Last month, I offered a conversation with the Holy Scriptures in hopes that it would be helpful to those who are seeking a better understanding of a masterpiece that contains 66 books and spans hundreds of years. The only problem is the fact that different people have different ideas about most of it. Interpretations vary so widely that one can only hope that an article like this is more objective than subjective, and is helpful to those who read it.
Question: Why are certain texts in the Bible filled with violence, hatred and murder?
Bible: You have to understand that I am “human history” from the beginning to the end. If you rid me of all elements of violence, hatred and war, I would look more like a Hallmark card than an account of real life and feelings. “They give us a large enough keyboard to play the whole interaction that people have with people,” says Fr. Ron Rolheiser.
Q: Do you really see this as a problem today?
Bible: Yes. Too many people today have never been given the tools to deal with failure or to handle frustration. Many young people, especially, have never been given constructive ways to cope with the “shadow self”, their own sexuality or to feel what they are feeling. I am filed with all facets of life—the bad as well as the good.
Q: How did you come to be?
Bible: That would take many pages to answer because I have so many authors and dimensions. My pages were first scrolls, written by different ones in history who were inspired to record God’s breaking into human lives. There were many sources that influenced the outcome. I was accepted as Scripture by the Emperor Constantine, who lived in the 4th century, making Christianity acceptable as the state religion. Beliefs about me came together in the Council of Nicea in 325AD, held in Constantinople. It is known as the Nicene Creed, which is still used as part of the liturgy today.
Q: Is the Bible infallible? Is it sacred?
Bible: Well, here’s where many different viewpoints are held. I am sacred in the sense that I am a record of God’s interaction with people. But I am not God, and there’s nothing that says I am to be worshipped. It does say that I am a light in your path and I can show you the way to live and the way to treat your neighbor. I am not a science book and I don’t tell “how” God made the world but “why”. Some passages differ with other parts. I am a means to the end, and not the end itself.
Q: Are you speaking now about the two stories of creation?
Bible: Yes. The two stories of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 are good examples. I was recorded by human beings, so there is bound to be human qualities. I am the inspiration for a lot of people because God speaks to people through me today. I am the record of God’s redemption of the human race. In the end, I am valid to you only if God validates you through it. When that happens, it becomes food for the soul. Science traces the footsteps of God, so to me, there is no conflict between the two.
Q: What are your favorite passages?
Bible: Oh, I have so many, but I would have to include Hosea, Isaiah, Proverbs, Psalms, John’s Gospel, Acts, I Corinthians, James and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6, and 7.
I have no more questions, but I would like to relate a personal experience. I was driving along I-49 on day and was exceeding the speed limit by a few miles. Before I could make the adjustment, I noticed the blue lights flashing in my rearview mirror. The officer pulled me over, and I said, “Officer, I realize I was speeding a little, but it happened before I saw it, and I am a minister and I don’t break the law intentionally.” He started writing me a “ticket”, and I kept trying to sweet talk him, and then suddenly, he put his paper down and said, “Reverend, over there in the Book of Revelation, it talks about end times. Do you believe the world is coming to an end?” Without hesitation, I answered, “Well Officer, if you give me this ticket, there’s no doubt about it.” He started laughing so hard he could hardly finish writing me the speeding ticket. (I didn’t think it was that funny).