Yes, that’s the book for me.
I stand upon the Word of God–
–A Children’s song I learned years ago.
I’ve read the Bible perhaps a dozen times in my life. I rarely open it now, and when I do, it’s the Greek or Hebrew texts sitting on my shelf.
For people thoroughly confused by the concept, the Bible, as it stands today, is 2,000-4,000 years old, depending on the portion of the text being read. I read the Protestant Bible, 66 books, and not the Catholic versions (containing a couple extra psalms, and a smattering of BCE texts written in Greek, rather than the predominant Hebrew). As a result, I’ve never really read Judith, Tobit, or the Maccabees in full.
The first time I read the Bible through, It was to earn a badge. It was for a church boys’ group, much like the Boy Scouts, called the Royal Rangers. I was perhaps fifteen at the time, and didn’t understand large portions of it, or was left with a confusing morass of questions that nobody could seem to answer. The letters written by Paul were particularly enigmatic to me since the words he used — faith, grace, justification — made very little sense to me. I felt like I was on my own, unguided, and when I tried to ask questions, I’d get vague responses, if anything. I earned, but never actually saw, the Bible badge, by the way.
The second time through, I was a young evangelical Christian at a Bible college, where I actually had to memorize a long list, in “Bible Study Methods” class, of “how Jesus is evident” in each book of the Bible–even the Old Testament ones. Seems silly to me now. I had to memorize the books of the Bible in order – I already knew them. And I had to read it–from beginning to end–over the course of fifteen weeks. It was a devotional read. You had to tie in the doctrinal “truths” the college was trying to teach us, and be able to prove these statements by scripture. Holy Spirit? Point to His presence throughout the Bible. Why god hates gays? You should be able to point to that. Still, I realized the vast lack of ethical issues the Bible never spoke to: abortion, for example, or war, or more dangerous still, peace.
In Bible college, I was also asked read it chronologically, but in terms of the historical events the text narrated; So, of course, the creation accounts in Genesis first, then, halfway through the book, reading Job. It was like receiving a history lesson, and a rather embarrassing one, through that lens. How could Moses have written the Pentateuch if he died partway through it? And why would anyone bother to write Deuteronomy? It introduced me to the concepts of Yahwist and Priestly schools, and of ideas challenging the timeline.
Simultaneously, I scoured the Bible for answers to questions in science. That was stupid.
In my decades of study, I’ve become grounded doctrinally in the Bible. I know the stories, the arguments, what it has to offer, what it doesn’t say, which questions it can and cannot answer. It’s been expressed for a few centuries that the Bible is the living, breathing Word of the Lord. Last summer, I audaciously referred to the Bible as a “musty old tome.” I’d never received as vitriol from a single post since I began blogging 3 years ago. One reader even said that my words ” had done great harm to the Kingdom of God.” I doubt she’s my reader anymore. After all, thinking your beliefs aloud can hurt God irreparably. Sarcasm again. I should have earned a Royal Rangers badge in sacrasm, too…
I’ve told myself for years, “I’ve paid my dues. I’ve read through this book a dozen times. What more could it possibly show me?” I guess I’m still at that point in my life. Should I re-read this book? I think I’ve got all the “truth” I can possibly squeeze from this old turnip. But what if I’m wrong? I don’t want to re-read the Bible to re-confirm theological truths I’ve long ago learned, nor do I care to use the Bible as a history, or science or ethics lesson.
Do you regularly read the Bible? Does it give you anything, ever, that you didn’t already know or understand, or couldn’t get from a good talk with a close and wise friend? Maybe the Bible is your wise and close friend. If so, and pardon my frankness, I find that really creepy. Isn’t that what’s referred to as Bibliolatry?
I guess I’m asking my readers–what more truth could it possibly show me? I probably sound like a non-Christian muleheaded jerk to many of you. To you other’s I probably sound like I’m spitting at you from an ivory tower. I promise you, I have neither intention in mind. In short, I am not asking these questions to be a smartass. I truly want to know.
[This post is an expansion from an earlier comment I wrote at another blog I frequent…]