-Rev Melissa Fain-
The Bible is a book we should take seriously, but not literally. There is a wealth of knowledge behind it's leather bound cover, so why don't I take a literal view? Here are five reasons why:
I love the book too much. Usually when I see an article about biblical authenticity, the words are littered with disregard. I get it. For me, the Bible was a mystical document. The stories were taught with joy and wonder. I know not everyone had that experience. For some, the Bible is only a dusty tome. For others, the Bible is a razor sharp sword, that has wounded them. Still others see a book of fairy tales and nothing else.
I'm here to say, the biblical stories have changed my life for the better. That happened because the adults who taught it were humble enough to say, "I don't know," or "What do you think?" You can't make those statements if all the answers are already there, or if the biblical hate is literal. You can make those statements if you believe God is just as alive today as when those stories were written.
I love the biblical canon so much, because the bible reminds us that God is with us. When you are a scared eight year old, needing to call 911 because your stepdad just threatened to kill everyone, "God with us," seems more important than "God was there." BUT- learning "God was there" through the Bible, helped me see "God with us" when I was eight.
The Bible is not a weapon. The people who treat the Bible like a dangerous weapon can usually tell a personal story where the Bible was weaponized against them personally. I too have stories. I did not hear them until I was a young adult, but they hurt none-the-less. Literal readers often are not contextual readers. Contextual readers of the Bible, see the Bible like an entire pane of glass. They tend to look at entire chapters instead of piecemeal verses.
Taking out single verses to throw at someone, is like letting that glass drop to the ground and fragment. They were never meant to be read that way, and they cut. What people take from having those fragments thrown their way is that the Bible cuts. Well, the Bible was never meant to be used in that manner. It was meant to be looked through in it's entirety.
The reason biblical literalists don't consider the context, is because they are taught every part of the Bible can be used to educate. I actually do believe this, but unlike them I'm looking for contextual clues. I'm trying to understand a fragment as it relates to the entire pane of glass. Most literalists don't consider how they need something to understand the text, because that would somehow lessen the power of the scripture. To me, it weaponizes the beauty of the scripture.
We are already working with a fragment. I've spent years trying to wrap my head around this idea, but it still makes absolutely no sense to me. If one were to take the Bible literally, that means the way the stories were written were the literal way they happened. Only, the entire picture is never there. We are an outsider to the biblical narrative. There is so much we take for granted! We rarely know the emotional feelings of these biblical titans.
We have no idea what is going on around the scene. As in, what are people doing while Jesus writes in dirt? What is Jesus writing in the dirt?
Also, Internal dialogue is often lost. We can draw the assumption that Job cursed God with his heart, but we have no internal dialogue from Job.
Before the words were written down, these stories were told verbally as sacred tellings. There was inflection, and cues that were lost once the ink hit the papyrus. Then we don't consider the God moments lost because of the context. Like Paul writes to those who can read. That's the rich in the Christian circles. We will never know what he said when he talked with the poor, if he talked with the poor.
When one considers how much is not said in the Bible, it baffles me how literalists can't understand why people can come to differing points of views.
Shadenfreude. German is an interesting language to me. First, it's interesting how English connects. Then, there are so many words that can't really be translated easily. Shadenfreude is one of those words. Literally means "pity joy." One cannot get the full meaning just from a literal translation. The full definition is happiness in the misfortune of others. Even this doesn't really encapsulate the full meaning. The Broadway musical, Avenue Q, did the best job defining this word to an English audience. "Did you ever laugh when a waitress falls, and drops a tray of glasses?" It's that feeling you get when you realize someone else's misfortune makes you feel better about your own life. It's petty, I'm not here to condone that specific word, and how it's used.
What I want to do is use it to explain how some words don't translate well. Not all words have a one to one translation ratio. Not only do we have a translation of the actual events to a verbal story, to written dialogue, but as an English audience, we have the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic story being translated to English.
More than that, there are Greek and Hebrew texts of the Hebrew Bible. Both are really old. Both are important. At times, they contradict one another. While you read your NIV, NKJV, NRSV or whatever translation you have chosen, remember it's a translation. The truth and reality of the moment is richer than the word left to explain it.
I've got to have five? Oh, right. I wrote this in click-bait form. Five is a good number for that kind of thing. Why did I do that again? Right, so you would click-read-share. That's how this works. I took five minutes of your time for a quick little distraction. Well, the Bible is not Clickbait. It is a lifelong journey. Anyone who tells you they read the bible and they didn't get anything from it, is probably telling the truth. Because its an inspired work of God instead of the literal one, it takes research and time to understand what you are reading. Some churches get around all that time by hiring one person who dedicates themselves to sharing their biblical journey with the congregation. I will say, this is a dangerous way to go about it. Putting all your biblical understanding on one man or woman can quickly lead a congregation down a wrong road. We are still discovering ancient manuscripts, and finding connections in archaeological digs. There will never be enough time to learn it all. I'm so grateful for the journey. I'm a woman with a Master's Degree in Divinity, and I'm no where near done studying the Bible. I like that.
What do you think? What would you add to my list, expand or take-away. I'd love to hear your opinion!
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