I love the title of Michael Edwards’ newest book. (Well, it probably is a tie because he has another book that also came out in 2023–The Bible and Poetry, you can read an excerpt here.) On the Perpetual Strangeness of the Bible. Edwards encourages us to cultivate a sense of the Bible’s otherness as we read it.
He comes at this from his understanding of it as divine revelation. In his mind, this makes the Bible is unlike any other book and reading strategies should be formulated and applied accordingly.
I too try to cultivate a sense of the Bible’s otherness as I read it, but I do so from a slightly different angle. The Bible is linguistically and culturally different from anyone living today. Therefore, all of our readings and interpretations have varying degrees of separation from how people in the ancient world received these writings. This should cause us to hold our interpretations of the Bible lightly and with an eagerness to change them based on new information or new insights.
If our interpretations are static, we are essentially denying the strangeness of the Bible. We imply that we understand it encyclopedically and authoritatively.
I think a better approach is to keep the Bible strange. Or, like the slogan from my hometown–Keep Austin Weird–the Bible should try to keep the Bible weird as we read it.