The Bible – part 1
The word bible in the Greek means book. It doesn’t mean “sacred” book, but simply book (I will address inspiration in part 2). The bible is a collection of stories about ancient Israel and early Christian communities. Some of these stories are bizarre as in Jonah being swallowed by a large fish, while others contain eternal truths about beauty, love, forgiveness and compassion.
The bible with its landscape of stories continues to fascinate the hearts and minds of many. However, the tide is starting to change, not to the point of rejecting God, but rethinking and reimagining the meaning of these biblical stories and how they relate to the first readers and how they relate to us. People are starting to ask questions. Here’s a list of questions that I often hear and have asked myself.
- Was the earth literally created in 6 days?
- Were Adam and Eve real people? Did the snake actually have a conversation with Adam and Eve?
- Did God really order the the death of the Amalekites, men, women, children and infants?
- Why does God call us to love our enemies, but he doesn’t?
- Which leads to the question of Hell. Is it a literal customized torture chamber or is Hell a disconnect from our authentic self?
- Will all people be saved?
- Why are’t women allowed to be teachers? Is God sexist?
- Homosexuality: Is God for it or against it and why?
And the list goes on and on. Are these questions bad? No. A perusal of the ministry of Jesus reveals time and time again that Jesus always questioned the questioner. I’m concerned that many within Christendom have quit asking questions and have become complacent with their beliefs. The excitement to know, and to explore the mysteries of God and the bible has lost its charge. Our churches have become a place where biblical illiteracy is valued in so much as it doesn’t cause an undercurrent of distress for the congregation, while literacy is devalued or discouraged because of fear of the unknown or because it violates everything that we’ve been taught.
Marcus Borg points out that “to be Christian means to be in a primary continuing conversation with the Bible as foundational for our identity and vision.” Are we communicating with the Bible? What do we believe about the bible and why? And how do those beliefs add to or take away from the quality of our life?
I do believe that the bible is true, but truth and tradition aren’t exactly the same. A lot of what we believe isn’t based upon truth, but tradition that’s been passed down to us. The old colloquial expression is very true: the bible was written for us, but not to us. Understanding why it was written and to whom it was written are some important keys to unlocking its truth. A Catholic priest said it best: “The Bible is true, and some of it happened.” His point is quite obvious, the truthfulness of the bible isn’t always dependent upon historical factuality. There are parables, hyperbole, and literal events, discerning the difference will aid in ascertaining the truth.
To be a Christian means to have a relationship with the Bible which is a pointer to God. Don’t be afraid to study it. When studying we should relinquish any preconceived beliefs that we have about the text and study with openness and eagerness to learn new and exciting things.
Enjoy the journey,
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