What is the Time?

Someone once compared the way people read the Bible with three kinds of home plate umpires. One kind of umpire calls them the way he sees them. Another sees them the way he calls them. And a third kind calls them the way they are. Some people interpret the Bible the way they see it. Another Bible reader reads it the way they call it. And a third kind interprets it the way it is. I have met Bible readers from all three camps. I have probably spent some time in each camp myself, truth be told.

The first two ways of reading the Bible are highly subjective. The first way begins and ends with me. Everything, including reading the Bible, is interpreted through my own set of lenses. The second way of reading the Bible begins and ends with the self also. The problem with this kind of reader is that reading the Bible is always done through their own preconceived interpretive lenses. Reading the Bible changes nothing for this kind of reader. They are not transformed by the word, the word is transformed by them.

The difference between the first two ways of reading the Bible and the third is this: while all three may begin with where we are at the time we begin reading the Bible, the third way leads us out of our prejudices and preconceived notions to see life the way it really is. (Another challenge we face is believing we are reading the Bible the way it is written while all along calling it the way we see it or seeing it the way we call it.)
I hope you are persuaded that the third way of reading the Bible is the way to be sought. The writers of Scripture, moved by the Spirit of God, wrote with intention, and our role as readers is to discover what that intention was and is for today.

I recently picked up a book written by Graham Greene titled, “The Tenth Man.” The setting is wartime occupied France. Ten men have been taken hostage by the Germans and placed in a Gestapo prison. The first chapter centers on scarcity of clocks and watches owned by the prisoners. All but one of these time pieces have been confiscated. One of the prisoners, a lawyer, asks the owner of the only watch, “What is the time?” The mayor answers, “Twenty-five minutes past five.” The lawyer says, “I had imagined it was later.” The mayor responds sharply, “That is my time.” Graham Greene writes, “It was indeed his time: from now on he couldn’t recognize even the faintest possibility of error—his time could not be wrong because he had invented it.”

Having read the Bible for the past 35 years, I have discovered that understanding the Bible is a lifetime pursuit. It is not something I have been able to do without great effort. We should all begin by reading the Bible immediately, and should continue doing so routinely throughout our life. Along the way various prejudices, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations, etc. will be exposed. The very reason they can be exposed is because the truth it reveals is objective.


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