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Monday, July 16, 2007

Lectio Divina

Not strictly translation but I thought these two articles might offer some food for thought today. First, Scot (one "t") at Jesus Creed writes about Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson,
    Some view the Bible through epistemological eyes: they see it as truth and upon this truth all others truths and knowledge can be established. The dominant word is truth. Others view the Bible through ideological eyes: they see the Bible as a protest against a cultural establishment and its dominant word is justice. Yet others see the Bible through moral eyes: they see it as commandment and the dominant word is obedience.

    Peterson sees the Bible through formational eyes: he views as something to eat. So, he proposes — in addition to the salutary points above and not at all denying any of them — we read it in the mode of lectio divina, and he has a theologically-rich understanding of lectio. Don’t think of a few folks sitting around a table reading the Bible and hearing voices. Instead, think of the psalmist of Psalm 119 or Jesus or Paul’s marvelous comment to Timothy. Think Augustine — that’s the sort of Bible he has in mind when he discusses lectio divina.

    Lectio: read.
    Oratio: pray.
    Meditatio: mull and chew and ruminate.
    Contemplatio: let it work its way into the sinews of our being so that we live it out.

    Any view of the Bible that doesn’t lead to formation isn’t reading the Bible for what it is intended to do. Eugene Peterson does just that. Lectio leads to formatio.

And on Lectio Divina, from Accepting the Embrace of God: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina,
    The art of lectio divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict encourages us in the Prologue to the Rule. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12) the “faint murmuring sound” which is God's word for us, God's voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an “attunement” to the presence of God in that special part of God's creation which is the Scriptures.

    The cry of the prophets to ancient Israel was the joy-filled command to “Listen!” “Sh'ma Israel: Hear, O Israel!” In lectio divina we, too, heed that command and turn to the Scriptures, knowing that we must “hear” - listen - to the voice of God, which often speaks very softly. In order to hear someone speaking softly we must learn to be silent. We must learn to love silence. If we are constantly speaking or if we are surrounded with noise, we cannot hear gentle sounds. The practice of lectio divina, therefore, requires that we first quiet down in order to hear God's word to us. This is the first step of lectio divina, appropriately called lectio - reading.
Read the rest of the article here. It is well worthwhile.

Update: This method was recently brought to my attention by Iyov ,
    It seems to me that there are many other ways of reading Scripture that are equally valid and involve a completely different type of technique. For example, while I am not deeply familiar with the details of it, I see that Pope Benedict 16 recommends the traditional lectio divina reading method.


At Mon Jul 16, 02:12:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

Did it just occur to you to blog on this topic, or were you prompted by a blog post somewhere?

At Mon Jul 16, 02:46:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Suzanne. I find this helpful. We need not just better Bibles but better ways of reading them, not as just textbooks of theology but as God's word to each one of us. So we need to listen to what he says through it to each individual.

I think it should be "attunement", not "atunement" which looks like a typo for "atonement".

At Mon Jul 16, 06:48:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Ditto Peter.

I linked to this post in my recent response to a post of Iyov's.

John Hobbins

At Mon Jul 16, 11:35:00 AM, Blogger Iris Godfrey said...

I have read Peterson's book, and find it (as the rest of his works) quite informative and exceptionally well written.

Unless the Bible unfolds as we read, it will simply be an intellectual exercise, and that will not transform. It may inform, but not transform.

I found Peterson's book an excellent example of the disciplines needed for transformation in the reading process.

At Mon Jul 16, 10:40:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


Thanks for commenting. I haven't read the book but shy away from reading the Bible as an isolated intellectual exercise.

At Thu Jul 19, 10:26:00 AM, Blogger Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Suzanne and all, Mike Aquilina, who writes The Way of the Fathers blog, mentions a new book by Karl Schultz, entitled How to Pray With the Bible: The Ancient Prayer Form of Lectio Divina Made Simple. More info on the volume than at Amazon is here, at the publisher's site.


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