WHAT IS IT?
I began a recent post on this blog with these words:
“Some people read the Bible as if it were one thing: a single book by one Author expressing a single point of view in one voice, God’s.”
I’m still not sure that I punctuated that sentence correctly, but I think it says what I mean: the Bible is not what some people claim that it is.
If I’m right (and I think I am), if the Bible is not one thing, if it is not what the Fundamentalists and literalists and biblicists and inerrantists claim, if it is not the direct words (plural) of God, if it is not a single book, if it is not the work of a single Author (written with or without the help of ghost writers), if it does not speak in a single voice, if it is not a rule book or a road map or a verse mine for proof texts, if it is not in every instance factual in matters of history and science...
If the Bible is none of these things, then what is it?
I believe that the Bible is both more complex and more wonderful than a doctrine of inerrancy suggests.
The Bible is a collection of books containing many kinds of literature: history, myth, poetry, prayer, prophecy, historical romance, fable, parable, allegory, apocalypse, epistle, etc.
The Bible was written by (not just through or in the voice of) unique, inspired people of faith who, like Ezra and Isaiah, sometimes disagree with one another, and who nonetheless bear witness to God.
The many works that make up the Bible are united under the umbrella of a great meta-narrative, a story that begins in Eden and ends in Paradise. It is the story of the Creator God who seeks reconciliation with alienated humanity--God who reaches out through patriarchs and their fractious progeny, through a chosen and sometimes disobedient nation, through a Christ who came out of that nation--a holy, human, crucified Messiah--and through his clay-footed followers.
The Bible is a library in leather covers, a collection of treasures in clay vessels, a symbol pointing beyond itself to a greater reality, a delightful, maddening, difficult, joyful, fearful and sometimes contradictory love letter. It is the question to all of your answers about God.
The Bible is, as Martin Luther said, “the cradle of the Christ.” It is the word (singular) of God and a witness to the Word (singular, cap) of God. It contains the knowledge sufficient for salvation.
The Bible is an invitation to take part in a conversation, an invitation to wrestle with the Lord, an invitation to find your place in the story that begins in Eden and ends in Paradise.
And need I say that the Bible is even more than that?
Punctuation is a pesky thing when one is deliberately writing run-on sentences. I purloined the picture of the scroll from this website dedicated to short mystery stories.