The Bible is not one book. It never was. It is 66 separate books having different authors and emphasis of time, place and circumstance. When holding it in one’s hands, it can be seen as a library. Unlike a personal library of selected books, it is a compilation of animal parchments that were laborously copied by hand until the invention of the printing press, where errors in copying ceased and this library was made available, at long last, to all the people who wanted to have their own copy.
It has been and continues to be the best-selling book year after year. Some 23 to 25 million copies are sold each year. But many, if not most, people have no regular routine for reading it. Oh, we have favorite passages and some people know them by heart. It is just here that we need to be honest and admit that much of it is boring, beyond comprehension, and without any inspiration for daily living. We rarely say that out loud, but honest moments produce confession.
Some believe that every word is equal in importance. But we are confounded by the last book in our library and there is no valid expression of equal inspiration that comes to us by reading of the “great harlot that sitteth upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication.” Nor can we glean much active interest in reading that there is “a woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy having seven heads and 10 horns and the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls and having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations even the unclean things of her fornication.” And this is the inspired word of God?
When we state, unequivocally, that we believe that every verse is the inspired Word of God, and have not the faintest idea what they mean, we are walking on tenuous ground and our sense of personal ethics becomes a maze of utterance that has no valid foundation. There are some great verses in Revelation, but as a whole, the book is beyond most all Christians and those who portend to explain what lies in the subject matter, while giving the appearance of scholarship, are sometimes, oftentimes, just guessing.
The Bible is a collection of books that are intended to tell a story. The manner in which it is written is a wonderful collection of styles and approaches. It makes no attempt to be accepted as a book of science. It is a book of faith, but we are strained to defend all of it as an inerrant, however inspired, account of what God would like for us to do with it. Frankly, we are hard pressed to read of the Old Testament accounts of aberrant behavior that are ascribed to God’s instructions. Innocent people are killed for no reason. Animals are destroyed for no reason at all. The Psalmist is read as one excited for the joy of killing little babies when Babylon gets the Divine-Destruction. “How can we sing a new song in a strange land?” he asks, but delights in the mayhem that lies ahead.
And then we are confronted with Jesus who says plainly that if one desires to see the Father one only need look at Him. There is nothing in the life of Jesus that would give credence to the monstrous events of the Old Testament. The Father is not like that. The attributes of Jesus are those of the Father and with that in mind, we must make some adjustments to what was written and what lies in conflict with what Jesus denoted about His Father.
We encourage our children to read the Bible. Our parents did that. But we often are too perplexed by their quick disinterest in the challenge. They read the words but cannot make sense of it, and we either can’t or don’t take the time to explain what the Bible is. Nothing in this wonderful library of books means anything until we, and then our children and friends, can claim some truth as ours and own it as that which will become a core value of daily life.