Review Miriam’s story as recorded in Exodus 2:1-10, 15:20-21 and Numbers 12, 20:1-2; and review The Blue Parakeet chapter 12. Then, think back on your own experience and past perspective as you engage in the discussion.
- What about Miriam’s story surprises you?
- How does reading Miriam’s story within the context of the events surrounding Exodus and Deuteronomy inform your understanding of her role in history?
- How can you apply this ancient story to your life today?
Applying the Bible for Today: Miram Audio Transcript
How do we Understand and Apply an Ancient Story?
Telling Miriam’s story (Exodus 2:1-10, 15:2021; Numbers 12, 20:1-2)
Adapted from McKnight, S. (2006). The blue parakeet: Rethinking how you read the Bible
(pp.145-212). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
I. Slide 1
How do we understand and apply an ancient story? How do we know what the Bible
means for our life and living today? It can be easy to say, “just follow the Bible” but we
must admit that we each bring our own lens, our own set of glasses, to how we read
and understand the Bible’s message and meaning. Whether we realize it or not, we all
place our own assumptions and experiences onto the text. So, how do we overcome
this? Christians believe that the Bible is a living text, that its message is new each and
every day. Yet its foundational message always stays the same. What, the, does it
mean to navigate this tension between the ancient and present meaning of the Bible?
II. Slide 2
In the Wesleyan tradition, it is common to use a four-fold framework for biblical
interpretation. Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience are taken together in what’s
called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Scripture acts as the primary and authoritative
source for understanding and meaning, while Tradition, Reason, and Experience help
us answer the question “What does the Bible say?”
III. Slide 3
Based off Scripture, Tradition takes into account the beliefs and practices of the diverse
and formative stream of Christian tradition. Understanding the meaning of the Bible is
not an individualized endeavor – our understanding takes place within the centuries of
church history and tradition.
IV. Slide 4
Reason acknowledges that “all truth is God’s truth” and celebrates the resources we have
at our disposal for further studying and understanding the world around us – including the
social and physical sciences, philosophy, the arts, and other cultural factors.
V. Slide 5
Finally, both practical Experience and the movement of the Holy Spirit in one’s life
validate the movements of the other three elements in the Quadrilateral. As our day to
day practical experience is shaped by God’s work our lives, we can find clarity and
direction for how to apply the Scriptures within our Tradition, Reason, and Experience.
VI. Slide 6
In our textbook, “The Blue Parakeet,” we can see how Scot McKnight maintains a primary
focus on the Scripture, while using tradition, reason, and experience to study how women
have played a critical part in the biblical story. In his methodology, he insists that we
know the story of the Bible, and that means that we must know about the women in the
VII. Slide 7
Miriam, Moses’ sister, is one of many women in the Bible that we engage within the
Exodus story. McKnight describes her as a spiritual leader, explaining that she was
onethird of Israel’s triumvirate of leadership: with Moses as lawgiver, Aaron as priest,
and Miriam as prophetess. When the children of Israel escaped the clutches of Pharaoh,
it was Miriam who led the Israelites into worship with these inspired words: “Sing to the
Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea” (Exodus
VIII. Slide 8
Scholars also think that the Song of Moses, found in Exodus 15, may well have been
composed under the inspiration of Miriam. In the Bible, singing is connected to the gift of
prophecy, and in this way, prophets and prophetesses both played a leadership role
among the Israelites. Even the later prophet, Micah, identified Miriam and Aaron
alongside Moses as the three leaders who aided Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.
IX. Slide 9
It was Miriam who fetched Moses out of the Nile and helped ensure his survival. But
Aaron and Miriam receive a scolding from God when they gossip about Moses’ higher
status among the Israelites. Miriam is envious of Moses, even as she knows that God
also speaks through her as a prophetess. Her envy and jealousy caused her to sin, but in
this way she was no different than many others in the Old Testament – and even no
different than us today. In her repentance, she maintained her position of leadership, and
continued to work alongside Moses and Aaron for the good of the Israelites and the glory
X. Slide 10
As we read the story of Miriam – and the story of anyone else in the Bible – we can ask the
formative question: “what did they do?” This seems like a simple question, but until we
slow down and examine the Bible for what it actually says, then we run the risk of
answering that question from our own reasoning and experience apart from the foundation
XI. Slide 11
The more we study the Bible, the more we see the need to acquire the right tools for
understanding the meaning and purpose of a text. First and foremost, we need to spend
time in the story itself. We need to identify the broad contours of the story and the
overarching themes of creation, fall, and redemption. Then, we begin to ask questions
about the original context and meaning of an individual event or story. We research the
cultural, historical, theological, and literary factors in order to grasp the original purpose of
a text. Once we understand what it meant to the original hearers, then we begin to look at
our own contemporary context. What are the pressing issues and questions facing us
today? How does this text speak to our experiences, in this new day?
XII. Slide 12
It’s important to understand that Scripture interprets Scripture. Biblical understanding is not
done in isolation. Proof-texting is a danger here. It is easy to make the Bible say whatever
we want by taking a verse and using it to support our own understanding and agenda.
While individual verses are important to remember, memorize, and lean on for comfort and
inspiration, faithful biblical interpretation means that we look at how each verse fits into the
wider biblical witness. We can see this commitment at play in how McKnight traces the
diverse experiences of women in the Bible. To address the question of women in ministry,
McKnight looks to the entirety of the biblical witness, carefully taking into account the
various historical and cultural factors. Only in this way, can we discover the united
message of the Bible.
XIII. Slide 13
Make no mistake, biblical interpretation is not easy. Scholars dedicate entire careers to
issues of translation, historical research, or archeology in order to discover the nuances of
the text. But neither is faithful biblical interpretation out of your reach. You have access to
an abundance of resources, but these resources are diverse and often put forth competing
agendas. And that is okay. Your job is to start participating in the grand conversation of
biblical meaning and application. Pull up a chair at the table and start asking questions
and offering your thoughts. But do so with these questions at the forefront: what is the text
actually saying? and, what, then, does the text mean for us today?
Welcome to the conversation!