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It’s easy to get distracted with the Scriptures. Whenever I hear the story of Jesus healing the possessed Gerasene by sending the unclean spirits into the herd of swine (Mark 5:1-20), I get distracted. Pigs? Why are they here? I thought they were taboo. And I like bacon — what’s wrong with that?
Even if my straying line of thought doesn’t distract you, you know how easy it is, especially among friends in a Bible study. Perhaps a detail in a story catches your eye — why a denarius? A good Bible dictionary can give you a definition and some historical background.
These examples may seem harmless, but two serious problems lurk in the shadows. One is the idea that the Scriptures are irreducibly opaque, a collection of mysteries, riddles and puzzles that defy comprehension and require the expertise of specialists to unlock the hidden secrets of divine truth. Where this idea takes hold, reading the Bible begins to look like a technical climb up a forbidding mountain, closed to all but an elite cadre of professionals and expert amateurs.
The second problem developed in reaction to this exclusion. It’s the idea that a “commonsense reading” of any Scripture can yield practical guidance for life and that the Bible as a whole contains answers for every question.
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