Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"BIBLE".....What I am thinking when I hear that word!

  1.  To which Bible is one referring?  When Jews use the word “Bible”, they are not referring to the same thing as Christians.  Even among Christians, the word does not designate exactly the same collection of writings.  Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox all mean something different by that word.


  1. The Bible is not one book.  Bibles are collections of writings.  These writings were written at various times in history and were written by many different writers.  Each writing has its own history.  Some of the writings are written by one person and other individual writings have a history of oral tradition, collection, and editing.  These writings have things in common, but they also have their own separate and distinct perspectives and theologies.  All of the writings are not saying exactly the same thing.
  2. Most, if not all people, cannot “just read it”.  The protestant, Christian Bible contains works that are written in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, or Koine Greek.  Most people cannot simple read these languages.  This Bible also has various textual histories and no one copy says exactly the same thing as any other.  Most of the differences are minor, but some are quite significant.  One cannot “just read it” because first someone has to decide which copy or text you will read.  But even deciding upon a particular text leaves the question of translation.  Most people have to rely upon a translation and there are many different translations.
  3. The meaning of these Bibles is not “self-evident”.  One cannot simply “read it, and believe it”.  With every reading, there is a person and community that are also interpreting the Bible.  There is no reading without interpretation.  Not surprisingly, there are many different interpretations and many different methods of interpreting Bibles.  The interpretative history of Bibles is long and complicated, and, in some cases, outright contradictory.   
  4. The various writings included in Bibles were not written in a vacuum.  Each part was written within a particular historical, linguistic, cultural, literary, and religious context.  The more one understands these various contexts, the more likely one will come closer to understanding the original meanings.  Many of the great themes in Bibles can be appreciated and appropriated by all who can read or listen.  However, to understand the details and nuances takes hard work.  The more one studies, the more one will learn, and the more one will realize that no one person will ever completely know and understand everything about these religious works.
  5. Please, don’t “believe” it.  Professing intellectual assent to the content of these writings can result in all kinds of crazy ideas and behaviors.  Rather, I suggest one to read it, read what others write about it, study it.  Let it challenge your thinking.  Learn from the religious legacy of your own human ancestors.  Ultimately, I hope that these writings will prompt personal, life experiences and greater awareness of our common life together in ways that will benefit human life.  I do not think these Bibles are authorities over life, but rather testimonies to the ways humans have oriented their lives for personal and common good.  Learn from these religious writings, but don’t imitate them.  Be a real human.