NLT Study Bible Blog.
Retrospective Reflections #2: The Bible
N.B. This has been a difficult post to write, which is why I have delayed in writing it. Thank you for your patience. -SAH

What did I learn about the Bible from serving as the general editor of the NLT Study Bible? That's the second question that Mark Taylor asked me to address in my “retrospective” talk to our scholarly contributors at the SBL (Society for Biblical Literature) annual meeting.

When I began working on the NLT Study Bible, one of the questions that interested me was, How does the Bible fit with the rest of what we know historically? Do academic biblical scholars still find it to be largely reliable in light of all of the evidence that can be adduced?

What I found is that, without minimizing some of the difficulties that exist, the text of the Bible holds up extremely well under historical scrutiny. Historical scholarship that is not biased by outdated or antagonistic assumptions generally finds the Bible text to be historically reliable and accurate. There are remarkable correspondences and harmonies between the biblical record and what we know from other sources, such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. The common perception that the Bible is unhistorical is definitely unjustified.

As regards theology, it is perennially difficult to systematize Scripture while taking every part of it seriously from a historical and linguistic perspective. At the same time, the Bible has a deep coherence that belies that description. In the process of editing the NLT Study Bible, I grew a lot in my appreciation for that coherence.

At the same time, I grew in my skepticism toward those who claim that they have the One True And Right Way of understanding the theology of the Bible. The mind of God, the author of Scripture, is infinite, whereas the minds of human beings are very finite. What this means in practical terms is that we have something to learn from people in every Christian tradition. That's why I have sought to minimize the impact of any single tradition in the NLT Study Bible, and to include authors who represent a variety of perspectives.

I learned, much more than I had understood before, that the Bible does not submit itself to our minds. We must come to it and submit to it, heart and soul and mind and strength. It does not allow us depend on our own understanding, or to be confident in ourselves in any way. Instead, it provokes us to the deepest confidence in it and in the God who authored it, and a humble thankfulness for what he has given. The Bible brings us the words of eternal life.

Finally, I learned that my knowledge of the Bible and theology is too limited. I need to read the Greek NT more often, and the Septuagint, and learn Hebrew so I can read the Hebrew OT. I need to study theology more deeply and broadly, and spend more hours wrestling with the meanings of individual passages. That's going to take a long time -- the rest of the days allotted to me, and may God make them productive for his kingdom.
posted by Sean Harrison at 7:00 AM
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