Sunday Morning Musings: As I read the Bible, I also find it important for me to also read about the Bible. I like to find the context in which the reading is set. I am very aware that the Bible is not so much a book as it is a collection of “books” or writings. I am also cognisant that part of the Christian Bible contains the writings considered sacred by those who profess Judaism. The Torah contains many of the same stories. Hence, finding the context means even more than just what is happening at the time. We encounter this, especially, since there is often a large gap between the events and the writing about those events.
Understanding the purpose of the sayings, which became writings, is also very important. The second major portion of the Hebrew Scriptures contains the work of the Prophets. Isaiah and Jeremiah offer longer writings that cover longer periods of time, while the so-called Minor Prophets often deal with a more specific time or event. (The twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament are called “minor” due to their length not the importance of their message.) In the writings of the New Testament the “gospels” are intended for different audiences and thus include references that would likely be somewhat known by their listeners (later readers?). Matthew’s gospel seems to have been written with a Jewish audience in mind and so we hear the Old Testament often quoted. On the other hand, Luke’s gospel would appeal more to a Gentile audience.
Regardless, of the intended audience, one of the main purposes of these stories, narratives, historical or mythical (I use that word tentatively – realizing that “truth” is even found in fiction), is to tell us about God. However, over the centuries it has become clearer to me that our understanding of “God” has changed as we have changed and grown in our own knowledge. At one time, it was easier to understand God as “above”, and satan as “below” and us, here in the middle, hoping to go above when we died rather than below. The science (some would stop me right there and tell me to go no further) of life revealed that the earth is not flat and a new understanding needed to be found. The anthropomorphizing of “God” diminished for some. That is to say, God was no longer envisaged as “an old man in the sky”. Nor was God viewed by all to be “controlling” everything including the weather. (There is a story told of a minister who scolded his people when they were to gather to pray for rain in the midst of a draught but didn’t bring umbrellas.)
The Bible continues to be a very important source of information. It continues to provide the followers of the Way, with rules that make for better communal living; it continues to connect the followers of the Way with a better understanding of not just the past but the importance of our relationships moving forward. Some people may have chosen to disregard the Bible while others continue to say they only follow the teachings of the Bible. In my case, I want to continue to read the Bible but it is not my only source of or to God. The truth teachings of the Bible do not compete with science, or even history for that matter.
I will continue to read my Bible and encourage others to do so. But I will not suggest that we take it as the literal word of God, nor as the only word of God.