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  • Sam Ashton

The Importance of Reading Well - Part 1

Mosaic Making with Irenaeus

Christianity is all about Jesus Christ (Mk 1:1). We meet Jesus in his word, the Bible (2 Tim 3:15). But here’s the big question—how do we read the Bible well, so we meet the real Jesus, and not some fake Jesus who looks like a bigger/better version of us? Meeting the real Jesus matters—especially if we want to live well in Jesus’ world.

In the second century AD, in the French town of Lyons, there was a pastor called Irenaeus. At the time (and today!), lots of people were reading different bits of the Bible to say very different things. To help his flock, Irenaeus suggests that the different parts of the Bible were like pieces of a big mosaic. If Christianity is all about Christ, how we put the pieces together shapes what the final picture is—“King” Jesus or “dog” Jesus.[1] To put together the pieces so that we meet the King and not a dog, Irenaeus encourages us to follow the “rule” that the Bible is one, coherent story centred on Christ. Part of reading the big story well means recognising that the story has an overall shape made up of key sections. To shift metaphors from the art gallery to the theatre, reading the biblical drama well means noticing what act we’re watching (or better – participating in).[2] Are we watching the act of creation, fall, redemption, or consummation? How might what happened in an earlier act shape how we understand a later act? For example—spoiler alert—if we’re watching the Lion King, it makes a big difference later on if we know that Simba is the true heir to the throne, unjustly banished by his wicked uncle. As we’ll see in the next blog post, appreciating the big picture (and where we fit) helps us to read Scripture rightly so we meet the real Jesus.


[1] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.8.1.

[2] When understood correctly, I think the language of “performance” or “improvisation” works well.


Revd. Sam Ashton is an ordained minister in the Church of England and he is currently a PhD candidate at Wheaton College, Chicago. His research explores the theological and moral significance of sexual dimorphism.

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