5 Facts and Figures About the Holy Bible
If You’re Going to Quote The Bible – Know Something About It
The Christian bible is an amazing book. Almost everyone has more than one copy of it and it graces coffee tables, family archives and church libraries like no other single book. If you are ever staying in a hotel, you have to look no further than the nightstand drawer for a copy. It has been translated into almost every language. The bible is at the core of our lives, our worship and our theology – yet, most of us know very little about how to read it or how it came to be “The Bible.”
Consider these 5 things.
1. Mark is the oldest of the Gospels. Did you know that? The gospels are not in chronological , or even logical order. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (sounds like the Beatles). Most scholars believe that the author of Luke also wrote Acts. Yet, we have John sitting in between them. Why did we do that? Back to Mark. Mark, as I mentioned is universally agreed to be the older of the gospel accounts – separated by decades from its closet kin, historically speaking. As such, it contains a shorter and most likely less embellished account of the gospel story. If you want the story, pure and simple, that was considered by the early followers of Jesus as important, read Mark. Read Mark several times. Read it again. I’ll wait. Make a list of the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. I promise you two things: you will be shocked by what is in the story and you will be amazed at what isn’t. Its good stuff, really it is.
2. Before you ‘proof text’* scripture, take time to know the context. We’ll come back to this one – in another post - it’s a beast.
3. Did you know Job has a prologue and postlude added to it? Remember the story of Job? An ordinary man is spotted by God and Satan and they make a wager: Satan says he is such a good man because God has made life good for him. God disagrees and that sets the stage for the testing of Job. The story now moves from heaven to earth and we see Job slowly and systematically smitten by evil: death, disease, social rejection (everybody un-friend-ed him on Facebook) – Job lost everything. But, in the end he never rejected God and God saw to it that Job had everything restored to him – several times over (although the bible isn’t clear on exactly how you restore a dead wife – several times over). It is a good story with a simple moral. God may test us, but in the end, the faithful will be rewarded. Make sense? Sounds good – only it isn’t what the book of Job is about at all. Most biblical scholars agree (read - proving this is a long story) that the first few chapters of Job (the part about God and Satan’s wager) and the chapters that conclude the book (the part about the restoration of Job’s stuff) were actually later additions to the work. If you omit those and read the book of Job – the story changes drastically and in my humble opinion, actually sounds more like a sound theological treatment of the problem of suffering that we all face. In the end, God tells job (in dramatic fashion), “I’m God and you’re not – that’s why.” It’s a hard message, but sometimes that is the message we need to hear – We are not God, after all.
4. Consider the fact you are reading a translation of an interpretation of the translation of the original text which was a recollection of a collective memory. Jesus spoke Aramaic, the Gospel writers wrote it down (years later) in Greek and which was translated to Latin which was translated to English...or something like that.
5. Get a good bible dictionary. You will learn loads of stuff just by reading about your favorite passages of scripture. I'd recommend consulting The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible.
If these things catch you by surprise and cause you to ask some hard questions about how you are reading and using scripture – good. We are off to a solid start. Thoughts?