The Presbyterian News Service posted an article, “Read Your Own Story into the Bible Story APCE Told,” about the 2012 conference of the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators (APCE), "God's Suprising Wonders." The main speaker for the event was Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, the author of many children’s books on spirituality and a new book for adults, God’s Echo: Exploring Scripture with Midrash.
Mary Margaret Flannagan, author of the PNS article, wrote that Sasso “focused on the Jewish tradition of midrash, which she defined as “approaching Scripture as if God was actually talking to us.” And yet Flannagan reports that the speaker stated “What God intended was for each generation to read its story into the text. The Bible is not the final word, but the first word. We should not take it literally, but seriously.” (Italics mine)While Sasso’s statement is undoubtedly not the view of all Rabbis concerning the Hebrew Bible, Midrash or the Talmud, which contains midrash, it is absolutely contradictory to Christian Theology. And there is a reason rooted in the very center of Christianity.
Jewish midrash, which was originally rabbinic oral commentary on Hebrew Scripture, is filled with wisdom, mysticism, scholarly thought and stories. Its history and content is complex. Reading midrash may certainly be helpful for Christian study of the Scripture with this in mind: there are two kinds of midrash. There is aggada which has to do with narrative and uses stories, sometimes metaphorically, and halakah which has to do with the interpretation of the law. If this is understood, midrash may be helpful to the Christian reading in order to understand some of the ways early Rabbis viewed various biblical texts and stories.
However, Sasso’s view that the Bible is not the final word is a clear misunderstanding of the Christian faith. Her view cannot be used by an orthodox Christian. In her book God’s Echo, Sasso uses a midrash understanding of the first light that God created, which is viewed as a primordial light that may or may not be hidden, to see the souls of all people as a part of that light. But for the Christian, Jesus, the uncreated One, is the light of the world, which will still be shining when the sun and stars no longer shine.
The prologue to the gospel of John explains that Jesus is the true light whose life gives light to humanity. (John 1:4) Jesus himself, at the festival of light, declares himself to be the light of the world. It is Christ who opens, fulfills and finishes the words and promises of God.
The Christian must take into account God’s final word, Jesus Christ. In the book of Hebrews there is clarification:
God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world.On the mountain of transfiguration the Father spoke in the presence of the disciples—“This is My Son, My chosen One; listen to Him.” (Luke 9:35b) The eternal Son of the Father is the second person of the Trinity; the Bible is the word of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Bible is the first word and the last word because it is God’s word.
We do not read our own story into the Scripture; instead God takes his word and through the Holy Spirit molds and shapes our own broken stories to conform to his will."For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) (Also 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21.)
In the PNS article Flannagan additionally stated, “Almost echoing the Reformed tradition’s motto, (ecclesia semper reformanda) ―”Reformed and always being reformed by the word of God” ― Sasso dared APCE participants to expect God to engage the community in new ways each time they read Scripture.” Flannagan is making a rather opinionated editorial comment which really needs to be addressed or sorted out.
The motto “Reformed and always being reformed by the word of God” does not mean being met with new truths or revelations; rather it means turning back to the truth of Scripture. The Reformation was not the discovery of new truths but the recovery of the Truth. The Reformers returned to justification by faith, grace and the authority of Scripture. In a time when leadership had turned to tyranny they returned to the priesthood of the believer. In a time when the sacraments were sometimes given as magical rites minus the word the reformers placed the pure word of God with the sacraments. In a time when Pope and Priests too often lived immoral lives they returned to proper church discipline.
The Holy Spirit may open blind or dimming eyes to scriptural truth they have not yet discovered-Christ’s redeeming death, the place of repentance in the life of the believer, the call to be transformed, but it is old truth newly discovered by a needy person. By the study of Scripture the Church may be turned toward a ministry they have yet to consider, but it has always been there in God’s word—feeding the poor, caring for prisoners, giving water to the thirsty, saving those being led away to death, proclaiming the good news.
True Christian Educators are called to equip the children of God with the word of God. We need such educators today to turn the Church back to the authority of the word and the Lordship of Christ.
 In a tweet on Sasso's sermon: "