Admit You Have Wishes

As a New Testament scholar and pastor, I am sometimes asked to lead Bible studies at local churches, including my own. Studies of Paul and women or of the Bible and sexuality are especially popular topics these days, though I have also taught courses on, for example, biblical perspectives on war and violence or the circumstances surrounding the production of particular New Testament books. Whatever I am teaching, however, I usually begin by asking participants what they wish the Bible said about the topic at hand. Do we wish that the Bible would reject war as a political strategy? Or perhaps we believe that the Bible should support defensive if not offensive wars. Do we wish that the Bible would confirm gay marriage, instead of rejecting it as so many Christians insist? Or perhaps our concern has to do with the role of women. Perhaps we wish that Paul had not told women to be silent and learn from their husbands at home, especially since talkative and independent women can be found throughout the Bible just as often as silent, obedient women. Whatever we wish for, I point out, probably can be found somewhere in the Bible, which is why it is so important to admit that we have wishes, whatever they may be. We are not passive recipients of what the Bible says, but active interpreters who make decisions about what we will believe and what we will affirm. Admitting that we have wishes, and that our wishes matter, is therefore the first step to developing an honest and faithful interpretation.

From Jennifer Wright Knust, Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire (New York: HarperOne, 2011), 241.

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