We Stand on The Shoulders of Others
I am just finishing a book that surprised me. When I bought Is there a Doctor in the House?: An Insider’s Story and Advice on becoming a Bible Scholar, by Ben Witherington III, I was somewhat expecting to be annoyed and disappointed. I bought it because in the book he dealt with the nature of cultural blinders that Christians tend to have as they read the bible. What I got though was a lot more than that bit of information. It is an easy read that felt more like a conversation than a lecture or scholarly piece of work. I have one more chapter to go and then I will say good bye to this new found friend.
All of this to say, I have several places that I highlighted where I found a comment he made to be helpful and useful in a blog post. Today is one of those highlights.
There is a tendency by some Christian to eschew using research type books and study materials in their own personal bible study. I actively teach against this but I have learned that it is hard to convince some to rethink their ways. Dr.
Witherington makes this poignant comment that supports my position:
It is not enough to know the Bible well. Greater minds than ours have reflected on the Bible before we ever thought of doing so, and our reading of the Bible will only be enriched if we read the classic Christian works and so end up reading the Bible with the saints.
I liked his point. When we pick up a book written by a brother or sister-in-Christ, we are meeting a new friend. One we can read the bible alongside. One we can listen to and learn from. I am quite serious about this. I have countless friends in my library. I don’t agree with everything they may say, but that is what friendship involves, a willing back-and-forth style of communication. Some of them annoy me more than encourage me, but then I do that to my friends. Occasionally I find someone whom I thought would be a friend, but they weren’t. But the breakup is easy, I just put them on a shelf or in the trash bin.
His point is my point. We stand on other people’s shoulders and it is folly to think that we do not. It is not humility, but pride, that prevents us from opening the labors of those who went before us that we might learn. It is scary to make new friends sometimes, but it is always good that we seek them out.