In a famous 1936 lecture, “The Presentation of New Testament Texts,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer proposed to the Confessing Church an alternative strategy of reading scripture. Instead of questioning the Bible from their standpoint, as the German Christians were doing, Bonhoeffer challenged them to let the Bible question them.
This advice became extraordinarily powerful in Bonhoeffer’s own life, for in his reading of scripture he discovered a reality that had been occluded in his own upbringing and in the German Christian church: the significance of the Old Testament and the people Israel. He discovered that scripture was questioning him and the people of Nazi Germany in their treatment of Jews, and this discovery led him to new patterns of thought and action. In particular, it led Bonhoeffer to write that “only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.”