How discovering the philosophical character of the Bible leads to a personal benefit in Bible reading in my point of view

“But there is but little benefit derived from a hasty reading of the Scriptures. One may read the whole Bible through and yet fail to see its beauty or comprehend its deep and hidden meaning. One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained.”

Ellen G. White: Steps to Christ, 1892, Chapter 10.

Today we are used to consume literature like all other kinds of mass consumption. But the Ancient people did not see literature as a means of consumption. The material to write down things was often quite expensive and the available quantity was very limited. Therefore, if the Ancients wrote something down, it was of a great value for them, they regarded it to be very important. For this result, the hasty reading of the Bible does not help us, it will not unfold its wisdom to us. Someone who claims to have read the whole bible might be looked upon with respect in one’s community, but just the fact that this very person read the whole Bible does not indicate that the person really knows the whole bible or understood it at all. It is therefore more useful to focus on the passages which we read and trying to understand them. This will fill us with wisdom even if we do not know the whole bible. And honestly, I am far away of knowing the whole Bible, many Biblical books are still quite unknown to me. I read the passages very carefully to understand the wisdom behind the passages which I read. As a philosopher, I am not interested in reading something just for the sake of belief. I want to uncover the messages that are placed behind the words. I remember the Jewish saying that wisdom is like a deep sea and the Torah is a deep sea. So what does this mean? It means that the Torah is wisdom. But this wisdom cannot simply be grasped by reading Torah. Reading the words and thinking that one is wise is quite stupid. Instead, like in a broad deep ocean, the knowledge is very far, it is so much, we cannot see from one shore to the other, we cannot fully grasp everything simply, and next, the ocean is deep. It means that the wisdom is hidden. It cannot be found on the surface of the water, i.e. by just reading the words, but only by diving down into deeper levels.

Of course, the Bible is not only subject to theology and religious studies, but also for philosophy. Plenty of philosophers were inspire dby the Bible, and the Bible was also inspired by philosophy. We find different philosophical streams within the bible, and so, we have to see two levels within the Bible. The first is the revelational character which is important for the believer in the first place, because he wants to be assure that the words can be trusted, and thus are divine; the second is the philosophical character which is important for all of us. Because when we discuss Bible verses, we often do not speak of the revelational character (those who believe the Bible to be the true word of God already presume the revelation to be true), but instead, we want to understand the message behind the revelation, and thus its content, and we want to look at different perspectives how to understand these words. Also doubters and skepticists can be of a great help, because in this way, we have to philosophize outside of our bubble, i.e. the community of those who believe in Biblical truths, and we have to defend the Biblical wisdom through reason. The revelational character does not help us here, because we cannot argument with the authoritative source to someone who doubts God’s existence. To show that the wisdom we uncovered is really valid, we have to defend our argument reasonably. And in this way, we acquire philosophy, we become philosophical. Plato taught us that we shall develop a philosophical attitude for our soul’s sake, while imitation – even of virtuous deeds – is of no use without a philosophical attitude.

So only if we really understand what the Bible wants to tell us, we will really grow, while it does not help to follow others blindly who suggest to us that we only need to follow their words to find salvation.  

Timo Schmitz, 3 February 2023


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: