I found the bookmark.
I pulled Stephen King’s On Writing out of my backpack and flipped through its pages a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t find my bookmark. It’d been a semester or two since I’d last invested time in the book, and I wasn’t sure where I’d left off. So I found a familiar section and started reading. The more I read, the more I remembered; I’d apparently made it further in the book than I realized. But I kept moving, finding the reminders encouraging and challenging.
I was reading through a later section the other day when I happened to flip ahead a bit and found my original bookmark wedged halfway down the page. At that moment, I had a choice to make: I could continue on, re-reading another few pages, or I could jump to where I’d left off. I chose the former, and, within a page or so, noticed King make a passing reference to a Flannery O’Connor novel I’d finished reading only a day earlier.
I enjoy moments like that in reading. If I’d found the bookmark a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have started re-reading sections. If I’d skipped ahead when I did find the bookmark, I would have missed the reference entirely. But as it happened, I finished a novel one day and could thus appreciate a reference to it the next day.
The more you read, the more you notice an ongoing conversation among writers. Authors subtly reference Shakespeare or Austen, briefly quote Hopkins or Frost, or echo Homer or Dante. Authors typically don’t write apart from the influence of others. Each voice builds upon or responds to another, each adds to the understanding of life or the world, each contributes to the questions and answers we all discuss.
Reading Scripture resembles this dialogue a bit, but it does so on an eternal scale. Yesterday morning, for example, it hit me that Nahum’s message to Ninevah reveals that the repentance they demonstrated after Jonah’s message didn’t change the course of the city. At some point, they rejected the Lord and returned to wickedness. The more you study the Bible, the more you spot those connections. You also begin to catch when a psalmist or a prophet makes a statement that a New Testament author cites, giving clarity both to the Old Testament text and the New Testament citation. But the Bible astounds us at its internal consistency because each contributing voice appears as guided by the Holy Spirit, creating a work both complex and clear, diverse and unified. The LORD reveals himself through the testimony of multiple perspectives over centuries of his work among his people. “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” Paul writes (2 Timothy 3:16), uniting a chorus of voices into one holy song.
I marvel at the Bible, both for its composition and for its message. And while I love tracing the literary relationships throughout my reading of other works, I haven’t found anything else like what I find in the Bible. God tells his story through history and law, poetry and prophecy, narrative and instruction, yet his voice resounds in every style. His character and his glory appear throughout the work, described by unique voices in unique contexts to better reveal his person to us. And as we read, he speaks to us, calling us to know and to love him. So read the Bible, love the Bible, and study the Bible, all to better know the God who reveals himself in the Bible. And praise him for making himself known to us.
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2 thoughts on “The Word”
Your transition from the conversations among writers to scripture and it’s intertextuality was powerful!
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