–was I reading too much into this situation? –I certainly came away with something to think about
I saw this book lying in a box amongst other disheveled boxes of books, themselves lying on the entrance sidewalk at a church rummage sale near home. I remember that it had this deep emerald green dust-cover with only the title written across its front: Isaiah 35 Explained .
It was a hardcover book, quite thick, with age-colored pages and so of a former generation or two. I noticed it as I quickly walked through the sale area. The venue itself was sadly rather dumpy and unattractive, as though those hosting it were either in too much of a hurry to arrange things nicely, didn’t care all that much how things looked, or perhaps lacked the personnel to properly conduct the event, and I found nothing at all that I would even remotely interested me, and so I passed in and out rather quickly. But I did, oddly notice this one book as if it spoke to me; as when in reading something jumps off the page at you and strikes you in a certain manner. That’s how it happened with this book.
The more I think of it the book seemed such a relic from time past: In its day perhaps a cutting-edge volume but in the present moment and setting it seemed to almost betray itself. I winced as I read the title as it signified an approach to the Bible, which, while it was undoubtedly not the author’s intention, today represents such an uninspiring approach to scripture, as though truth is something historically explained, cataloged, archived, gotten to the end, by simply finding the proper explanation.
The book sat there in a sort of silent beckoning as if to say ‘just read me and you too can catalog things, come to the end of the meaning, and add it to your historical collection of truths known and understood; conquered even.’ Come, absorb my dead letter (rather than living spirit). I wondered how the author had fared with this sort of approach. Maybe in past times it may have been effective; I don’t know, but certainly not in the present.
Let me just say that there is no authentic, classical, accepted way to understand scripture, as though truth were some kind of closed system that can be gotten to the end of in some authoritative manner. Instead, we each have to let scripture speak to us in the present, in the here and now; to let it be a living entity. That’s the only way we can really understand and benefit from scripture.
We don’t need to even have a deep understanding of scripture to begin to benefit from it. In fact, we will never sound its depth because it’s unending and unfathomable. But we can let it impart understanding of ourselves and our world and those around us. We can grow in its knowledge and wisdom even and benefit from its enlightening but we can never know all of it that there is to know as if it was some kind of finality. It’s just not that kind of book. It beckons more as being only the opening chapters of an unending story, worlds without end; inviting and answering, rather than answered and finished.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that life and scripture are both so wondrous and mysterious that I want what I consider to be true, what I believe, to be something I continually experience and grow in, not something that is explained away to me.
‘PS: In all fairness to the book mentioned in this article, this is not a critique of it or it’s contents in any way. For all I know, it may be a wonderful volume in its time. In this instance I’m writing of, it more became the focal point, the catalyst for an argument or viewpoint other than itself.