Wow, I feel like I have just been overloaded with information! I thought I had a good understanding of what it meant to read the Bible as literature, but WHOA was I wrong! There is so much more that I never thought of and can/need to take into account when reading and interpreting the Bible.
Reading the Bible as Literature - There is a distinction that needs to be made between expository writing and literary writing. The Bible is literature, with means rather than just informing and stating abstract thoughts (expository writing), it explains those abstract thoughts through stories of concrete human experiences (literary writing). Authors do not write about characters, actions, and situations, but the use those to write about God, people and the world. There is a form to this book of theology, and it is literature. Thus, we must be able to understand the form in order to accurately interpret the theology of the Bible. [Whoa!] Taking all of this into account, there are then many things to consider - literary genres, literary subject matter (human experiences - which I have already mentioned), archetypes, motifs, stylistics, rhetoric, and artistry. "The Bible is a literary book in which theology and history are usually embodied in literary forms."
Reading the Bible in Prayer and Communion with God - That we could commune with the creator God is unthinkable. How is this possible? Because God took the initiative to reconcile with us poor, ungrateful, backstabbers. "The first thing to say about the Bible in relation to communion with God is that the message of how to be reconciled to God for the glory of God is the central message of the Bible." That is where we must start. But it does not end there. Communion here is defined as "not merely learning about God but enjoying fellowship with God in the truth he reveals about himself." The Bible is where God reveals himself, and therefore a place of communion. We pray to the Father, by the work of Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Prayer encompasses confession, praise, thanks, requests, and others. God reveals himself in words through the Bible and prayer is our response to God using words (as opposed to responding through actions). The Bible not only reveals God, but gives us instruction, examples and encouragement about prayer. The Word allows us to pray, helps us to pray, and gives us our prayer - that God would be glorified and that others would be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.
My thoughts and opinions
In regard to prayer and communion with God, not as many things were new or impactful. Though a couple things stood out. "When we pray for God to do what only he can do, he alone gets the glory while we get the joy." What a sweet deal! We pray, God does the work, and we get to partake in the benefits of his glorification. Wow, how awesome is that! I just cannot get over that we get so much despite our undeserving of it. But then again, it is even there where he is glorified and we are satisfied. Huh, wonderful. :)
"We speak to God the Father, on the basis of Christ's work, by the help of the Spirit." This sentence made me think of how I and many others conclude our prayers - "in Jesus' name we pray, amen," or something to that effect. I just thought of how cool it would be to encompass the whole Trinity when concluding our prayers by stating that "we pray to you Father/Almighty God, etc., on the basis of the work of Christ, by the help/power of the Spirit within us, amen."
As for the Bible as literature, my mind was/is overloaded. In order to interpret the Bible the way I desire (really well, accurately, etc.), there is a lot that I need to learn (or remember from school). But the prospect of digging into literature is so exciting to me - it is more than just a boring, straightforward essay. It is a artistically written book, full of variety of forms to keep us entertained and engaged. We can (and should) read the book with vivid imaginations playing out the words on the page. We can engage with the concrete human experiences and learn truths and lessons vicariously (much less painful, might I add, than learning them on our own, the hard way). I think of a time when I was trying to memorize the whole chapter of Luke 15, and when I got to the story of the prodigal son I acted it out as a drama. For the first parable I drew a comic strip and for the second story I rewrote the story for modern times. Without really realizing it, I was taking advantage of the literary opportunity the Bible presents us with to relate to and engage with the scriptures. Now if that does not make reading the Bible exciting, I don't know what does!
Hmmm...I do not think I have any this time.
"Reading the Bible." (2008) English Standard Version Study Bible. (pp. 2567-2568) Wheaton, Ill: Good New Publishers.