Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Forgetful Reading

One problem with a static canon1 is the risk that reading it becomes stale. With only 66 books in the (protestant) Bible, and only 27 of those in the New Testament, it's not long before they've all been read. And read again. And again.

And for those raised within the tradition, it's even easier to read them as though they've been read more often than they actually have. The very familiarity of the names, the concepts, the phrases, the words; they all cloud the reader's mind and increase the chance of reading things into the text which simply aren't there.

To learn anything new from the texts, it requires something to shift. Maybe a perspective shift or a shift in time or a shift in background knowledge is all it takes. Reading a Psalm the day before and the day after tragedy strikes will give a different perspective. Reading a gospel before and after learning about the social structures of the time will give a different perspective.

My particular favourite at the moment is wilfully forgetting ever having read the text before. Read slowly and absorb every word. Treat every piece of jargon as unfamiliar. Forget what you've been told by your Sunday school teacher, your parents, your pastor, and your friends. Really read it for the first time as something strange and new, as a puzzle to be solved. Sometimes all we need to do is forget what we think we know, and remember that we don't really know it at all.

1. Regrettably not the same as a static cannon, which would be a lot of fun to play with.
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