Donald Andrew Henson II

Blogging the Bible – Methodology

In Blogging the Bible, Blogging the New Testament on May 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Before I jump right into reading the New Testament and posting my comments, I’d like to take a couple of paragraphs to talk about how I want to approach the whole project.

First and foremost, I want to keep an open mind. I spent half of my life in an evangelical church, and I understand how believers approach the Bible, how they read it, and how they feel God intends for it to be read. I don’t necessarily intend to abandon that kind of reading, but to add to it. There are earnest Christians who seek to understand the history, culture, and politics of the early Christian world in hopes of having a better understanding; I applaud that approach, and hope to incorporate some of that into my writing.

There are academics who take a completely different approach, which is to question nearly every claim that Christians make about the Bible – who actually wrote each book, when the books were written, whether the words of Jesus are recorded by first-hand observers, etc. Books of this genre, including Who Wrote the Bible by Richard Elliot Friedman and the much more recently written Forged by Bart Ehrman raise a lot of questions about the Bible’s authenticity that any serious believer should not be afraid to consider. I read Friedman’s book years ago when I still considered myself an evangelical, and it didn’t challenge my faith as much as affirm it. Some of his insights really livened up the Sunday School lessons I was teaching at the time. I’ve just finished Ehrman’s and it only confirms what serious students of the Bible since Martin Luther have said – the traditional attributions of authorship for many of the books don’t always seem accurate.


Martin Luther

From my point of view, it doesn’t matter so whose approach you choose. What is of more interest to me is how scriptures are interpreted today in American society to form a prevailing religious mindset, and whether those interpretations are beneficial or damaging to our nation as a whole. I think anyone who truly wants to find truth can look at both sides of an issue without having to join one camp or another. I’m hoping to incorporate what I know about both approaches to the New Testament, and hopefully find common ground between those who fervently believe and those who don’t.

I’m going to start reading the books in the order in which they were written, not in the order in which they appear in the New Testament. Whenever there are huge discrepancies in dates, I’ll make a judgement call, but will lean towards a more traditional dating.  That means I’ll start with the letters of Paul, then work through the synoptic gospels. After Luke, we’ll go through Acts, the letters of other apostles, and end with pretty much everything attributed to John. I think studying them in this order should help us see the ideology of the Bible unfold, with the ideas presented in the order in which they were developed, not the order someone put them in 300 years later.

Ironically, my Dad sent me an email just yesterday, not knowing that I had just announced my intention to blog the NT. He urged me to ‘get back into the Word’, confident that anyone who does so will find God there. My brother, on the other hand, who recently ‘outed’ himself as an atheist, seems to think that actually reading the Bible with an open mind is the surest path to non-belief. It seems I’ll be walking a fine line to keep them both happy!

It will be interesting to see which way things go.

  1. i’ll be reading Paul then.

  2. Thomas Jefferson blamed Paul for ‘perverting’ the words of Jesus – pretty interesting point of view most Americans probably aren’t familiar with.

    • well that’s because Jefferson was one of the pilgrams ofcourse! lol But seriously, that is a pretty interesting point of view. Did he think Paul was the first to add in the miraculous claims? I know Jefferson wrote a version ommiting all of those.

  3. I’ve always wanted to read the Bible and blog it too. I started listening to the Old Testament several years ago, but never finished. I have read several books by Bart D. Ehrman. I quit religion when I was 12 and have been an atheist since. I’ve tried to get back into religion but it never worked. Like your brother, what really sealed the deal was reading the Bible. The more I read and studied the Bible the more confident I was in my non-belief. But the Bible is incredibly fascinating as history. I’m now reading The Great Code: The Bible and Literature by Northrop Frye. This is a heavy duty literary analysis of The Bible.

    I find the New Testament fascinating because it shows a constantly changing Christ. I think every generation reinvents Christ in their own image. I liked Ehrman’s idea of reading the New Testament horizontally. Which means you compare descriptions of the same events written at different times.

    I’ve often thought Christians should be called Paulineans because I think Paul introduced many of the ideas that Christians attribute to Christ.

    Looking forward to your Bible blogging. Check around, other people have done that, and they are interesting to read. Everyone comes up with something different.

    • good point. i’ve traveled some parts of the world, and it became obvious that “man made god in HIS own image. Everyone’s god seems to look and think alot like themselves.

  4. This sounds like a fascinating project! I’ve only ever read what bits and pieces I needed of the Bible in order to complete my literary degree. I had planned to take a “Bible as Literature” course in uni, but both times I signed up for it there wasn’t enough interest for them to proceed with the course! How can that be?!?

    I’m too intimidated by the massive scope of the text to undertake it on my own. Being raised in a strictly secular home (despite the best efforts of my grandmother) I always felt a bit disadvantaged compared to my church-going contemporaries. But I’ll be watching your progress! Maybe I’ll be able to glean enough of a foundational understanding to give it a go, myself.

    Best of luck, and I hope you get what *you* want out of the experience (try not to think too much about what your family members want).

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