other ways of reading the Bible haven’t become customary in a variety of contexts over the past five hundred years; I am saying, though, that those other ways are not the right way – not right, at any rate, if one wants to understand what Origen (c. 185 – c. 253) meant when he and the entire tradition after him likened the “eating” of Scripture to partaking of the Eucharist, so that (as Henri de Lubac explained) it might “unlock the divine secret hidden in our heart.” I dare say, that sort of reading among modern-day Christians is rather a lost art, and the consequences of not “rightly dividing the word of truth” (a familiar phrase that didn’t refer to the Bible originally, as it happens) have been grim.
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