Sunday, May 15, 2011

(At least) 5 things everyone should know about the Bible

Kristen Swensen in Deseret News published a recent article "5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Bible." She posits:

1. Every Bible is actually a collection of books. The word itself means something like "little library." Many of the Bible's books developed over a long period of time and include the input of a lot of people (ancient Israelites, Babylonian Jews and Greek pastors, to name a few), reflecting particular places (urban Jerusalem, the northern Galilee, rural Judah, and ancient Persia, for example) and times (spanning as much as a thousand years for the Old Testament and a couple of centuries for the New Testament). Plus, the collection as a whole developed over centuries. This helps to explain the tremendous variety of theological perspectives, literary styles and sometimes perplexing preoccupations (which animal parts go to which parties in which categories of sacrifices, for example) as well as why some texts disagree with others.

Next, she points out that not everyone has the same Bible. Then she points out that the Bible was formed after the literature in it was written down, and that the Bible in English is a translation and finally, that these facts do not impede belief in the Bible as the word of God. Some people found these ideas challenging. The original article concludes:

"The Bible's endurance is astonishing. Knowing the few bits of information provided here, as plain as they may seem, makes it possible to make sense of the Bible — its uses and abuses — for yourself. But this information is more than a starting point. It's also a companion along the way, enabling new insights, providing correctives, and allowing space for the dynamism of your own ideas and learning." Maybe a particular value of this collection of ancient texts is how it demands that we think for ourselves rather than treat each text, no matter its historical background or literary context, as some edict from on high.

You might want to add others. I've been thinking how to word a statement about the cautious use of the moral authority of the Bible.

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