Why do we read the Bible? I’ll venture to guess here.
Our tendency is to go to the Bible for something new, to read it in the hope and expectation of a fresh discovery of something we did not know or had not heard or had completely forgotten. As a professor who teaches the Bible, I know the experience – it happens to me weekly, sometimes daily.
But, discovery of something new is not the sole, or even the main, purpose for reading the Bible. So let me suggest that there is another way to read the Bible — with our ears. The longer you look at that idea that we read the Bible to find something new the sillier it becomes. If the purpose of reading the Bible is to find something new, the older we get the less we would need the Bible for the more we know the less we would consult the Bible.
Neither age nor wisdom, neither Jesus nor the whole Bible, however, agree with this. The elderly enjoy the Bible not because they find something new, and the wise love the Bible not because they find something fresh. Our elders love to hear what they already love and the wise love to find what they already cherish. We read and return to the Bible not (just) to find something new but to hear something old, not (only) to discover something fresh but to be reminded of something old – ancient, in fact.
Sometimes I think our problem is not what we don’t know about the Bible (for we’ve learned a lot of it already) but what we do know. We know what those words say, and the issue for us is not “knowing” but “doing.”
We read the Bible, in part I am suggesting, to hear something old so we’ll learn how to live anew today.
Adapted from my forthcoming book, Praying with the Church.