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Podcast: How to Become a Better Bible Reader (Phil Ryken)

Podcast: Easy methods to Turn into a Higher Bible Reader (Phil Ryken)

This text is a part of the The Crossway Podcast collection.

A Literary Strategy to the Bible

On this episode of The Crossway Podcast, Phil Ryken, contributing editor to the ESV Literary Examine Bible, discusses the literary qualities of Scripture. He makes the case for focusing not simply on what the biblical writers stated, but in addition on how they stated it, which contributes to the which means of the textual content. He additionally explains why this literary strategy to the Bible has largely been uncared for by evangelicals, what it actually means to learn the Bible actually, and the way all of this pertains to the plain which means of the phrases of Scripture.

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Matters Addressed in This Interview

Combining 1,200+ examine notes associated to the literary options of the Bible, theESV Literary Examine Biblehelps readers perceive Gods Phrase extra totally, in all its richness and wonder.

What and How the Bible Speaks to Us

01:32

Matt Tully
With regards to studying and learning the Bible, I believe we as conservative evangelical Christians are likely to deal with what the Bible is saying to us, however we’re maybe not fairly as acquainted with specializing in how the Bible is saying these issues. Why would you say, should you had been to summarize it merely, that understanding the how can be essential?

Phil Ryken
The very first thing that involves thoughts, I do not know if that is crucial factor, however I simply suppose there’s much more enjoyment of studying God’s phrase after we perceive there are totally different sorts of literature within the Bible and that we have to strategy them in very alternative ways. I believe numerous Christians, and perhaps folks in secular tradition as nicely, consider the Bible in a very separate categoryit’s its personal type of distinctive ebook that has no reference to different issues that we learn. However once you begin realizing there are parables, tales, poetry and music, it provides simply a way more wealthy appreciation and delight of God’s phrase. I additionally suppose it is actually essential for deciphering the Bible correctly. If you wish to get the content material you even have to grasp the shape. In any other case you are going to be lacking the content material.

Is Scripture Its Personal Class?

02:47

Matt Tully
Going again to that first level you made, why is it that we are likely to view Scripture on this fully different class? Clearly, it is in one other class in some sense.

Phil Ryken
Truly, there’s a side of that that is appropriaterecognizing this actually is the phrase of God and that it is a divine present to us. God speaks to us by his phrase in a means that he does not converse to us in every other type of writing. So it’s a particular ebook. It is a holy ebook. It is a distinctive bookthere’s no different ebook prefer it in that sense. However we even have to keep in mind that the individuals who wrote the Bible below the inspiration of the Holy Spirit had been actual folks and they’re reflecting the tradition that they had been in and cultures at all times have literary varieties. So the Bible is exclusive in sure methods, nevertheless it’s truly not distinctive in different methods. You are asking the query, Effectively, why can we generally view it as distinctive in ways in which it isn’t useful to seen as distinctive? I believe even the bodily type of the Bible the place you will have little verse numbers, because of this you are likely to learn the Bible verse by verse by verse slightly than as a literary complete or a web page turner the way in which you would possibly learn one other ebook.

Matt Tully
These verses did not exist within the unique manuscripts.

Phil Ryken
Oftentimes the unique did not even have breaks between the letters within the wordsit was all run collectively. So even the bodily type of it was very totally different. I believe that is one more reason why we maybe learn the Bible otherwise.

Have We Uncared for the Literary Points of the Bible?

04:26

Matt Tully
Do you suppose it is a honest critique of, let’s simply say Protestant evangelicalism usually, that we have now uncared for the literary qualities of Scripture?

Phil Ryken
It in all probability is, though I am hopeful that we do higher with that now as a result of I believe there are much more assets for understanding the Bible as literature. I additionally suppose that there are extra pastors who’ve been skilled to be slightly extra delicate to the totally different sorts of literature within the Bible. I believe that is been an space over the past half century the place Bible students typically and evangelical students particularly have actually grown of their understanding, and that finally has an influence on folks which can be instructing the Bible and finally has an influence additionally on folks which can be studying the Bible.

Interpretation by a Literary Lens

05:09

Matt Tully
You talked about one other one of many causes that that is essential is for interpretation of Scripture. Are you able to consider any examples the place a sensitivity to the literary qualities of Scripture would have a optimistic influence on our capacity to interpret it?

Phil Ryken
Here is one instance: I believe there is a longstanding debate or dialogue as as to whether the parables of Jesus have just one primary level or whether or not they can truly be speaking quite a lot of totally different classes. Whenever you perceive what a parable isa parable is a selected type of story; it does have a kingdom level to it, however like most tales it isn’t only a easy proposition. There is a complexity and richness to it. Whenever you perceive that that is how literature works, you are not going to be shocked when there are a number of meanings, and you are not going to be shocked if there is a main assembly as a result of numerous instances a parable particularly is a narrative informed to make some extent. In order that’s perhaps a both-and, however you will have a deeper understanding of it should you perceive the type of literature that it’s. One other instance is typically we ask moral questions of tales within the Bible: Was it proper for Rahab to mislead her fellow residents of Jericho to be able to shield town? And that is an age-old moral dilemma anyway. How do I reply that query as a result of in a narrative you oftentimes do not havemaybe in a sure type of story you’ll, however many of the Bible tales you do not essentially haveHey, this individual was doing the correct factor,slightly editorial remark. So what do you do in that state of affairs? You learn literature the way in which literature is written, and literature tells you a large number by the outcomes and what the outcomes are. No person desires to have the type of story the place anyone is at all times telling you what the ethical level is. You simply wish to enter into the world of the story and let the story carry its personal which means. But when it’s essential ask a few of these onerous questions of a textual content, it’s essential understand how tales work and that helps you within the interpretation.

Literary Studying and the Thought of Story

07:32

Matt Tully
So how linked is a literary studying of Scripture to the concept of story?

Phil Ryken
I might say it is linked when the Bible is telling you a narrative, nevertheless it’s not linked when the Bible is supplying you with a family tree. It is not so linked if the Bible is writing you an epistle or reciting to you a poem. The Bible does all of those sorts of issues, there’s only a great number of sorts of literature within the Biblewhich by the way in which, I believe is a part of the knowledge of the Holy Spirit and the way the Bible is constructed as a result of we develop into extra complete as individuals when we have now life remodeling encounters with the literature of the Bible in its selection. There may be an aesthetic awakening and appreciation of magnificence that may come by after we are studying Psalms that commemorate nature that is not going to come back by to us in the identical means in studying different kinds of literature within the Bible. So we have gotten extra full as individuals after we are uncovered extra richly to the Bible in all of its selection.

An Invitation to Interact with Completely different Literary Genres

08:45

Matt Tully
That is such an attention-grabbing perspective as a result of I believe that is my very own expertise. Typically I’ve my favourite sections of Scripture and my favourite genres of Scripture that I are typically drawn in the direction of. Possibly for somebody it is the Psalms, perhaps for another person it is Paul’s epistles, or for another person it is the Gospels. I can are likely to even draw back from the opposite genres as a result of it is harder, it sort of feels uncomfortable to me, it is a totally different means of participating. However you are saying that is one of many advantages one of many beauties of Scripture is that it does power us to do this.

Phil Ryken
Sure. To provide an analogy, it is slightly bit like figuring out on the gymnasium. There could also be workouts you actually love to do and ones that you do not actually like to take action a lot. However a few of the ones that you do not like to take action a lot are actually essential since you’re growing muscular tissues that must be developed. I believe Bible academics, pastors, and preachers have a extremely key function right here as a result of after they have an enthusiasm for the Bible and all of its selection and can assist you perceive how totally different components of the Bible are written you truly can take pleasure in one thing in a means that you just did not notice you’d be capable of take pleasure in it. In order that’s to not say that some components of the Bible aren’t harder. The allotment of the land within the ebook of Joshua and all the private and place names, that takes a sure type of persistence to enter into. However till you give your self over to a textual content, you are not going to actually get the religious profit that it has for you. Whenever you speak about components of the Bible which can be tough, one more reason it is essential for us to get past the few parts of the Bible which can be extra pure for us to learn, or that we take pleasure in extra, is as a result of no matter we take pleasure in probably the most is just one small a part of what the Bible as an entire has for us. Forty % of the Bible, I believe it’s, is written in poetry. In the event you speak to lots of people they’d say, I do not actually like poetry. It is literary. I do not prefer to learn poetry. And I’ve obtained a pair rejoinders to that and one in every of them is, Truly, you do. You simply devour it in a type you do not notice. Hottest music is poetic and most Christian music, whether or not it is the traditional conventional hymns of the church or whether or not it is extra modern, is within the type of poetry. So truly, all of us devour an enormous quantity of poetry. And that is the way in which the Psalms had been written; they had been written to be sung as nicely. So I believe we do must lean into a few of the genres of the Bible, a few of the literary varieties which can be much less snug or acquainted to us. God has one thing for us there as nicely.

Balancing Literary Nature and Historicity

11:24

Matt Tully
Now perhaps to hit on a few of the considerations that individuals have expressed a few literary strategy to the Bible: some scholarsand we might in all probability take into account many examples of this to be theologically liberal scholarshave additionally emphasised the literary nature of Scripture, however then they’ve used that to argue that doctrines like inerrancy and even divine inspiration are invalid. How can we stability viewing the Bible as a bit of human literaturethat follows the conventions and guidelines of literature and needs to be interpreted alongside these strains, is stuffed with poetry and metaphors and archetypeswith questions of historicity? Are these two points ever at odds with one another?

Phil Ryken
I completely suppose they do not must be at odds, though I believe you are making a great level. I believe liberal scholarship, maybe, has been in some circumstances very delicate to the literary dimensions of Scripture. I believe one subject that enters into that’s generally when folks hear literary they suppose fictional. Literary simply means there is a model to it, there’s an artistry to it, it has a literary type to it. It does in no way must be opposite to a sturdy sense of biblical historical past. For me, it is like numerous issues within the Christian life and in theologyit’s a both-and. In the event you attempt to power a dichotomyit’s obtained be this or it is obtained be that, it is like the 2 natures of Christ, or it is like human freedom and divine sovereigntywhen you place pit them in opposition to each other the place one will get to win and the opposite has to utterly lose, you are not going to be a great theologian. I believe we should strategy all the Scriptures in the identical means and that’s to acknowledge it is a very human ebook stuffed with human failings, when it comes to the characters which can be introduced, human when it comes to the personalities of the authors that come by very strongly, and the experiences of the authors that come by very strongly all over the Bible. However on the similar time, the Scripture itself says these males who had been authors of Scripture had been carried alongside by the Holy Spirit. There’s an impetus and a divine company in order that this really just isn’t merely human phrases about God, however that is God’s phrase to humanity. There isn’t any motive on this planet that we will not totally admire each of these elements. I believe if we take one on the expense of the opposite, we’re not going to grasp Scripture in all of its richness.

Literal vs. Literary Studying

14:03

Matt Tully
Possibly one other related subject that’s associated is that I believe conservative evangelicals usually satisfaction themselves with a dedication to taking the Bible actually, studying the Bible actually. and generally I believe a literal studying can appear to be in opposition with a literary studying. How do you see these two issues?

Phil Ryken
We should always learn the Bible actually when the Bible itself desires it to be taken actually. So do I learn the Bible actually? Sure, besides when the Bible is talking metaphorically, I learn the Bible metaphorically. When the Bible is talking in parables, I learn it parabolically. when the Bible is talking in Psalms, I learn it musically. I believe generally when folks say, Hey, I wish to take the Bible actually, what they actually imply is that they wish to totally settle for the divine authorship and the truthfulness of biblical historical past. So generally when folks use that vocabulary, I do not essentially really feel like, Oh, I’ve obtained to straighten you out: No, do not learn the Bible actually. No. What you are making an attempt to speak there’s something legitimate and essential, however can we have now a dialog that broadens your understanding of learn how to strategy the Bible? That features studying the Bible metaphorically and parabolically and the opposite methods I used to be speaking a few second in the past.

Discomfort with Literary Interpretation of Scripture

15:32

Matt Tully
What wouldn’t it seem like so that you can attempt to persuade anyone whomaybe even is listening proper nowand is already beginning to really feel uncomfortable, or perhaps they’ve truly skilled anyone utilizing this type of speak in regards to the Bible as a strategy to get across the plain which means of the textual content of Scripture?

Phil Ryken
Typically folks do attraction to literary options of the Bible as a means of discounting biblical historical past. So I believe the query you are asking initially, sure, that is an actual factor that individuals do. In some conversations you would possibly wish to begin with, Let me begin this dialog by affirming what I consider to be true in regards to the historical past of the Bible. I consider within the precise bodily, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ due to the historic accounts of his resurrection that I learn within the Gospels. So then folks know, Okay, here is anyone that believes in biblical historical past as I do. I am prepared to listen to extra. Talking considerably humorously, if anyone is like, I will learn the Bible actually and I will learn it actually in all places, I then would possibly wish to take you to Music of Solomon 4: Behold, you’re stunning, my love. Behold, you’re stunning! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Okay. That is a simile. That is a metaphor. Your eyes are doves. Ought to I be taking that actually? After which should you maintain going by the passage, it is going to get actually bizarre the longer you go.

Matt Tully
A neck like a tower, or Your neck is a tower?

Phil Ryken
Yeah. Proper. So then anyone goes to must step again and say, Effectively, no. Clearly, I do not imply I take that actually. Then we will begin having a dialog. I believe there’ll come instances within the Bible the place we have now to actually wrestle with, What’s the style right here? Is that this historic? Is the Bible presenting itself as historic on this place? And generally you must wrestle by a few of these questions. I believe coming on the Bible with an total strategy that when the Bible means to be taken actually, we take it actually; however then that is not the one means the Bible speaks to us, I believe that is a great orientation to our examine of the Bible.

Historic-Grammatical Strategy to Interpretation

17:55

Matt Tully
That is useful. One of many different dominant methods of approaching Scripture, taught in in all probability many evangelical church buildings, Bible Faculties, seminariesmaybe even right here at Wheaton Collegewould be the historical-grammatical strategy to interpretation. Do you suppose that has room inside it to be delicate to the literary qualities of Scripture?

Phil Ryken
Positively. I completely suppose so. I am not a Bible scholar, proper? I am a pastor making an attempt to show the Bible faithfully, so I can not provide the full historical past of how we have approached the Bible hermeneutically and in different methods, however I believe a historical-grammatical strategy needs to take the textual content of the Bible in very particular methods as critically as potential. It’s historic, so it has a historic context. It could even be speaking historic reality. We have to learn it in that historic context and we have to take note of the phrases of the Bible, the grammar of the Biblesubjects and objects and the way the language is working. There’s a linguistic sophistication that’s required to grasp the Bible on the deepest stage. A part of the issue, because it had been, with that strategy might be to have a look at the Bible so microscopically, we’re very specific components of the Bible, and we’re lacking a broader contextI’m so targeted on this little verse I am not excited about it in its wider context, or I am so targeted on this passage I am not even noticing what Matthew is making an attempt to do in his Gospel as an entire. Sure, I want to grasp these phrases of their grammar and their historical past on this specific context, however I additionally must put it within the larger context of what the Gospel of Matthew is doing as an entire. And I believe a literary strategy appears on the Bible in all of its literary dimensions and phrases and sentencesthat’s a part of a literary understanding of the Bible, however there are additionally literary wholes, larger literary items. So perhaps to provide an analogy of that, I would like to have the ability to get the massive image by wanting on the Bible by my binoculars; however I additionally want to drag out the microscope generally to have a look at specific components of the Bible, and that is not incompatible. That really might be a part of an entire, wealthy studying of the Bible.

Matt Tully
We want each. It is not an either-or. Is it potential to overemphasize the literary qualities of Scripture?

Phil Ryken
Sure, I believe it’s. It is like numerous good issues. Possibly you may overemphasize one thing or take it in an unique means or use it within the flawed means. So I believe it will be potential, for instance, to be so fascinated with what’s taking place within the Bible from a literary perspective that you just by no means actually get to the purpose of sensible utility. A literary strategy to the Bible may truly be a means of distancing the Bible out of your private religious pilgrimage, when truly it ought to reinforce that and it actually ought that will help you in your religious journey. So perhaps that might be an overemphasis. I might by no means wish to learn the Bible as lower than the literature that it’s; however I believe the Bible, as a result of it’s a phrase to us from God and does have exhortation and command in it, is totally different from different kinds of literature in that regard and that each one needs to be taken critically as a part of our heartfelt, life remodeling response to the Bible.

Preaching with Sensitivity to the Literary Nature of the Bible

21:48

Matt Tully
You have served as president of Wheaton Faculty for ten years now; however earlier than that you just had been a pastor preaching repeatedly for a few years, so you have referenced the significance of pastors understanding this. What does it seem like to evangelise Scripture with a sensitivity to the literary qualities of the Bible?

Phil Ryken
That is an important query. It is one thing I might like to jot down on someday slightly bit extra. I’ve finished some excited about it, spoken once in a while on learn how to preach the Bible as literature. We might have some listeners who’re acquainted with my father’s work. He has actually been a pioneer in literary understanding of the Bible

Matt Tully
Your father, Leland Ryken.

Phil Ryken
sure, significantly for the evangelical neighborhood. There comes some extent the place you preach the Bible as literature. That’s, you talk to the folks of God the message of the Bible in its literary varieties and with a sensitivity to that. For me, I believe a beginning place for that’s broad studying of a portion of the Bible that I’m planning to evangelise. So simply to provide an instance, I’ve an aspiration sometimewhen the time is true and I am in the correct ministry contextof preaching all over the ebook of Isaiah. I have been saving numerous supplies for that over time, and I discover myself perhaps slightly extra drawn to devotional studying in Isaiah, wanting to simply get the massive image of Isaiah and simply percolate. That is very totally different from an in depth studying of specific passages. Literary scholarsthat’s what they’re nice at doing is an in depth studying of a textual content. However one of many ways in which you get the massive image and the broad sweep within the literary complete is by ongoing studying that is getting the massive image. So I believe there’s a spot for that type of studying of the Bible. One other factor that I love to do loads in my instructing and preaching is draw some analogies or use some illustrations which will come from the world of literature. So I am usually asking myself, What in different literature does this type of factor remind me of? What different poems have I learn the place one thing is praised? What are the conventions of that type of literature? The purpose is to not convey one thing into the Bible that is not there, however truly to see what’s there. It helps loads. Simply to provide one instance and that is extra by the use of distinction: within the ebook of Galatians, Paul early on in Galatians 1:6 says, I’m astonished that you’re so rapidly deserting him who known as you within the grace of Christ and are turning to a distinct gospel. Paul takes a really antagonistic flip. He isn’t making an attempt to win over an viewers. He is making an attempt to confront an viewers. That, already, I believe is fairly dramatic. He provides you the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in verses three to five, then he says, Hey, I am astonished with what you are doing. You already sense that distinction simply as a considerate, attentive reader. However once you truly know the conventions of rhetoric and of letter writing within the Greek world, that Paul is violating well-established conventions right here. It is much more stunning than you first realized on a easy learn, and it is truly your understanding of literature that has helped you see much more clearly what is definitely there within the biblical textual content. And then you definitely’re asking your self the query, Effectively, why is he that upset? I type of sensed that he was upset. Now he is much more upset than I even realized. What is going on on right here? The shape helps you perceive the content material in a mutually reinforcing means.

Does Kind Contributes to the Which means?

25:43

Matt Tully
Would you go as far as to say the shape itself contributes to the which means?

Phil Ryken
Sure, completely that’s the case. And we do not totally perceive the which means except we perceive the literary type and the way it’s meant to function.


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