From Eugene Peterson’s second-volume of five books on “spiritual theology”, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading….not to be confused with Eat This Book: A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive Eating Circuit.
This is his reflection on reading the Bible and Revelation 10:9-10:
God’s word is written, handed down, and translated for us so that we can enter the plot. We hold these Bibles in our hands and read them so that we can listen and respond to these creating and saving words and get in, firsthand, on the creating and saving.
The act of eating the book means that reading is not a merely objective act, looking at the words and ascertaining their meaning. Eating the book is in contrast with how most of us are trained to read books–develop a cool objectivity that attempts to preserve scientific or theological truth by eliminating as far as possible any personal participation that might contaminate the meaning. But none of us starts out reading that way. I have a grandaughter right now who eats books. When I am reading a story to her brother, she picks another off a of a stack and chews on it. She is trying to get the book inside her the quickest way she knows, not through her ears, but through her mouth–any opening will do to get it inside her. But soon she’ll go to school and be taught that that’s not the way to go about it. She’ll be taught to get answers out of her book. She’ll learn to read books in order to pass examinations, and having passed the exams, put the book on the shelf and buy another.
But the reading that John is experiencing is not of the kind that equips us to pass an examination. Eating a book takes it all in, assimilating it into the tissues of our lives. Readers become what they read. If Holy Scripture is to be something other than mere gossip about God, it must be internalized. Most of us have opinions about God that we are not hesitant to voice. But just because a conversation (or sermon or lecture) has the word “God” in it, does not qualify it as true. The angel does not instruct St. John to pass on information about God; he commands him to assimilate the word of God so that when he does speak it will express itself artlessly in his syntax just as the food we eat, when we are healthy, is unconsciously assimilated into our nerves and muscles and put to work in speech and action.
Words–spoken and listened to, written and read–are intended to do something in us, give health and wholeness, vitality and holiness, wisdom and hope. Yes, eat this book.