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How To Read The Bible

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Through my readings with Harvey Cox’s book, “How to Read the Bible”, I have found he states three main stages that correlate with reading the bible. Stage one: narrative stage, stage two: historical, and stage three: spiritual. He quotes the three stages as “I believe they need to supplement and complement each other in order to get the most from any reading of biblical texts.” He then goes on to explain that the Bible is a book of stories. Each story may relate to others in very significant ways. Giving into the perspective of these three methods, Cox states in the class video, “If you have your foundation in these stories and the Bible still speaks to everybody and what it means today, you can encompass them.”

Each stage has its own purpose, the narrative stage, from a personal standpoint the outlook of the Bible. The background in each of our own individual stories goes hand in hand with Cox’s description of the Narrative stage. Cox discusses his background of how he came about in reading the Bible. He gives a story introducing his findings of the Bible located on a dusty shelf in his family’s home. His curiosity, then led him to want to tread and understand the many stories and life lessons that the Bible has to offer. The historical stage, gives us in detail the stories written by many authors in the book. Cox then goes on to state, “I believe they need to supplement and complement each other in order to get the most from any reading of biblical texts.” He shares with us that his professors called it the “historical-critical method”. From those understandings, Cox then brings up the way that this method may be implemented through “scientific” historical studies. He then goes into the discussion of how those methods had changed the way he viewed the Bible. As the Spiritual stage commences, Cox states “I believe they need to supplement and complement each other to get the most from any reading of biblical texts.” Cox then talks about the time he was arrested for a peaceful protesting and had met a group of black people in the prison cell next to him that were singing songs of the gospel. From that day he came to a realization that we were all created by the same God and that we were all equal. A strong story and a life changing events had shaped the three stages, narrative, historical, and spiritual understandings of the Bible and how they effected his life.

Harvey Cox and Chas. Barfoot discuss their history with learning and implementing their studies on the Bible. Harvey Cox explains why he uses three stages to identify and “How to Read the Bible.” Harvey Cox, states “our Bible consist of the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament. The word Bible means library, it is not a book, it is a library and collection.” In this instance, I find what Cox states to be very true. From my own understanding of the Bible, the plethora of stories it tells, all have their own significance and differences. This creates a foundation, “collection of stories” that are more than what we know to be a book. Harvey Cox, gives us the reference of performance. As he goes on to say, “performance does not just happen within the four walls of the church. Performing the meaning of the Bible the meaning of the Gospel, how to live this out.” I can relate to this. When I was younger, my family and I would go to church on Sundays, during the sermon the preacher would speak to us that became highly relatable, the words had conviction over our lives. I did notice that after every Sunday and every day after, my family and I would go back to living our normal lives. They wouldn’t “change” and implement what they learned at church during the sermons.

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Charles Barfoot goes on to ask Harvey Cox, will the Biblical characters go on to live in our current society (i.e. Hollywood)? Harvey then explains that every commercial has the “beginning, the problem, and the solution all wrapped up in 30 seconds.” The stories in the Bible are about the deepest elements in life. Harvey then states that the Bible discusses the most profound troubles that us humans face in every day to day life. Harvey Cox discusses his perception on the Hebrew Bible. As his wife was a full Jew, his wife and he had an internal understanding about faith and respected each other’s beliefs. He then states how him and his wife would raise their son together as growing up as a Jew and a Christian. Concluding the class video, I have come to understand Harvey Cox’s understanding behind his three stages of “How to Read the Bible”.

My biggest surprise about the New Testament of course Jesus. The son of God, the true king of Israel, and savior of man. “The son of man came to be a servant and gives his life as a ransom for many (Mathew 20:28). Through the spirit, God empowers Jesus’s followers to spread the love of Jesus out into the world. From death, Jesus has given to us to have our sins forgiven which is referred to as the “ultimate price”. Then after three days later Jesus has rose from the day to bring a new spiritual balance to the world.

Jesus’s resurrection has given us new purpose and future for humanity. The New Testament is a remarkable collection of documents. They represent the Testimony of the Apostles that point us to the risen Jesus. Each book represents the old from the new, Jesus and the spirit point to history’s goal in a renewed creation.


  1. Excerpt From: Harvey Cox. “How to Read the Bible.” Apple Books.

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How To Read The Bible. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from
“How To Read The Bible.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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