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Reading the Bible with fresh eyes




If, as a Christian, we accept that God is not just God of believers but God of the universe and everything and everyone in it, and that, following from that, the expectation that God has of us is the same since the first humans were created and applies whether or not we are Christians, then I suggest that the best expression of this expectation from God, of telling us what life is all about, comes from Jesus: love God and love one another.

The command is self-evident, although we don't acknowledge it that deeply. The premise that Jesus puts to us is that we cannot do this (love one another) in its truest sense unless we acknowledge God's love for us and dwell in His love.

If this is the case, that God is greater than Christianity, then how are we to read the Bible? Bearing in mind the frustration that Jesus has with religion, even with the churches he spoke to in Revelations, and bearing in mind that Jesus didn't leave behind any writing of his own nor commissioned anyone to write down his words and teach them, and bearing in mind that Jesus did not commission the Bible nor ask that it be written, and looking at the way he lived and preached in the time he was here, then I suggest that the Bible is no more and no less a Holy Book than any other (the Quran, Tripitaka, the Tao Te Ching, etc).

It is when we approach it as such, with no divine expectations of it, and reading it in context (considering the time it was written, the people who wrote it, and the audience it was intended for), that much of the magic of the Bible manifests itself. It is when we allow that it can be flawed, that our reading of it can be mistaken, that looking at it in context will take us closer to the truth, that the real meanings in the Bible are revealed.

For example, to take the Bible's account of the Beginning, with God creating the universe and the people in it as a literal account, we get into all kinds of difficulties with the actual process and the number of days vs years vs millenia and wonder if the Bible is true at all. But, if we reflect on the fact that the Biblical account was written (and before that, shared orally) more than 5, maybe even 10, thousand years ago, the correlation between the Biblical account and the current scientific account of the Big Bang becomes amazing. It is when we compare the Biblical account with all the other accounts available at that time (see for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_creation_myths), that we can really appreciate how distinctive and unexpected the Biblical account is.

I read it again, and it still takes my breath away. How was it possible for anyone several millenia ago, to come up with anything that even remotely resemble the Big Bang, even down to the sequence of creation, that fishes came first before the birds and land animals, and then us?

To then pick on little details like how much time it took, seems to me to be pedantic and pointless. We have better ways than the Bible to get at the truth of these matters and we should rely on the evidence before us and conclude on what we can believe and what we should not.

It is pedantic and pointless both for the critics of the Bible and for the believers (who seem bent to prove that the Bible is literally true). Why? It seems to me dangerous to do so. And we have, historically and even today, seen how literal readings of Holy Books can lead us to much grief.

I suggest we read the Bible with fresh eyes, not expecting of it what it is not meant to provide, testing what we learn with what we experience in our lives, and finding our way through our lives (this gift we have) as best we can. And I think we will find, as I do, fresh encouragement from it and much unexpected wisdom.



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