Over more than a thousand years, many, many different authors and editors (most of which we don’t know the name) wrote, edited and combined the writings; the collection of which is commonly known as “The Bible”. The Bible has always fascinated me (as a child I read and re-read my children’s Bible semi-obsessively) because we know almost nothing about it for sure and yet, its story is alive and inspiring millions and billions of people every day. Therefore, and because the Bible was this week’s topic in my discipleship course, I will take the next few days to talk about the great, big, mystery that is the Bible.
Today I am just going to go over some general information that I am sure most of you know already, but it is important to make sure we are all on the same level regardless. So, first of all, we don’t know who wrote what in the Bible – mostly. Despite the Author being named for almost every book of the Bile, there are actually not that many we know for sure about. The New Testament epistles are actually the majority among those few. This, of course, leaves us with the question; if we don’t know who wrote it (and only have a vague idea about when it was written) how trustworthy are the accounts in the Bible? I am not going to pass judgment on this, I definitely don’t know enough about it. Wikipedia has some information about this, but, remember it’s good old Wikipedia and not necessarily trustworthy.
Then there are the apocrypha. They are those books whose presence in the Bible is disputed (see again Wikipedia) since quite a few books in the Old Testament are only acknowledged as scripture by some of the many Christian traditions plus a few books of the New Testament that didn’t make it into the official canon (which is the same in all traditions as far as I know).
On top of all this, the books of the Bible were written in Hebrew and Greek and even in the original languages there are quite a few different versions. Once you add the many, many different translations existing today, things become even more complicated. Reading more than one translation can both clarify the meaning or confuse it more.
Now, what the Bible is actually about, is, in my opinion and there are many, the history and the relationship between God and his people (mostly Israel). Over the millenia, the people refuse to listen to God’s rules and laws again and again and are accordingly worse off (the stories are told as punishments, but I don’t believe that). Every time they decide to return to their good ways, God welcomes them back with open arms. God communicates with and warns his people through the prophets. The Old Testament has its main focus on the Exodus from Egypt, the Davidic kingdom and dynasty and the exile in Babylonia. In the New testament, God (who apparently is finally fed up with the endless cycle of obedience and rebellion) has sent his only son to Earth and for three years, Jesus teaches and lives the Good News (or Evangelion or Gospel) of God’s salvation for his people. After Jesus’ death we read about the struggles of the new church and the early believers through their letters to each other.
How literal can we read it?
Looking at the picture painted above, I think it is save to say that literal reading, especially of the Old Testament, is not advisable. I believe, that there is some truth to most of the histories and experiences described in the Bible but also that they were changed over time, or written down long after what they are telling us about happened and therefore I try to take everything with a pinch of salt. I know there are many Christians out there who believe that everything written about in the Bible happened exactly so but I do not share that belief. (Feel free to discuss this in the comments.) So, if I don’t think all of it is true, why would I even bother with it? I’ll tell you more soon…