Friday, April 15, 2011

The end of B90 and the start of Romans

Well I am wrapping up the Bible in 90 Days.  What a great experience!  Due to some things that popped up in life, I was unable to continue participation in the small group.  But I continued the reading, and will finish on time.  I've had people ask me what could one possibly get from reading it so fast, and the answer is A LOT!

Typically I've always read it a verse to a chapter at a time.  Some of the Bible plans to read it in a year have readings each day from all over.  Every day you can see part of the picture, but it is hard to keep that higher view the entire year.  Reading it this quickly kept me away from all the details we normally focus in on and really allowed me to see the whole picture, all at once.  I even did catch details I had previously missed!

It also allowed me to more easily place each piece into the context of the rest of the Bible.  I was better able to track which Prophets were associate with which portion of the history of Israel and Judah, for instance.  The whole history just flowed better.  Reading the Gospels back to back also allowed me to find a few details that were in one but not the other.  I knew that happened, but it is kind of fun to find for oneself when somebody includes something different.  I would go so far as to say it helped with my image of Jesus even.

My next adventure is reading through Romans with a friend and doing the study questions at the end of the The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans: Revised Standard Version/2nd Catholic Edition (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible).  We'll do this over breakfast once a week.  I'm really looking forward to it!  Ignatius has the study questions posted here, if you're interested.

This week is Romans Chapter 1.  I'm already starting to read up about the book in general.  Authored by Paul, it was written in the late 50's, probably from Corinth on his way towards Jerusalem with his relief offering from around the region.  He had not previously visited Rome, so this letter served as an introduction, among other purposes.  There was already a Christian church there, so he wasn't writing to a completely cold audience. 

N.T. Wright writes of Romans:
...neither a systematic theology nor a summary of Paul's lifework, but it is by common consent his masterpiece. It dwarfs most of his other writings, an Alpine peak towering over hills and villages. Not all onlookers have viewed it in the same light or from the same angle, and their snapshots and paintings of it are sometimes remarkably unalike. Not all climbers have taken the same route up its sheer sides, and there is frequent disagreement on the best approach. What nobody doubts is that we are here dealing with a work of massive substance, presenting a formidable intellectual challenge while offering a breathtaking theological and spiritual vision.
Romans is also a place where Catholics and Protestants can disagree about a lot of meanings.  I was pointed to this book when looking at the idea of "faith alone."  My friend who I am reading it with is not Catholic, but does not believe in faith alone.  There should be some good conversation. If anyone is curious, Catholics don't believe in works alone!  Important to note that.  Without faith, whatever we do is meaningless.  Without God's grace, we wouldn't stand a chance.

But hopefully we can get far more out of this than another argument.  People have been arguing that particular point for a few hundred years now with no resolution in site, so I think it is safe to say we should not get stuck there if at all possible.  There are many other things in Romans that are of use to us today.

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