Often in the past when I read in the Bible, I wanted to force it to fit the grid I'd placed over it.
Controlling the Bible, however, is like trying to hold a living, hopping frog in my hand: The only way I can control it is to kill it. We often do kill frogs--this is in science class-- and pin them down and cut them open and catalogue their insides. This can be interesting, once we get over that we've killed a sentient being. But the key thing is that once the frog is dead, you can catalogue it's parts, but whatever made it a living being is gone. It's lost its essential frogness.
Thus, you can dissect the Bible, but once you do that, whatever makes it alive goes away. And you are left, I think, with a lot of pieces that can never really be put back together again. Somewhere, the spirit is lost or distorted.
When I understood that the Bible was alive and that to try to control it was to kill it, that changed my relationship to it. I suddenly didn't need to control it. I didn't need to force it into my pattern. I could just let it hop around (well, sometimes I could do this). I also understood that the term "living Bible," which I had often heard and thought was some sort of evangelical weirdness, was actually descriptive.
When I embarked on my one year (actually 20 month) Bible read, I decided to approach the bible with as open a mind as possible. For me, this meant an old-fashioned New Critical reading: What do I learn from what's "in" the text? (Yes, I know, I know, there is no "in," that's a metaphor, etc, etc). Nevertheless, I have found the old-fashioned New Critical approach to be fruitful. Without much scholarship (and I know I am reacting to people who over-rely on the flavor du jour book "on" the Bible), I can glean an amazing amount of information and wisdom, as long as I read attentively. I also find that the Bible teaches me how to read it. I don't need an external guide. So, while, of course, I have a little background in secondary sources, history, etc,, as almost everybody does who hasn't grown up in a complete vacuum, I chose to read the Bible straight through primarily as a standalone document. I found this a Quakerly and useful approach.
Now, naturally, there were parts of the Bible that caused me to glaze over, such as the genealogies, but I tried to find ways to stay engaged even in those ... and my stratgies didn't always work. It took me 20 rather than 12 months because my attention would flag --or there was too much to absorb-- or I would become too horrified-- so I would put down a reading in the middle and pick it up the next day. And even with all my attempts to stay attentive, there were days when my eyes would scan the words and nothing would penetrate, and so I'd go back and reread the same section the next day.
What does this have to do with peace in the Old Testament? I'll have to save that for another entry, as this blog is getting too long.