Reading the Bible for the 2ndish Time

I’m sitting in my childhood bedroom, with its black and gold walls covered in relics of my past life, about a foot away from my great grandmother’s porcelain (trying not to think about the entomology of that word that I just learned in Dawn’s class) cross rereading the line “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words” over and over again. It feels strange for me to hear these words read in my own voice, or I guess thought in my own thoughts, when the last time I encountered them they were being spoken by Calista during Sunday service at Muhlenberg. 

I have become used to hearing the Bible that way, delivered to me through the medium of other’s voices prepackaged with a lesson relating to life during week #2, week #5, or week #15 of the semester. Before college, I hadn’t been to a church for any reason other than Christmas or a funeral in over 10 years. I know my preschool was in a church and I used to go to the same church for Sunday school, but for the life of me, I can’t remember any of it. So, the only time I encountered any biblical text in my formative years, was during choir and at voice lessons, where I would sing about whole sections of the Bible mostly unaware of their meaning or context. So, in going to college and starting to go to church again, I was confronted with this huge text that everyone in the room seemed to be much more intimately familiar with than me. So, I resolved to take it in, piece by piece, and learn what I could learn about it at service, but in doing so, I became familiar with the Bible as this out of order, cobbled together quilt of other people’s voices. 

I didn’t realize this was strange until the first time I was tasked at actually reading a passage from the Bible on my own for your class, Religious Migrations. The words don’t feel the same being read so far away from the stained-glass windows and slowly burning candles in the center of Enger Chapel. The (psalms?) feel like a piece of scholarship from a community that I am yearning to understand, but haven’t quite fully gotten the hang of the discourse yet. I’m constantly trying to figure out where or who or why things are happening, and in doing so it makes it harder for me to distill the meaning of the text.  

In summation, I feel uncomfortable reading the Bible, in order, by myself, and I don’t know what that says about me. 

2 thoughts on “Reading the Bible for the 2ndish Time”

  1. It can feel very disruptive, transgressive even, to read a text that we’ve situated as “sacred” in this very different way. Your reflection provides some terrific insight into how difficult it can be to read the Bible from an “objective” or “outsider” perspective, and your self-awareness about the difficulty indicates you are doing the hard work that it takes! I’m excited for us to talk about this more in class.

  2. I’ve felt similarly reading the Bible, uncomfortable, since I have also not read the Bible in order like I did in this class. It was certainly a different experience that wasn’t expected. I had a slightly different background in terms of religion as well. I don’t think that being uncomfortable says anything bad about you.

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