What do you make of the Bible? We give it a highly elevated status in the church, referring to it as Holy Scripture and even as the Word of God, revealing God’s nature and purposes. For centures people have been inspired by its wisdom, poetry and insight. But this doesn’t make it an easy book to read or understand. In fact, one commentator suggested that ‘as a handbook on life and how to live it, it is surpassed in incoherence only by computer manuals!’ I slightly take issue with this, but the Bible is undoubtedly a very complex book which is difficult to handle.

Part of the problem is that it is actually a collection of books, written in different formats and styles over a period of at least 2,000 years. The same commentator goes on to say, ‘For whatever reason, God has given us his revelation in a form which is messy, often communicated through stories but also through letters, complaints, laws, taunt songs and sermons – and always filtered through personalities who reflect and speak out of highly specific situations.’

This being so, we all need help to understand the different narratives, genres and contexts of each book. I therefore want to offer four talks this Autumn, which will hopefully give a useful framework for how to handle the Bible. I can’t do justice to the vast scope of biblical studies but I want to offer a personal perspective, outlining the approaches I find most helpful and the things I find most fascinating. All are welcome.

The first session will be in the form of a Supper Talk: Seeing the Bible as a Library on Tuesday 17 September at 7.30pm in St Mary’s Parish Hall. You can book a place (stating any dietary requirements) by signing up at the back of church or emailing parishhall@stmarywithstalban.org.

The following three sessions will be 8pm talks on:

  • 8 October: Understanding the Old Testament
  • 15 October: Understanding the New Testament
  • 22 October: Not a book for bashing – using the Bible wisely

Joe Moffat