Monday, October 05, 2009

Scouting the Divine

Reading the Bible can be hard; rather understanding what the Bible says can be hard. There are so many obstacles to fully comprehending what we are reading. The Bible was translated into English but sometimes translating the words from Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek loses the meaning of the words. The Bible was written at a time when moral and cultural standards of living were vastly different than the ways we live our lives today. And then there is the metaphor. The Bible was written to a group of people that understood the various metaphors used throughout the scriptures. If the Paul would have written his epistles with football or baseball metaphors I would have been able to pick up quicker the message he was trying to communicate. If the parables of Jesus talked about computers or traffic on the freeway I would have had a deeper clarity of the stories.

But the Bible requires us to do a little bit of digging. We get a deeper understanding when we learn what the moral and cultural standards were. We understand more clearly when we know that there were different words for love in Greek but only one word in English. And what does it mean to be a sheep or a shepherd? What does a harvest look like? What is a land of milk and honey? Where does wine come from?

I have just completed Margaret Feinberg’s book “Scouting the Divine.” Margaret explores the language used in the Bible by visiting people who still raise sheep, farm, grow grapes and keep bees. Through her interactions with these people she gets a better comprehension of the stories found in the Bible. Margaret asks great questions and shares some amazing answers.

For me a land of milk and honey would be found in the grocery store that I manage or shop. If the milk box is stocked it is full and all the jars of honey can be found on aisle four.

Margaret shares her encounters in a series of chapters that allow us to listen in on the conversation. It is easy for us to be drawn into the setting and hear the voices and sounds surrounding her. We know what a lamb looks like and are pulled into the compassion she shares as a shepherdess calls her flock. We get a better understanding of a missing lamb. We learn that this a dirty but rewarding profession. Rather for the shepherdess is a way of life.

But Margaret does not just look at the metaphor for clarity she also looks for clarity on the message on how it should shape the ways we live. Even though she gets answers it leaves her, and the reader with more questions. What does it mean to give first fruits? What are my first fruits? Why allow the poor to glean? How should I look at the poor? How does pruning make us more fruitful? Why does it have to hurt?

I appreciate this book and know that it will be a gift that I share with many people.

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