Saint Augustine’s On Christian Teaching and J. Todd Billings’ How to Read the Bible, share shockingly similar views and themes as each other. It’s odd that these two texts written millennia apart from each other share such similar views. For one, the theme that really stood out that the two writings had in common was their criticism for Christians reading the Bible and interpreting it for themselves.
A common theme that these texts share relating to the interpretation of the Bible can be seen towards the beginning of Billings’ article when he writes about biblical books that “can help Christians see implications of their faith for various aspects of life, but they can often communicate that the Bible is the authoritative answer book to felt needs and problems.” When interpreting texts such as the Bible, individuals often take direct teachings literally from the Bible and fail to ask questions or look beyond the teachings. People sometimes fail to think critically, they take the Bible for that it is worth and automatically assume this book is the book of life, no questions need to be raised because it is dubbed to know everything. A similar theme is seen in Saint Augustine’s On Christian Teaching, Augustine criticizes individuals for reading the Bible for what it is worth, by “reading it, men seek noting more than to find out the thought and will of those by whom it was written, and through these to find out the will of God, in accordance with which they believe these men to have spoken”.
Billings also believes Christians in todays world cannot rightly understand God’s word because they are not scholars themselves. People seem to have become accustomed with what is in front of them and fail to raise questions for themselves, but not to derive an entirely separate meaning like what can commonly seen in other cultures across the world. All reading is supposed to challenge your ability to think critically, especially in a religious text such as the Bible. However, Billings thinks a way round misinterpreting the Bible is through the, “Historical reconstruction behind and within the biblical text is a central way to avoid idolatrous and unfaithful biblical interpretations”.
I think the philosophy of reading the Bible is represented truthfully in these two readings. I think both authors are right in saying people are not reading the Bible critically. What astounds me most is that these two scholars, separated by millennia have such similar thoughts on the Bible.