Saturday, December 30, 2006

Introduction to "Pondering The Gospels"

In this blog, if I am able to follow through on my present intention, I will begin at the beginning of the Gospel according to Matthew and work my way gradually through the four "canonical" Gospels of the New Testament,verse by verse. In each post I will quote a few verses and say something about them. Of course, I hope that others will add comments as well.

As time goes on, these posts may add up to something like a "commentary" on the gospels, but it will be different than most scriptural commentaries. For one thing, I am not in a position to tell the reader what the meaning of a passage might be, nor to instruct anyone on whether a story is true, whether it is literal or figurative, or what the author's purpose is in presenting it. I am not able, in short, to tell you what to think. I want to invite you, instead, to think along with me. But "think" is not quite the right word here. "Thinking" sounds like a word for a purely academic or intellectual activity. I hope we will bring our bring our whole selves to the encounter with these gospels: our intellect of course, and any relevant research we may know of, but also our values, our needs, our hopes, fears, and passions. I hope that both my readers and I will be able to not only "think" about the passages we read but to "ponder" them - to hold them in our hearts, to weigh them, to search them, to let them search us.

A word of warning about where I am coming from: I am not a disinterested scholar (Truth be told - I am not much of a scholar at all). I believe in the reality of Jesus Christ. I have many strong convictions about Him and these are bound to influence my "ponderings" in this blog. Readers, of course, are free to think of these things quite differently than I do, and to offer their own perspectives.

I am not a "de-bunker" of Scripture, since I don't see the Scriptures as "bunk". At the same time, I am also not the kind of Christian who sees something in the Bible and automatically thinks "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!", as that offensive bumper sticker so stridently proclaims. The gospel writers and other Biblical writers were in some ways as handicapped as we are in trying to learn the Truth about God, or even the prosaic facts about the events in the life of Jesus. They (and we) come to know things through a limited number of ways: through the written or oral reports of others, through their (or our) own experience, and through logical inferences from the first two. For that reason, it is possible to recognize possible mistkakes, internal contradictions, and implausibilities and still continue to trust the writer. When I read parts of the gospels that seem problematic in one way or another one of the questions I ponder is "Where did the writer get this idea?" The answer may not always be clear, but the question asked in this form makes it possible to entertain doubts and disagreements without falling into cynicism. (Cynicism, by the way, seems to be an occupational hazard of Biblical scholarship, and I pray to be protected from it).

Well, enough of this introduction. In the next post, I'll dive into Matthew, starting with the "begats".

1 comment:

Contemplative Scholar said...

Great that you are doing this! I look forward to reading your ponderings!