The Bible will talk to us if we have ears to hear and minds to discern. It has so much to say that I cannot possibly squeeze its message into one column, or even 20 or more. I have been asked many questions about Scripture down through the years, so I will ask the questions most familiar to my memory bank. The answers from the Bible will reflect an effort to be unbiased (which is always a challenge).
Question: Why do you think you are one of the most misunderstood books of all time?
Bible: I am a complicated read. A person cannot pick me up and read from beginning to end and understand completely. I contain a cafeteria of literature, written over a long period of time—at least 1,200 years.
Q: What types of literature?
Bible: History, parables, myths, legends, poetry, allegory, laws and much more.
Q: What is your advice on understanding it all better?
Bible: You need to ask, “Who wrote it? When was it written? To whom was it written? And, What was the author trying to say?” In a nutshell, it involves God seeking to reach people with people; it is God entering history.
Q: You mean you—the Bible—didn’t just drop out of the sky from God’s Holy Desk?
Bible: Not exactly. God’s Word comes to us not because I was dictated word for word, but because the Old and New Testaments testify (as testaments should) to God’s Truth, which is finally revealed when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (See John 1). Jesus becomes the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
Q: Can you say more about your history and how you evolved?
Bible: I am the record of what God has done and is still doing to show his love for all humankind. Each of my 66 books tells us something of this ongoing history. The first eleven chapters of Genesis tell us how things got started, and how everything seemed to go wrong. The Old Testament tells how Adam and Eve messed up in the Garden of Eden, making the wrong choices. This relegated women to a submissive, subordinate role in society, which began changing in the 20th century.
Q: Can you explain further?
Bible: Well, I give the story of Moses and how he led his people out of Egyptian bondage, and how God’s people experienced deliverance. They were given laws to manage their society. They created rituals and different attempts to worship by building altars. Their poets (Psalms) reflect on their experiences, and their prophets call them back to their roots, warning them about wrongdoing and unfaithfulness. Judah, the Southern Kingdom and Israel were captured by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and much of the Old Testament reflects these stressful times.
Q: Are all of your books of equal value?
Bible: I wouldn’t say so. My words in Leviticus and others deal with the “begats”, health laws and such. That’s a long way from the Gospel of Good News in the New Testament with the coming of Christ. Yet, the bible is one piece. It is the record of God’s redemption of the human race. God used imperfect people to get His message across. The Old Testament is very important in understanding the New. Note how the people complained and blamed Moses for everything bad on their journey out of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land. People haven’t changed much.
Q: How so?
Bible: Well, for example, we have verses in the Psalm, where we ask God to bash the heads of the children of our enemies against rock. How does that invite us to love and pray for our enemies? We see passages in the book of Job where Job is in despair, and curses not only the day he was born but the very fact that anyone was born; there’s not much positive in his lament. Then, in the Gospel, we have passages where the apostles, discouraged by opposition to their message, ask Jesus to call down fire and destroy the very people to whom they were supposed to minister. There are many reasons that we cannot take literally certain passages within. We have to use common sense to unravel the mystery and message.
Q: Well, why are all these texts in the Bible?
Bible: That’s a big question, so I’ll save that for next month in Part 2!
In closing, I would like to share a letter that I received when I was a pastor:
I know the Bible says, “tithe,” and I know about the widow who put her two cents in, but I’ve hit on hard times. Let me explain. My financial condition is due to the financial laws, state laws, parish laws, liquor laws, mother-in-laws, brother-in-laws and outlaws. Through these laws, I am compelled to pay a business tax, amusement tax, head tax and even my brain is taxed. I am required to get a business license, a dog license, a car license, a truck license, fishing and hunting license, not to mention a marriage license. I am asked to contribute to every organization in society—women’s relief, unemployment relief, and every other charitable institution that you can think of including the Red Cross, Blue Cross and the double cross.
For my safety, I am required to carry life insurance, fire insurance, liability insurance, burglar insurance, accident insurance and burial insurance. I don’t know whether I own my business or not because I am inspected, expected, suspected, rejected, dejected, examined, re-examined, informed, reformed, summoned, fined, commanded and compelled until I provide an inexhaustible supply of money for every know need to mankind. And because I refuse to donate to everything, I am boycotted, talked about, lied about, held down and robbed until I am ruined. Pastor, if the unexpected hadn’t happened, I could not send a penny to the church. But the wolf that comes to so many doors these days just had puppies in my kitchen. I sold them, so here’s a little cash. Hallelujah!