Have You Not Read?

Most people have at least some basic knowledge about the Greek philosopher Socrates who lived from 469-399 B.C. Socrates is considered by many to be the founding figure of Western philosophy. Socrates was the son of an Athenian stone mason and sculptor. His mother was a midwife. Because Socrates was not born into a noble family, he probably received a very basic Greek education. Although his formal instruction was limited, Socrates became known as a questioner of everything and everyone. For Socrates, the city of Athens was his classroom. The philosopher spent his time asking many questions of the elite and commoner alike. Socrates used his constant questioning as a means to arrive at political and ethical truth. As a teacher, Socrates did not lecture about what he personally knew. Instead, the philosopher claimed to be ignorant, asserting he had no ideas to offer. Socrates considered himself to be wise, however, because he recognized his own ignorance.[1]


Socrates asked his thought-provoking questions in a dialectic method known as the Socratic Method. This method of questioning compelled the recipients of his queries to think through a problem so the individual could reach a logical conclusion. His teaching style was not focused on the transmission of knowledge. Socrates asked question after question until his students arrived at their own understanding. Interestingly, Socrates did not personally write anything. All that is known about the Greek philosopher is filtered through the writings of a few of his contemporaries and followers. One such example is his student Plato.[2]


Because his method of instruction was oral storytelling, Socrates was not a proponent of the written word. He believed that the written word would weaken the mind and destroy man’s memory. Socrates was also concerned that the written word would allow information to be communicated without the presence of the author or a qualified teacher. Socrates believed that true leaning necessitated interpersonal interaction between a teacher and a student. This interaction would include careful questioning intended to provoke the student to reason through the problem to reach a solution. According to Socrates, men were fools to believe they could learn something valuable from teacherless books. Ironically, thanks to men like Plato, we know about Socrates and his position concerning the written word because it was recorded in a book.[3] Despite the philosopher’s beliefs, there is great power in the written word.


Personally, I agree with Socrates that teachers are of great importance. Students need to be challenged by good questions, and they need to be directed by those who have acquired knowledge about the subject being investigated. But reading is of great importance as well. In fact, I would argue that reading is of eternal importance. God gave His people a divinely inspired Book to be read, understood, and applied. Apart from reading, how can a believer grow and mature in the faith?

Socrates was surely a great questioner, but Jesus was the Supreme Examiner because His questions pierced the heart of people’s sin. For example, consider Jesus’s questioning of the Pharisees in Luke 6:1-4:


On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?’


Jesus’s rebuttal to the Pharisees includes a very important question, “Have you not read?” Certainly the assumption is that the Pharisees had read the account found in 1 Samuel 21, and were therefore quite familiar with the text. The problem with the Pharisees was not that they were ignorant of the passage, but that they were not rightly applying the Scriptures they knew.


The question for us today is really the same one Jesus asked the Pharisees: “Have you not read?” In today’s world of technology we have no excuse to neglect the consistent reading of Scripture. We have already finished one-third of 2018; how has your reading diet been? Have you consistently nourished your soul with the Word of God? Have you filled your mind with soul-nourishing books that have increased your passion for following the Lord Jesus Christ?


Once we have done the hard work of carefully reading the Bible, we must actually understand what we have read. This is the stage in our Bible study where good tools come into play. As I suggested in my March post, acquire a good study Bible with footnotes to assist your reading. Read the Bible in multiple translations to get a more complete grasp of the text. Purchase a good, basic commentary such as The Moody Bible Commentary to help you understand the more difficult passages.


Once we have read a passage and understand what God said in the passage, we must rightfully apply the text to our lives. Read. Understand. Apply. Repeat. When we are faithfully fulfilling these three actions we will experience spiritual growth. And then, when Jesus asks, “Have you not read?” We can say will complete confidence, “Yes, Lord. I have!”



[1] “Socrates.” Available: https://www.biography.com/people/socrates-9488126; accessed 25 April 2018.

[2] “Socrates.” Available: https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/socrates; accessed 25 April 2018.

[3] Nicholas Kardaras, Glow Kids (New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016), 41.

Jay Knolls