Guest Post: Learning to Read with the Rabbis

A Guest Post by Rev. Russell Rathbun, author of nuChristian:::

I have learned so much about reading the Bible in the last few years from the Ancient Rabbis. I have long known that it was not a book of answers, but a book of the best questions there are about what it means to be human in relations ship with God.  But the Sages have such an amazing way of interacting with the scripture as if it were a living thing.  It is a kind of relational way of reading.

The rabbi’s, when they read, walk into the text.  They bring them selves to it and step across the edge of the scroll onto its body, bouncing a little, believing it will hold their weight.  And then on hands and knees crawl through the furrows of words, examining, brushing away dirt, not like an archeologist hoping to unearth some dead, hardened thing but like a botanist examining growth patterns and evidence of the soils mineral content, water content or whether there is deep clay and then, below the cracks in the soil from which the words emerged.  It is the cracks, the gaps that will allow them a way in.  The midrash is the exploration of those gaps.  Stories and parables, proverbs and legal case studies come from their time mining those gaps.  The text is changed by their having been there, there are footprints left behind, indentations, great hollowed out places and covered over, smoothed out portions.  The tents of opposing camps are set in the text side by side.  Conclusions leaned up against refutations, some decaying some flourishing.  Having once been an oral wisdom that required a speaker, and what is an individual speaker if not a unique interpreter, the text was not allowed to pass into stone, to become hardened, but was kept alive and fertile, even malleable but with deep and unknown roots.

Russell Rathbun (Author of nuChristian)

Russell Rathbun (Author of nuChristian)


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