New or Adequate?

Eva BrannEva Brann is a tutor at St. John’s College. She introduced one of her latest books writing, “In thinking things out we should, I
think, not go for newness but adequacy.”

I think this is a good approach to Bible study as well. In our efforts to study any Bible book or topic, we should “not go fo
r newness but adequacy.” It cannot be “new” because what the Bible teaches, it has taught for thousands of years. It is old. This being the case, our work involves understanding more than novelty.

It may be the case that we come across a “new” or “fresh” understanding of what has already been written, but this new understanding does not change what was written. New findings, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, may help us understand the use of a word better, or have greater appreciation for an historic event. We may even come to a better understanding of something we read in the New  Testament by a greater understanding of what was written in the Old Testament. In that sense, it may be new…to us.

Is it the case that in our culture of “new and improved,” of “progress,” that we have come to disdain the “old?” Have you heard the old expression, “Old is mold!” Is that true? Eva Brann describes the kind of mentality tutors at St. John’s promote among their students. They try to cultivate a kind of mindset where students pursue truth as opposed to “novel inventions for display.”

I have operated under the notion that as a preacher, I am a slave to the text. The text is not to be used by me however I choose to use it. Everyone is a slave to the text. We cannot simply use texts of Scripture the way we choose. We should not seek “novel inventions for display.” Our motives would be suspect in this case.

Eva Brann has tapped into an important approach to study: “In thinking things out we should, I think, not go for newness but adequacy.” What constitutes adequacy in Bible study? That is the topic of volumes upon volumes, but to put it simply, it involves gathering all the evidence and reasoning correctly concerning it.

This should eliminate the pressure some preachers and teachers may feel to come up with something “new.” We do not need to invent anything. We do not need to be novel, original, or unique. We need to be faithful. We need to study Scripture adequately.

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