Food in the Bible: Reading Glasses

Before we dive head first into the Bible, I think a little prolegomena is in order…

There are people who believe that when you read the Bible you can do it objectively (see Food Inerrantists). You simply read the literal sense of the words and apply it directly to modern life. There others, me included, who think that we always read everything (texts, life, events) with our own particular set of glasses. We’ll call these our reading glasses. The Bible itself was written by particular people in a variety of settings historically and culturally.

So, first we should try and understand what glasses the people writing the Bible were wearing. What was their context? This helps us to understand what we’re reading. Contrary to the (Food) inerrantists, we have to understand the context in which the Bible was written if we want to understand what it is saying. 2000 years is a long time culturally and historically between us and the original authors.

Second, we have to acknowledge our own glasses. We all have a particular set of events, people and ideas that form a pair of glasses that we read the world through. Some have strong convictions about faith and that colors the way they read things. Some have had bad experiences with faith and that changes things as well. Unpacking our own baggage, or at least being willing to see where our baggage affects our reading, is essential to understand how we read the Bible.

Finally, we can also approach reading with a particular pair of glasses that we want to use to understand a particular aspect of the Bible. The early Christians read the Old Testament with Jesus in mind and found incredible riches that pointed to him as Messiah. African-Americans read the Bible with an emphasis on the Exodus narrative and the metaphor of slavery and liberation. Pentecostals see the Spirit everywhere in Scripture. We’re going to try reading the Bible with food-colored glasses.

We will be using all three pairs of glasses as we read. Do you remember Ben Franklin’s glasses in National Treasure? You know, the ones with three levels of lenses that could read the secret inscription on the back of the Declaration of Independence… that was AWESOME! Anyway… it’s kind of like that.

This prolegomena is just so we’re all on the same page as we begin to read. We might walk into some interesting and controversial territory as we travel. That’s why we need to keep this in mind. I am convinced that food is at the center of culture and connects many different issues in interesting and important ways. If that is true then we should find some pretty fascinating things with our culinary hermeneutic (thank you Brett).

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