Bible As Literature.

Do you and I really understand the Bible? My friend, singer-songwriter Bob Bennett posted a wonderful Frederick Buechner quote today: “To read the Bible as literature is like reading ‘Moby Dick’ as a whaling manual or ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ for its punctuation.”

Yesterday I visited a web site that celebrated its commitment to honoring all traditions. It went on to describe what that means to them.

“From the Judeo-Christian heritage, we take the teachings of the Bible and Jesus. From Buddhism we take the power of meditation. From Judaism we take the belief that working together we can achieve peace and justice. From Native American and other earth-centered traditions we take respect for the earth and reverence for natural cycles. From Humanism, we take the belief in reason and science.”

Three quick observations: 1) I like the impulse towards respecting and learning from other religious traditions. 2) In this specific instance, all the values this group attributes to other traditions can in fact be found within the Christian tradition (meditation, working together for peace and justice, respect for the earth, the belief in reason and science. 3) Most significantly, I always wonder if people really mean it when they say “we take the teachings of the Bible and Jesus.” Most of the time everybody, including devout Christians, really mean “we take selected teachings of Jesus, or our specific interpretation of Jesus teachings.”

The disciples were with Jesus for three years, heard his teaching and yet, evidently, they didn’t understand what he was saying. In two of the post-resurrection accounts Jesus specifically makes this point.

To the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus he said, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24: 25-27).

Then again, just before ascending into heaven Jesus said to the disciples, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24: 45-47).

These stories tell us that from Jesus standpoint the summary of the Bible story is not just the revelation of a great moral code ~ it is this: “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think the Bible IS great literature, but it is way more than that. The inescapable fact of reading Jesus teachings about the meaning of God’s story as revealed in the Bible is this: 1) humans are in rebellion against God (sin); 2) we need a savior (Jesus); 3) receiving this savior means asking for forgiveness and turning your life around and heading in a new direction. (Repent).

The Bible is not primarily a blueprint or how-to manual for building a better life; it is not a playbook for winning the game; it is not just the revelation of a new moral code; the Bible is a love story. God loved the world so much he sent his son that whoever believes in him can enter into a restored relationship with the eternal God right now.

 

 

Posted in Staublog in May 13, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to Bible As Literature.

  1. ST051311 | Dick Staub on May 13, 2011 at 8:26 am

    […] “To read the Bible as literature is like reading ‘Moby Dick’ as a whaling manual or ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ for its punctuation.” Frederick Buechner. Read More. […]

  2. Bruce Edwards on May 13, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Dick, it is also good to remember, In the 400th anniversary of the KJV, C. S. Lewis’s comment that readinf the Bible ‘merely’ as lit is futile, since “It demands incessantly to be taken on its own terms: it will not continue to give literary delight very long except to those who go to it for something quite different.”

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