As promised, a bit from the Very Revd Jeffrey John's reflections on REAL Bible Study.
Jeffrey began his talk with a recollection of those bizarre passages from the Bible which involve smiting, stoning, and general damning which have then been followed by the immortal and eternal THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD THANKS BE TO GOD!
He went on to explore what exactly the Bible is - not a book but a library. He argued that there is not single passage that can truly be called the word of God though the Bible as a whole might well be considered the word of God. However it is far better to think that the Bible "can be the vehicle of God's word to us now but connot be God's word.. there is only one WORD of God, that is Jesus Christ."
He used various models for the Bible and I think my favourite had to be the kaleidoscope with "many different authors' reflections and refractions of God's word" which produces different patterns some lighter and some dark but "white light is always there behind it." Because of this, there can be "no such thing as THE Biblical teaching on anything."
Jeffrey was keen to impress on his audience the importance of reading not only the text of the bible but also commentary on it. He said that in order to understand any passage in the Bible we must understand where it comes from. All good solid exegetical stuff really but it is shocking how often, perhaps especially in youth work, we expect to have a group read a text from the Bible and understand its meaning without any more support or insight.
He went on to show how a deeper reading of the text could help with a greater understanding of what the "white light" might be in certain places.
I particularly liked his highlighting of the nature of the recipients of Jesus' healing miracles. Not to say that the stories were created by the authors of the Gospels but that the selection they describe of the miracles Jesus performed was deliberate not accidental. Amongst those cured are all those who had been ostracisedfrom society by Levitical law; the crippled, the blind, the leper, the possessed, those who were ritually unclean because of bleeding. This shows that Jesus was, as Jeffrey John said, "absolutely revolutionary, absolutely hateful to the religious authorities of his time." By healing these people he was accepting them and showing the world that their understanding of God's laws was skewed.
Contraversially, though clearly stating that it was only one interpretation and neither his own or one he would die to defend, Jeffrey recounted how the curing of the centurion's servant could perhaps have been one of these miracles designed to show acceptance. It is nothing new to suggest that the centurion's "beloved" servant might have been intimate with the centurion. Perhaps Jesus' curing of this young man was a sign of Jesus' acceptance of the centurion and his lover as they were. A challenging interpretation for all of us!