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Literature for a Lifetime

Episode 6
56m
October 18, 2021
What’s the ideal way to [study the Bible](https://bibleproject.com/)? Is it 20 minutes of reading every morning or larger blocks of time throughout the week? In this episode, join Tim, Jon, and Carissa as they discuss what it means for the Bible to be ancient Jewish meditation literature. The biblical authors intended for it to be understood over the course of a lifetime of rereading, not in one sitting.
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QUOTE

Wherever our current level of understanding is about trying to make sense of the Bible, there’s always more. And that “more” will likely push our boundaries of what we thought was possible with literature. … Biblical literature constantly challenges our assumptions about what it is and keeps getting more awesome. So the fact that it’s meditation literature means it’s deep and complex, but it also means when we read it, we aren’t going to see everything. And that’s okay. … It’s designed not to give up all of its meaning on the first or even the fiftieth reading.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Bible is ancient Jewish literature that is artistically designed to interpret itself and encourage a lifetime of re-reading and reflection.
  • Because the Bible was designed as a collection, each part was crafted with an eye toward what comes later, precisely to anticipate and foreshadow themes and ideas that are developed later in the story.
  • According to Psalm 1, we become like the things we ponder and imagine. The wisdom and beauty of the Torah is so profound that continuous meditation upon it turns humans into sources of vitality like the tree of life itself.

What Is Meditation Literature?

What is the paradigm through which we read and interpret the Bible? In this series, we’ve been talking about what it means for the Bible to be one unified story that leads to Jesus, breaking down that paradigm into its underlying assumptions––principles that we need to understand if we are to read the Bible in the way its original authors intended it to be read. So far, we’ve looked at the following elements.

In part one (0-19:30), Tim, Jon, and Carissa turn their attention to the next axiom of the biblical paradigm: the Bible is meditation literature.

Meditation is a contemporary buzzword often associated with the process of emptying the mind, but that is not what meditation means in the Bible. In the Bible, to meditate is to continuously dwell upon the words of Scripture. The Bible is ancient Jewish literature that is artistically designed to interpret itself and encourage a lifetime of re-reading and reflection.

Tim shares an assumption he remembers from his early years following Jesus, that the Bible was simple (like a rulebook or dictionary), and reading it would show you what to do in life. After that, all you had to do was obey. That kind of expectation can set us up for discouragement because the Bible is not meant to be understood in a quick read or a linear sequence. The Bible is meant to be understood through design patterns.

Because the Bible was designed as a collection, each part was crafted with an eye toward what comes later, precisely to anticipate and foreshadow themes and ideas that are developed later in the story. Conversely, later stories are designed to imitate and recall themes and ideas from earlier in the text. Every part of the collection assumes a thorough knowledge of all the other parts.

Every time we re-encounter a theme or design pattern, a new facet of it is highlighted and brought into greater focus. In effect, as we read and re-read the Bible, its meaning gets clearer and clearer. When we encounter a story or passage that draws on themes or words from an earlier story, we’re meant to interpret the later passage in light of the first.

Looking for Design Patterns

In part two (19-30-32:00), the team discusses what it means to read one biblical passage in light of another. As an example, Tim reads from Psalm 1.

Psalm 1:1
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

The verbs are not related in a sequential fashion, but they do conjure an image of a person getting more and more settled in the path of wickedness. The man goes from walking to making himself comfortable and taking a seat.

Just like Psalm 1 cannot be understood at a deeper level unless you sit with it for a while, it also takes time and careful re-reading of the biblical text to understand how one story is meant to influence another.

Biblical literature is intentionally dense and not simple to process. It is not designed to be fully understood on the first reading. Rather, it requires years of consistent re-reading so that the meaning of each part only makes sense in light of the whole.

Reciting Scripture Day and Night

In part three (32:00-46:00), Tim, Jon, and Carissa discuss the next section of Psalm 1.

Psalm 1:2
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates (hagah) day and night.

The Hebrew word hagah, translated “meditates” in Psalm 1, conveys the image of a person slowly, thoughtfully murmuring to themself as they mull repeatedly over an idea. The psalmist tells us this is what the blessed person does––continuously recites the Torah aloud.

Psalm 1:3
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.

The psalmist is saying that the wisdom and beauty of the Torah is so profound that continuous meditation upon it turns humans into sources of vitality like the tree of life itself.

Because the Bible is meditation literature, it’s deep and complex, to the point that we will never grasp every detail. And that’s okay. If we didn’t get everything on the first read, we haven’t failed. We’re reading the Bible as it’s meant to be read.

We Become Like What We Imagine

In part four (46:00-end), the team continues their own meditation on Psalm 1 by contrasting the imagery of verses 1 and 3. The wicked man sits and “settles in” with scoffers, but the righteous man is planted like a tree.

The middle lines of verse 2 make all the difference between the two kinds of people described in Psalm 1. We delight in what we meditate on, and vice versa, we meditate on what delights us. In the process, we become like the things on which we dwell.

Referenced Resources

Show Music

  • “Defender (Instrumental)” by TENTS
  • “Acedotes” by Makzo

Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel, and Zach McKinley. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.

Powered and distributed by Simplecast.

Scripture References
Psalms 1:3
Genesis 3:6
Genesis 6:2
Romans 5:14
Isaiah 31:4
Deuteronomy 6:4-7
Psalms 1:1
Psalms 2:1
Psalms 37:30
Psalms 63:6
Psalms 77:11-12
Psalms 1:1-2

14 Episodes

Episode 1
How Do You Read the Bible?
Have you ever read the Bible and felt like you're not "getting it"? In this episode, Tim and Jon take a look at the (often unhelpful) paradigms through which we interact with Scripture. They explore how seeing the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus not only gives the Bible space to do what it was created to do, but frees us to be transformed by the story it’s telling.
1hr 5m • September 13, 2021
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Episode 2
Who Wrote the Bible?
How does God work in the world and communicate with humanity? In this episode, Tim and Jon explore God’s relationship with his creation and the relationship between the Bible’s divine and human origins. They also discuss how God uses human words to communicate his divine word.
53m • September 20, 2021
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Episode 3
The Bible Had Editors?
How can a collection of ancient manuscripts written by numerous people over thousands of years tell one unified story? In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa dive into how the Bible was written and how such a diverse collection of authors, literary styles, and themes can form one divinely inspired, unified story.
59m • September 27, 2021
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Episode 4
How the New Testament Came To Be
At first glance, the New Testament can seem wildly different from the Old Testament—but is it? Jesus saw himself as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures and the climax of the story that began thousands of years before his birth. In this episode, join Tim, Jon, and Carissa as they explore the unity of the New Testament and the intricate yet consistent storyline of the Bible.
53m • October 4, 2021
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Episode 5
Who Is the Bible About?
Is the story of the Bible about humans or God? Because the Bible is about the Messiah—the God who became human—it’s about both God and humans. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa discuss how the story of the Bible and all of its main themes come to their fulfiillment in Jesus, making it a redemption story for all of us.
56m • October 11, 2021
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Episode 6
Literature for a Lifetime
What’s the ideal way to [study the Bible](https://bibleproject.com/)? Is it 20 minutes of reading every morning or larger blocks of time throughout the week? In this episode, join Tim, Jon, and Carissa as they discuss what it means for the Bible to be ancient Jewish meditation literature. The biblical authors intended for it to be understood over the course of a lifetime of rereading, not in one sitting.
56m • October 18, 2021
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Episode 7
Inspiration, Quiet Time, and Slaying Your Giants
How were the books of the Bible selected? What should we do if we have a hard time reading the Bible? How does the Bible apply to daily life? In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa respond to your questions from the Paradigm series so far. Thanks to our audience for all your incredible questions!
1hr 19m • November 1, 2021
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Episode 8
Wisdom for Life’s Complexity
How can we know we are making the “right” choice in situations the Bible doesn’t address? In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa talk about the Bible as wisdom literature designed to reveal God’s wisdom to humanity—even for complex circumstances it doesn’t explicitly address.
1hr 2m • November 8, 2021
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Episode 9
The Bible Wasn’t Written in English
What makes the biblical languages so important? Because the Bible was written in another time and culture, we need to honor its ancient historical context and original languages as we read and study it. In this week’s podcast episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa explore why an awareness of the Bible’s culture—and our own—can help us be better interpreters of the Bible.
59m • November 15, 2021
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Episode 10
What the Bible’s Authors Took for Granted
Have you ever figured out halfway through a conversation that you and another person were on totally different pages? Reading the Bible can feel like this at times. We’re all products of our cultures, families, and environments, and it affects how we understand others. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa prepare us for a cross-cultural conversation with the Bible by discussing the cultural values of the biblical authors.
1hr 11m • November 22, 2021
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Episode 11
The Last Pillar: Communal Literature
Are there ways to read the Bible other than a private quiet time? For most of Church history, followers of Jesus read the Bible out loud in groups and passed along its message verbally. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa talk about what it means for the Bible to be communal literature and how knowing that might just change the way we experience it today.
1hr 3m • November 29, 2021
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Episode 12
How (Not) To Read the Bible
What do we do with the passages in the Bible that are really difficult? Violence, slavery, the treatment of women—what the Bible has to say about these topics has, at times, been misinterpreted and misused. Join Tim, Jon, Carissa, and special guest Dan Kimball as they discuss his book, *How (Not) to Read the Bible*, and explore how any topic in the Bible looks different when we see it as part of a unified story.
57m • December 6, 2021
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Episode 13
Is the Bible Trustworthy?
How do we teach the Bible to our children? How can a book written by humans be divinely authoritative? Is the Bible historically accurate? In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa wrap up the Paradigm series by responding to your questions!
1hr 9m • December 13, 2021
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Episode 14
Applying the Paradigm
How do we apply the biblical paradigm to our own Bible reading? It starts with reading the Bible in movements—the thematic patterns in which the biblical authors organized their ideas long before chapters and verse numbers were printed. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa introduce us to biblical movements and walk through how to identify and trace biblical themes on our own.
58m • December 20, 2021
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