I remember a commercial from the early-2000’s from the Mormon Church. It was a basic religious infomercial but it had an interesting part where they mentioned that by calling a number they would send the viewer a free Bible. More interestingly, the narrator said a sentence that always stuck with me; “What will you say to God when you’ve lived a full life but you never took the time to read His book?”
For a random infomercial that’s a powerful sentence. It makes you stop and think about your priorities. For Christians, how many of us have read every book of the Bible? Contrast that with all of the other books we have read over the years. Even if you are atheist, think about all of the book you have read and TV shows you have watched in your life time and realize you might not have read arguably the most important book in human history in terms of the lives it has affected and how it has changed and impacted the course of history.
For me, maybe that sentence was so personal because I’ve been a Christian my entire life but I’ve never read this book. This year alone I’ve read three 500+ page books on everything from the Texas Revolution to the Presidency of Teddy Roosevelt and the 1972 Presidential Election but…the Bible remains on my “to read” list.
Why is this? I would imagine it is the same for me as it is for many of you. The Bible is a daunting book. It’s long for starters. Despite the countless hours, days, and years of translation time it’s in very old language that is hard for modern humans to read. It’s hard to determine what is analogy and what is real…wars have been fought over whether these words are literal or metaphorical. Let’s take the start of Genesis for example. In the opening paragraphs of this book we are told that everything was created in seven days by God and that Adam and Eve were the first people and they were created from the dust of the Earth (and the rib of Adam in Eve’s case). To anyone with a basic education the questions should already start flooding in…are these “seven days” seven actual days or seven days as God might perceive them (in reality countless eons to us mortals)? If nothing existed before Creation then where was God and what is his nature? If God created man from dust then what about that whole slow evolution thing we were taught in school? We are already a few paragraphs in and we already have a ton of questions…this issue never really clears up as we continue to read this thing. This book is also powerful. We know that the stories and information in this book are designed to make us think and evaluate ourselves. This isn’t War and Peace or Moby Dick or The Lord of the Rings…it’s an ancient book that has literally changed the course of history more times than perhaps any single other book. Sitting down to read the Bible isn’t like sitting down to read another story or a biography or another book…it’s sitting down to read something incredibly powerful and world altering and that’s even if you choose to believe that religion is all hocus pocus and nonsense. If you choose to believe that this book can have a tremendous impact on yourself as it had the world…it kind of makes it that much more daunting doesn’t it?
That brings me back to that line from the infomercial….”What will you say to God when you’ve lived a full life but you never took the time to read His book?”
At some point we have to admit that, for many of us, the only reason we haven’t read this book is because we are afraid of it. We are afraid of it as literature and we are afraid of it for what it can do and has done to people. We choose to be familiar with it due to its influence on culture rather than actually read it because we want to know more about what its pages contain.
That leads me to this point…I’m going to start a new project on this blog. I’m not sure how long it will take and I’m not really sure what my goals are but I’m going to read the Bible. I’m going to read it book by book starting with Genesis and ending with Revelations. I’m also going to break down each book, provide some background and context, and try to wrap my head around this book that is so important to the world, history, so many people, and myself.
If you are interested in reading this I feel it is important to understand how I’m going to read and evaluate this book. Firstly, I’m going to use the New International Version Bible. Secondly, I believe in these words and it’s important for anyone reading this to know that I’m not reading this from the perspective of a critic looking to discredit the words on its pages or be look down on it from my ivory tower. I’m a Christian and I’m looking to gain a deeper understanding of this book. I’m going to add in as much historical context and other facts as I can find into this because I feel it is important to understand whats going on around these stories as they unfold. The Bible wasn’t written in one go and then published, it s a collection of dozens of individual books and the process of how these books were added, left off, and selected is as interesting as anything else surrounding this book. I am not a perfect literalist but nor do I believe that this whole story is analogy or metaphor. I think context is important and one must pick and choose when the Bible is being literal and when it is speaking in broader analogy. The authors of these books vary and it is important to remember that many of these books were originally told orally, written down decades and centuries later, some passages have been lost, others have been re-written, and we have put ancient Greek and Latin script through the blender of translation time and time again. To take something like the NIV or King James version as literal simply ignores the translation and publication reality that we have put these books through over the centuries.
This should provide some context and understanding for this project. I cannot promise a time table with this nor does it mean I’m taking other FW&H things off the table. I’ll still post about the outdoors, sports, history, and really whatever else I want to as this project unfolds. That being said, let’s start in the beginning.