Reading Scripture is one of the most important practices shared by all Christian traditions: whether we read it together in community or in personal study, our lives, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped by this text, or more accurately library of texts, that we call ‘the Bible.’
As we saw in my series this Spring on the history of Biblical interpretation, Christians have read and interpreted the Bible in many different ways across cultures and times. In light of this, it’s helpful to have an intentional set of principles — a hermeneutical framework — to help guide our interpretation. I developed one such framework here a few years ago, and since that time I’ve applied it to famous stories, like Jacob wrestling with God, to troubling stories, like Jehu’s Rebellion, and theologically dense texts, like Hebrews 10. But one thing I have yet to do is to apply it to a whole book of the Bible. And so, I thought I’d take some time this summer to do just this.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a deep-dive into the text known as Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. Why Ephesians? Beyond the practical fact that it’s a manageable length for a first foray into this sort of exercise, Ephesians has long been recognized as a wonderfully rich text. At times, its focus is on the depths of the Mystery of God, at others, on very practical issues of human relationships, but always, it seeks to describe — often through the language of prayer and praise — the full implications of what it means to be Christian, or to use its own distinctive language, to be “in Christ.”
How will this project work?
Ephesians, like a lot of the New Testament Epistles, is ‘top heavy’ — that is, it introduces its major themes and important vocabulary at the start of the text, and applies them later on. Because of this, we’ll be spending a lot of time on the first chapter, before being able to move more quickly after that.
Because this is an intensive project, I’ll also be setting aside my regular Sunday reflections on the lectionary readings and use that space on Sundays to continue this Bible Study series.
I hope you’ll come along this journey with me and that, ultimately, you’ll find this exercise in uncovering the Life in Christ both interesting and rewarding.