I am sat here with a book list in front of me. It’s a fairly long list that was sent to me by the college. Not a list of the books that will be needed for the first term, instead a suggested pre- course reading list.
Of course, as is explained in the accompanying letter, you are not expected to read every single one, but for those of us who may never have undertaken or have been out of formal higher education for a long time it can help to ease us into the way of things to come… On the other hand it’s like a gauntlet has been thrown down!
The thing is I love books – I love the look of them, the feel of them, the smell of them. For me, entering a bookshop like Waterstones* is like letting Augustus Gloop loose in Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory! A well stocked library of books can be a work of art and a chance to scour the shelves can reveal the most unusual titles and topics. Even when a visit to the local bibliothèque is not possible, all I can say is thank goodness for Amazon’s penny booksellers!
There will, of course, be many different sorts of books that will need to be read and studied but one that will stay at the heart of all this literature will be the Bible. We will be required to perform exegesis (drawing the meaning out of a text) and hermeneutics (the science of interpretation) all without a safety net!
One might wonder how we are still trying to understand what the Bible is all about – after all theologians have spent thousands of years talking and arguing about it. This book, or more accurately 66 books in one volume, has led to the exile, to the persecution, even to the political execution of those who have strived to explain what it’s really saying to us
For some the very act of trying to make it available to a wider audience, to allow them to discover its meaning for themselves, has been a selfless act of courage and determination. In the early 16th century William Tyndale paid with his life in order to fulfil his mission statement that, “If God spare my life, ere many yeares I wyl cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he doust”, referring to the Pope and clergy of his time, many of whom were probably not even skilled enough to read their own Latin bibles, and which set him on translating the Bible into English and thus allowing ordinary men and women to be able to ask, ‘What does that mean?”
There are now over 50 different English translations of the bible and a quick count around the house reveals that I have a least a dozen of them. So we now have a choice of reading God’s word in a way that is in tune with our own ‘linguistic ear’
Hopefully, most people will hear or read a least a passage of the bible each day, whether in formal worship or daily devotions. If not there is always a chance to do so during the weekly church service. In the Church of England the lectionary runs on a three year cycle which is intended to cover a very large proportion of the bible, although not all as some people believe
What amazes me, as someone who has to prepare talks or sermons, is that after a few years you find the passages repeating themselves and there is always some concern that you won’t find anything different to say about them. What you actually find happening is that the passage can speak to you afresh and become appropriate to the present circumstances of both yourself and your congregations.
Perhaps then there is plenty more time and reason for us to continue studying God’s word. So if you see me with my nose in a book this summer it probably won’t be the latest Robert Galbraith novel but something much more thrilling!
*Other bookshops are available