Denney on reading our Bibles too much

I’m currently writing a paper on James Denney, specifically Denney’s understanding of pastoral ministry gleaned as it was not only by some seriously-deep engagement with the NT, but also from critical reflection on his time in two pastorates. I hope to post on some of these reflections soon, but for now consider the following confession, made all the more radical coming from the pen of one whose scholarly and personal devotion to the NT (in particular) was unquestionable:

‘Does it ever occur to you … that we read our Bibles too much, and that it might do us good to read none for a twelvemonth, just as it would do some people good if for as long they read nothing else? I have sometimes felt weary of the very look and sound of the New Testament; the words are so familiar that I can read without catching any meaning, and have to read again, far oftener than in another book, because I have slid a good bit unconsciously’. – James Moffatt, ed., Letters of Principal James Denney to His Family and Friends (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1921), 81.


  1. Jason,

    Do you suppose perhaps this is a reason why we go through ‘seasons’ when we simply cannot read the Bible? I preach every week, but I have to confess, for the last month or so I have found it terribly difficult to read my Bible with any level of consistency. Maybe we go through these seasons and then come back refreshed. Maybe the Holy Spirit has to bear some of this, uh, responsibility. Maybe the Lord teaches us new things while we are ‘away’ and we come back with fresh perspective. Maybe the key is not that we ‘go away’ for a while, but that we always return to the spring. Just some thoughts. Thanks again for the post.



  2. Jerry,

    I think you’ve nailed it. Who of us cannot relate to Denney’s experience here?

    His sermon on Psalm 139:1 is enlightening too; wherein he wrote: ‘The important thing in religion is not the belief that God is omniscient, but the experience that God knows me … Omniscience is a divine attribute, but what is here experienced is a divine action – it is God through His searching knowledge of us entering with power into our lives. It is God besetting us behind and before, and laying His hand upon us’.

    Some seasons are simply when we experience being held more than we hold. Those seasons bring us closer to reality.


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