David Smith – The Sufficiency of Scripture and Biblical Scholarship: Reading is a Big Deal

Jesus thinks reading is a big deal. After all, he wrote a book. And Jesus thinks reading his book is a big deal, because, well, he is. For a blog post on the sufficiency of Scripture and biblical scholarship this may seem overly simplistic. Aren’t scholars supposed to talk about really complicated things that impress others with their erudition and expansive vocabulary? While it is possible for most scholars to do such things, it is also true that erudition and expansive vocabularies ought to result in scholars helping people see the simplicity in matters marked by complexity. Believe it or not, it is likely safe to say that many scholarly debates turn on someone’s misreading of a particular text or a particular author. Given the cultural factors that hold in America today, as well as the sinful corruption of every human soul, there is a powerfully toxic blend of factors that undermine faithfully accurate reading in general, and of Scripture particularly, even by people who memorize the latter, write a lot about it, and have declared intentions in helping others understand it.

Reading has always been at the core of human scholarly pursuits. Indeed, the ancient and long-standing view of a scholar has been one who has the ability to read (not necessarily speak) in multiple languages and synthesize this reading accurately. On more than one occasion Jesus criticized the official and unofficial leaders of God’s people for being poor readers (Mt. 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31). Jesus was confronting them with their sin. The texts to which Jesus referred were certainly ones with which the leaders were very familiar. In one sense they had read them, but in another sense they had not. As it turns out, moral deficiencies corrupt intellectual analyses and conclusions that have practical results in every aspect of life. According to Jesus, their failure to rightly interpret the text meant they really had not read it.

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