I took a course in my Undergrad education that was called Historiography. While some of the books might have been rather dull and dry, the main point of the books was about our sense of objectivity. It is widely assumed that we can come to a situation or book and be totally without bias. This is not the case, as the class pointed out. We all come to the table with previous assumptions and biases that might impact our reading of the text.
Even when it comes to reading the Bible, the reader will arrive at the words on the page with ideas and presuppositions. A hard-core fundamentalist Baptist will look at it differently than, say, a more left-leaning Episcopalian. A practicing Roman Catholic will read the Bible differently than an atheistic writer who is doing research for a project. While some might see it is a recording of the Word of God, others might view it as a historical document. In short, we come to the Bible with baggage and will read into the Bible different things.
In my class on The Gospel of Mark, we are reading a book called Mark & Method. One of the chapters is on the literary technique of “Reader-Response Critique.” In it I was struck by a line that went, “People tend to find in the Bible what they been taught to find there.” Sometimes we will look for passages to prove an argument with someone. Sometimes I have read a verse and immediately tied it to some point, whether about the Trinity or Infant Baptism. We will read into the text what might not be there, or perhaps we will draw out of the text an aspect that was previously hidden. For example, a Christian might see certain signs within the Jewish Bible (i.e, the Old Testament) that a Jewish reader might disavow. A Christian might catch glimpses of Jesus in the Old Testament that others might not see.
The point is that we will read the Bible in light of our traditions more often than not. It is only through a conscious attempt to read Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate it to us that we can ever overcome biases. It is my understanding and opinion that when the Holy Spirit illuminates and authenticates the Word of God (the Bible) that it truly does become the Word of God to the reader. God will speak through it to the individual, and will (hopefully) knock down their presuppositions. God knows how I need to have my own baggage removed!
Have you been able to spot any baggage you might bring to reading Scripture?