Reading the Bible: A Christocentric Approach

This blog continues the series dealing with the Bible and scriptural issues.  It began with the 1st blog:  Reading the Bible Means Opening a Treasury.  The immediately preceding blog is Reading the Scriptures: The Role of Prayer.

One biblical passage to which I have referred several times in this blog series is John 5:39-40 (RSV), in which Christ teaches:

“You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me;  yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

The Scriptures according to our Lord Jesus Christ are not the revelation of God, but bear witness to that revelation.  As St. John the Evangelist tells us, the Word of God became flesh as Jesus the Christ.  The role of the Bible is to bring us to Christ, so that we may know Him which is for us eternal life (John 17:3).  The Bible is not more important than Christ for our salvation.  The Scriptures bear witness to Christ, and bring us to God’s revelation and to our salvation.  Christ is the key to opening the treasury of the Scriptures; He is the One Who is revealed in the Scriptures.  Thus the Bible bears witness to our salvation, but it in itself is not our salvation.  The Bible points to the revelation of God, to the truth of God’s plan, and thus always points beyond itself to Christ Jesus.

 “No one profits by the Gospels unless he is first in love with Christ.  For Christ is not a text but a living Person, and He abides in His Body, the Church.”  (George Florovsky quoted in THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, p 30)

Thus the goal of the Christian life is not to know the Bible, but rather to let the Scriptures witness to Christ, so that we might know Him.

St. Paul guiding Chrysostom's reading of Scripture

“When Philip found the eunuch sitting in his chariot reading the hymn of the Suffering Servant from the prophet Isaiah, the eunuch’s question was not the one that we would ask today—‘what is the meaning of this passage?’—as if the ‘meaning’ were located in the text itself, and so in the past, and our task is simply to uncover it, what the text ‘meant,’ and then perhaps try to find ‘meaning’ for ourselves in the present by some kind of analogy.  Instead the Eunuch asked, ‘About whom does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?’ (Acts 8:34).  ‘Meaning resides in the person of whom the text speaks, and our task is to come to know this person by understanding how the text speaks of him.   This fundamental point is made by Christ himself, when he says, ‘You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life, yet it is they that witness to me’ (Jn 5:39).  To emphasize the point, he says a few verses later, ‘If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me’ (Jn 5:46).  Moses certainly wrote in the past, but the ‘meaning’ of his words is neither as a straightforward description of historical events in the past nor as having ‘meant’ something that we can now retrieve by reconstructing the past. Rather the ‘meaning’ of his words, once again, lies in how he speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Given this locus of the ‘meaning’ of scripture, we can now understand why for the authors of the writings of the New Testament, and those whose work resulted in these writings being collected together, the expression ‘the Word of God’ did not refer to scripture, as it is often assumed today, but to Jesus Christ himself and the gospel proclaiming him, the crucified and exalted one, as Lord.”  (John Behr, THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST, pp 49-50)

And so we return again to John 5:39-40 and the original theme of this series that the Scriptures are a (hidden) treasure.

St. John Chrysostom

“’Search the Scriptures, because in them you think that you have life everlasting.  And it is they that bear witness to me, yet you are not willing to come to me that you may have life everlasting’ …   That is why Christ, in sending the Jews to the Scriptures, sent them, not merely to read them, but carefully search and ponder them.  And so He did not say, ‘Read the Scriptures,’ but ‘Search the Scriptures.’  Indeed, it was because the texts concerning Him require much careful study (since he was foreshadowed in earlier times according to the needs of the people of that period) that He now bade them to dig out the meaning of the Scriptures with precision so as to be able to discover what lies hidden in their depths.  Their meaning is not expressed superficially or set forth in their literal sense, but, like a treasure, lies buried at a great depth.  And he who seeks for hidden things will not be able to find the object of his search if he does not seek carefully and painstakingly. “   (DAILY READINGS FORM THE WRITINGS OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, p 91)

Next:   Preparing Oneself to Hear God’s Word in Scriptures

A Trip to The Wilds

A Wilds highway "parade"

I had opportunity last week to take a day off and visit The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio.  I went purely with the intention of making it a photo-safari.  I intended to spend the day taking photographs, and I did take some 1200 photos while I was there.

Their own literature describes them in this way:

 

 

View from the Overlook Cafe

“The Wilds is one of the largest and most innovative wildlife conservation centers in the world. Located on nearly 10,000 acres in southeast Ohio, it is home to rare and endangered species from around the world living in natural, open-range habitat, as well as home to hundreds of indigenous species. In addition to innovative, in-depth science and education programs, the Wilds offers guided experiences to the public on selected days May through October.”

 

“The mission of the Wilds is to advance conservation through science, education and personal experience.”

Cheetah female

The acreage on which The Wilds sits is the site of a former strip mine.  The mines basically took all the resources they wanted from the land, and the mine companies did whatever minimum restoration congress required of them.  In this case something innovative happened in that the nearly 10,000 acres was donated for use in creating a unique wild life park.   The Wilds is an animal reservation in which numerous endangered species are allowed to live in a fairly natural environment.   The animals are not being domesticated, but are being preserved in a more natural, wild state, albeit, under the guidance of scientists.

Strip mining is very destructive to the lands upon which it is visited, and these acres show the difficulty of getting flora and fauna to return after strip mining has exhausted the lands. This restoration of habitat is one of many creative things being accomplished at The Wilds.  It has become a sanctuary for native birds in the area.

Grevy's Zebra

The staff of The Wilds is also studying animal reproduction of rare and endangered species in order to help preserve these species.  This preservation of the species occurs in facilities like The Wilds, but additionally when possible by reintroducing endangered species to their native habitats.

As the world’s human population grows and natural reserves disappear, so too do a number of animal species.  Through efforts of those involved in The Wilds, some of these species are being preserved, and in some cases helped to grow.

Bactrian Deer

The Wilds is thus many things: a zoo with very large penned in acreage for the animals to roam, a place of study of animal habits and habitats, a restoration project for lands exhausted by strip mining, an effort in conservation and ecology, a bird sanctuary, a butterfly habitat, an opportunity for all of us to see species of animals from all over the world still in a wild state.   The Wilds offers many educational programs, a number of different ways to see and interact with the staff at work with the animals, camping opportunities, as well as unique and interesting ways to experience nature.  It also is a great place for photographers to come and take pictures of rare wildlife.

Sichuan Takin

I did two different tours on the same day.  The Wilds offers a number of options and times for doing tours – some more expensive than others.  Obviously the more costly tours get you closer to the animals and a more personalized opportunity to learn from the staff and to be taken off the regular bus tours.  They offer reasonably priced tours for families as well, besides camps and other events for young and old alike.

I did the Wildside Tour, which is going out with a staff member and a small group (ours had 4 in it) to get very close to the animals in their free range habitat. We rode in the back of an open air pick up, fitted with benches.   It reminded me very much of the time I spent in Kenya in 1978, where riding in the back of a pickup with a common way of travel around the country – these truck/taxis were called Matatus (from the Swahili word for three, as the price to ride was 3 Kenyan shillings).    This was my favorite tour of the two I did.  I also did the Sunset Tour which  was a larger group, but still an excellent opportunity to take a bus tour of the grounds and to see plenty of wildlife up close.

Giraffe - up close and personal

I did one Safari in the months I spent in Kenya, and The Wilds tour reminded me of that safari – I saw some of the same animals at the Wilds that I saw in Kenya.

You can see my set of The Wilds photos at My Wilds Tour.

From that link you can click on the “slideshow” button and see all of the 260 photos I posted.   Or from that link you can navigate through the pages of my Flickr account and read my comments on some of the photos.

I was impressed with The Wilds, thoroughly enjoyed my visit and thought it was a great adventure as well as a great place for shooting wild life photos.  For those who probably will never go on an African safari, I would recommend this American one.

And for those who asked, yes, it is very much like going through a real life “Jurassic Park” – you travel through double fences with electric gates as you move from the outer world into the Wilds, first through the outer perimeter with its native wildlife species, and then into the inner perimeter with the special animals from around the world.  The predators are kept separate from the other animals.

See also my A Safari to the Wilds