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What do you make of the Bible? Double reading

Abigail Bassac

Translation Tony Dickinson

It seems to me that I have two quite distinct ways of reading the Bible. The first is rather as if it were a work of art. Just as I re-read some of Jane Austen’s novels or watch again and again some old American films, I happily dive again into some biblical settings. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that these books don’t have the capacity to stir up reflection. And there is, of course, an undeniable historical and cultural distance. But the human experience lived by the characters, some of whom seem familiar, can all the same encounter some of the elements and emotions of your own reality. When I read some passages, I imagine them, I see the scenes, it’s almost as if the film were rolling before my eyes. Among the masterpieces which I re-read in translation are Genesis, Ezekiel, Jonah, Ecclesiastes, Daniel or again the gospel according to Mark. And if I need help to let a buried sadness express itself, there is nothing like some of the Psalms.
The second way is rather a contrast. When I discovered the Bible as a totality about ten years ago, I was impressed by the number of pages which made no sense to me. And, in the front rank of these failures in understanding were the letters of St Paul. I had the impression that I was reading answers, but I had no idea of the questions which might have given rise to them. Understanding even a single sentence seemed too daunting (and I frequently said so to my New Testament teachers, who were very patient). So when I can, in my studies, I choose incomprehensible passages. For several weeks I dissect them, one word at a time, I read articles and commentaries. Little by little the logical inter-linkages are exposed, the fog clears. I have finally become capable of understanding a few texts of Paul. I also make the Bible my tutor: that is what has caused me to make the greatest efforts in my university career.


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