Posted by Mary Davidge

Jeremiah   31 27-34   Psalm 121    2 Timothy 3: 14-4:5  Luke 18 1-8  


Start of prep for sermon “What do you want to say?” This time tried to argue really not want to preach this topic touchy.

Big girl shoes going marching in where angels fear to tread

At same time taking off shoes because walking onto Holy ground

 Timothy – scripture Nathan Nettleton Australian

“The very first sermon I ever preached was on that verse. I was about nineteen years of age and a rabid fundamentalist and my sermon was an assertion of the belief that absolutely everything the Bible says about absolutely everything is absolutely historically and scientifically accurate. I am now well aware that such a claim was not coming from the Bible, but was being imposed on the Bible, and was much bigger than what this verse actually claims. The list given here of things the scriptures are useful for doesn’t include the knowledge of astronomy or biology or even history.”


Touchy subject because pick almost any issue find fiercely opposing opinion that quote the Bible to back up their stance; today’s hot topics: role and ministry of women in church , homosexuality, creation and evolution. Look back in history, well-known issues were Crusades  and slavery – both cases people for or against used Bible to support position. 

Late Steve de G “Scripture is contested”.

The Bible says” what actually mean “the way I understand Bible” or “according particular commentator    or specific interpretation   or particular church’s understanding that I agree with….  According to that, the Bible says….


Multiplicity of understandings interpretations of what bible says.


Terms often hear in reference to Bible are exegesis, eisegesis and hermeneutics

Exegesis is critical explanation or interpretation of a text, it tries to “pull out” of a  passage the meaning inherent in it. The opposite of this is eisegesis, which is an approach to interpreting a Bible passage by reading into it a meaning that is not evident at all. I suspect vocal supporters of many causes who use Bible to support their position use this approach.

Hermeneutics has a wider meaning the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation of literary texts, the branch of Christian theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis.

Focus on sentence from NT reading: “All Scripture is God-breathed” or “Given by inspiration of God”

First of all, Paul didn’t mean Scripture as we understand it, both OT and NT, but this: Torah, Books of Moses, Jewish Bible. Some books of NT had not yet been written, not collected together and agreed on, still largely oral tradition, though some indication in 1 Tim other Paul’s writings  that some of writings ultimately included in NT that did already exist were considered authoritative.

What does it mean to say Scripture is God-breathed ?

2 approaches – Adam Clark :

The doctrine of the inspiration of the sacred writings has been a subject of much discussion, and even controversy, among Christians. Are we surprised?

 There are two principal opinions on the subject:

1.That every thought and word were inspired by God, and that the writer did nothing but merely write as the Spirit dictated.

2.That God gave the whole matter, leaving the inspired writers to their own language; and hence the great variety of style and different modes of expression.

Mention this in passing investigate further if you are interested.


Want to focus rather on phrase “God-breathed” pairing with passage from Jeremiah “I will put my law in their minds and write it in their hearts” 31: 33.

Jeremiah reading promises us a new covenant/law which includes having God’s law within us, written on our hearts.

If we claim, as we do, to be people of that new covenant, and people of the Book,  how do we understand the relationship between God-breathed word written on our hearts and the God-breathed word written in this book?


Look at traditions of reading, studying, meditating on Scripture in both Judaism and Christianity, see recognition that Scripture is more than just another text. Academics and scholars may subject it to same rigours and tools of textual criticism as any other text and as though there is nothing special or different about it, but religious traditions say otherwise.

Own Anglican tradition Benedictine orders founded on practice of Lectio Divina ancient tradition St Benedict taught his monks of slow, meditative reading, pondering of scripture.

Karen Armstrong in work The Bible she writes about great Jewish mystics and rabbis who had experiences of transcendence and otherness through reading study of Scripture. She writes: pg 226 “Jews and Christians have tried to cultivate a receptive, intuitive approach to scripture… This is difficult for us today. We are a talkative and opinionated  society and not always good at listening. This makes a truly spiritual reading of the Bible difficult.”

Many years ago, lecture by Dr Gerald West of UKZN on Bible described process of bible reading in terms of subject and object.  We are subject, bible is object of our action: we do things to and with the text; bible is under us, we are over it. If we are willing to allow it time and our attention, in the process something mysterious happens: Subject and object are reversed. Bible becomes subject and we the object: Bible does things to and with us. Hopefully, it changes us, so that that new covenant does become written in our hearts and minds.  As Nettleton comments instead of trying to interpret Scripture literally as he did when he was young:  

“Rather I take more seriously the actual meaning of the word inspired, because this verse literally describes scripture as “God-breathed”, and breathing is a living dynamic thing. All scripture is alive with the life-force of God. Rather it describes texts as useful for shaping us so that we can live right and do good for others.”

“All scripture is alive with the life-force of God.”

What should we do with Bible?   Read it, study it, alone in groups – Media centre full of resources to do this, so is Internet – cautious with resources find there. Nettleton notes importance of group Bible study because “Reading scripture with God’s people keeps us honest as we seek to interpret and live by God’s law written on our hearts.”


St Augustine 4th Century church father Bishop of Hippo insisted that scripture taught nothing but Charity. He insisted that an exegete must always seek the most charitable interpretation of a text.

Armstrong conclusion pg 229: “The major religions all insist that the practice of daily, hourly compassion will introduce us to God… An exegesis based on the ‘principle of charity’ would be a spiritual discipline that is deeply needed in our torn and fragmented world. The Bible is in danger of becoming a dead or irrelevant letter; it is being distorted by claims for its literal infallibility; it is derided – often unfairly – by secular fundamentalists; it is becoming a toxic arsenal that fuels hatred and sterile polemic [in the church].” The development of a more compassionate hermeneutics could provide an important counter-narrative in our discordant world.”