Why bother with the Bible? A fair question, and if you are dead set against exploring it, please do not. Knowing or reading the Bible is not a requirement for leading a good life. It is not a requirement for being connected with God (all of us and everything already is). Reading or knowing about it or following it or believing in it is not necessary for being with God/ Source/ Universe, with That Which Is, with Life.
The Bible is, rather, an opportunity. A potentially useful-to-you structure of life. Not the only one; but it can be a helpful, useful, good one.
The point of the BIble, it seems to me, is not to glorify or worship it, not to "follow it" slavishly. Rather, the Bible, this collection of sixty-six books spanning : it is to point us to a potential way, through it, to come into contact with Life. To learn from those who have gone way before so we do not have to repeat their missteps.
The Bible can us ways, can give you, dear reader, languge and words to use to speak even beyond words to Life. Through its accounts of people and events, jointly held metaphors, similies, and analogies
If you are intrigued by its role in western culture; in its stories; in why there are many people who are very much into and look to the Bible for information about how we, you, might live, please do check it out. Be forwarded: it can be addictive! Like many good and powerful things, it can be abused (and often has been, and is).
The Bible is huge. It is huge in its length, in regard to the span of time over which it was written and concerns, and in its importance in the development of western civilization. history. not only somewhere around 800,000 words (depending on the translation, and an additional 150,000+ in the Catholic version), it is also possibly the single most significant book in western has also played the role of probably the most single . one big book. If you are open to reading it, I suggest you start with the parts that most appeal to you. If you are not open to reading it or about it, thanks for reading even this far.
The western world has had a two thousand year history of association with the Bible; I believe much good has come from that connection. I know much bad has come, too. The Bible has, and is, used by some as a weapon, a weapon to divide, control, and condemn.
I, for one, cannot throw out the possibility, perhaps that probability, that it has things to say to us, to those who read it, today. I refuse to dismiss it out of hand, as many do, simply because many of the events recorded seem unlikely to those of us reading it today. I know I do not know everything that has gone on or goes on even now in the world; how can I honestly say that ; even if biblical events are not recorded as we might today that does not mean I cannot learn/ glean meaning from them.
Do I accept all that is written in it at face value, read it without a questioning eye? No. Much, perhaps most of the Bible is written, for the thoughts, emotions, and understandings it can take us to, not, necessarily, to what we would consider historically accurate.
Was the world created in seven days? Yes, in an allegorical sense. It came from something, and evolved, over time. Not likely seven days as we know days, but over a great expanse of time. The way I look at it is this: first, there was consciousness. That consciousness grew over the millenia to become self-aware. It wanted to expand and grow, and did expand and grow, and here we are.
I myself am pro-science and pro-Bible. Both, in my mind, are understandings that can bring us to greater connection with Life. I choose to believe in both (and other things as well).
The Bible can be read and understood in many different ways. How are you going to choose to understand it? As a historic document, as a fairy tale, as inconsequential, as literally true, as interesting but not greatly relevant, as a cautionary compendium, as a means by which God speaks, as a way to know oneself and Life better, or some other?
I come at the study of the Bible with the decided belief, with the understanding, that it is here, that God/ Life is here, and in us, to build us up.
The Bible, by its very nature, by its design, invites a variety of interpretations. We see the variety evidenced in how people have used and understood it in the past, and how people use and understand it today. It has meant widely different things to its readers at different times in history; it means different things to different people today. Biblical scholars and non-scholarly readers alike, people of good faith who earnestly want to hear what God is saying through its words, all draw varied beliefs even while looking at the same exact text.
Our understanding of its meaning is evolving. It has to. It has to as we discover more about the past, and, more importantly, live more in the present.
That is how God/ Source/ the Universe/ Life planned it. The Bible itself endorses our having different perspectives. Why else would it provide us varying versions (sometimes contradictory ones) of some of the exact same events?*
I personally do not think the choices of the stories told, the structure of the histories, lists of laws, lists of names, psalms, proverbs, or anything else in the books of the Bible are accidental or insignificant. But that is me. What about you?
After all, what the Bible means, what the stories, ideas, concepts, and situations it presents mean to you, dear reader, is up to you.
Really, it is.
The meanings you take from the Bible are up to you even if you fully subscribe to a particular religious tradition. Even if you follow a specific teacher's leading and view of what the Bible means. In either unwavering adherence to a religious tradition or the complete following of someone else's view in every instance and every verse (as if either unwavering adherence or complete following were possible), you would, in trying to look solely outside of yourself for the meaning of the Bible, still be deciding the meaning of the Bible for yourself. You would simply be deciding by default.
To use an older phrase, applicable here, "There are no second-generation believers."
To employ a new one, "You cannot outsource your faith."
In other words, you cannot push off what the Bible means to you by claiming that you are only following a long-standing tradition, or following another person's enlightened lead. That you are only "following orders." You are still the party responsible for you.
If you believe the Bible has things to say to you, it probably does. I suggest you might want to read and listen.
In the Jesian Chronicles series, I am laying out how I think about the Bible. What I think the passages I have selected to concentrate on from the Bible could mean. What they, in fact, do mean, to me.
Do not let anyone fool you: everyone chooses and talks about the passages that are more important to him. The passages which he believes are the more true, if I can put it that way. Any inconsistencies found in relating the favored passages with passages which seem or may be contradictory are typically handled in one of three ways:
—the problematic passages are explained away by steps of logic (a logic which is usually intricate and often shaky);
—the difficult verses are called mysteries and passed over;
—or the less-liked passages are ignored altogether.
I admit to having done all of the above. I still do. We all do, and have to. The Bible is long and complex, and, at times, contradictory. I have come to peace with that. I have come to peace with varied understandings of the Bible because I believe there is no humanly understood way to have the whole of the Bible all make internal and external rational sense. Not in our finite, individual human minds. Not even in our collective human wisdom. Oh, I know people have tried, and try. Some have tried to boil the Bible down into one coherent, one-interpretation-fits-all-and-should-fit-all system. A number think they have succeeded. I am not convinced.
I think this paradox to be part of the Bible's message. It is leaven worked through the bread. Extraordinary life hidden amidst "ordinary life" (which is also extraordinary, if we would but see it so). It is in our own personal working with what we believe the more important verses and passages to be that we are given the opportunity to learn how to live with the uncertainties of life. To have faith and to grow our faith. To decide what we believe, not only in word but also in practice, in the face of not really knowing how things are going to work out. This moving forward through uncertainty can teach us to trust God/ Source/ Universe at all times. Including when things look (or are, in fact) their most dire.
I am, in the Jesian Chronicles series, presenting what I believe. I am writing what I consider strong, powerful, and reasonable understandings of the texts addressed. You may agree with me. You may agree with me in some parts and not in others. You may be humored by what your consider my naivete. You may think me well-meaning but hopelessly "lost." You may not agree with me at all. You may believe that I am off-base, flat-out wrong, and that hell is going to be my reward. Or you may consider my perspective in yet some other way. So be it. As each of us does, I answer to God/ Source/ the Universe. The bigger point, bigger than if you agree with me in principle or not at all or in some other way, is that you are developing, seeing, choosing your own perspective.
What I do suggest to all reading these words is that you, you, dear reader, you have the privilege, and responsibility, and opportunity, of deciding what the Bible means to you.
I believe the Bible can reveal life. I also know that it by no means contains or explains anywhere near all of life. I do not think the reading, studying, knowing, or believing in it are not necessary for a good life, knowing God, or being at peace.
If you are unfamiliar with it or its stories, I ask you not to discount it out of hand. Not to shy away from the reading of it because of what you've heard others say about it. If you are curious, investigate. If you are interested in my understanding of what it can be saying, read the Jesian Chronicles.
*The Bible includes different versions of some of the same events. For example, there are two creation stories, two accounts of the lives of Saul, David, Solomon and the kings who followed them, two lists of names of the Jews who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (lists that don't match up). And there are also four, count them, four accounts of Jesus' time on earth. Each tells the story of Jesus from the author's own perspective. There are variations among them including some significant ones that cannot be easily explained away. I believe this clearly indicates we are meant to have, and develop, our own individual perspectives of what the Bible is saying. That, by the Spirit's leading, we do.
Newbury Park, CA. Rough, dried-out shrubs and new-life green grass, both playing their part.