It took me fifteen months, but I finally finished reading America’s God by Mark Noll. It’s not hyperbole when I say that it is without a doubt one of the most important books I have ever read, and should be required reading for anyone studying to be a pastor in America. The most important thing I learned from the book is this: The way that Americans read the Bible is not the way that any other Christians have read the Bible, ever. In fact, the way we read the Bible was invented less than 300 years ago. We like to say that “The Bible says what the Bible says,” but we should be more honest about the ways in which our American culture deeply influences the way we read the Bible. Americans like to think that they read the Bible without tradition getting in the way, but the uncomfortable truth is that our way of reading IS a tradition, the tradition of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and Thomas Reid. Wouldn’t it be better to be honest about our tradition and reform it? We needer a stronger understanding of the activity of God in the act of reading the Bible, the work of the Holy Spirit in an interpretive tradition, and the deep, forgotten links between sanctification and interpretation. In short, we need to return to a Trinitarian way of living inside scripture. Thanks, Mark Noll, for being an incredible historian and a gift to the church.
There’s a literary device in biblical Hebrew where the author nests a quote inside a quote inside a quote. I can’t remember in what passages I have seen it before, but I just came across another instance in Zechariah 1.1-6:
In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius,
the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo, saying:
The Lord was very angry with your ancestors.
Therefore say to them,
Thus says the Lord of hosts:
Return to me, says the Lord of hosts,
and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.