Monday, 10 September 2012
A couple days ago I wrote a blog post about the Bible. I just wanted to clear the air a little bit because I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about what I said or meant. I'm not a great writer and I know my intentions are often lost when transferring from inside my brain to the world.
Before I get started, I really enjoyed the conversation, debate, argument, or whatever you want to call it. It shows me God is moving through people on Xanga, and the Bible is alive. I like talking about the Bible.
I want to give some context about who I am. I am conservative (though not fundamentalist) and orthodox when it comes to my faith. Let me take this one step further; to be orthodox means you follow the creeds -- Nicean Creed, Apostled Creed, Chalcadean Creed, etc. Most of the creeds basically say the same thing: I believe in God, Jesus, The virgin birth, He suffered, died and rose again, He's eventually coming back to judge us, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body* and life everlasting. This is greatly paraphrased from the Apostles Creed. I believe every one of the things in the creeds.
The creeds were formed to show what is orthodoxy and what is most important as a Christian. The central idea of Christianity is that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. I'm not saying the other things don't matter -- they do. I'm saying the most important thing in a Christian's walk is what Jesus did on the cross. Everything else, every other doctrine or dogma, is dependent upon Jesus dying on the cross.
The Bible doesn't have to be historical fact for it to be true. I do believe it is the inspired word of God, most certainly. The Bible wasn't written to be taken as a historical account. Whether or not Moses actually got the Law from the top of Mt. Sinai matters little to the legitimacy of the Law -- although I like to think He actually did. It makes very little difference how we got the Law; it is inspired either way.
In the ancient world, the historicity was of little importance. The most important thing was "what is God showing you." The Targum is in essence a commentary by Rabbi's on the Bible but were often expansions of the Biblical accounts. The Targum for Genesis 22 (Abraham "sacrificing" Isaac) embellishes on the account. The Rabbis add a conversation between Isaac and Ishmael about who should receive Abraham's blessing. Rabbis also add a few more details making Isaac to be more righteous.
I bring this up for a reason. The Rabbi's would change the Biblical account to make it better. They would add details that weren't there. They weren't interested in being historically accurate - that was the least of their worries. The Rabbis were trying to make a better story so people would learn more from it.
Let's move on to the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus tells two disciples to go ahead and get (steal) a donkey. They do just that -- they get one donkey as the text says. The Gospel of Luke, basically the same exact thing as Mark.
Next, the Gospel of Matthew. What the Matthew says is a hair different. Jesus tells two Apostles to go get a donkey and her colt; Jesus actually rides both in Matthew. Then to the Gospel of John. Jesus just finds a young donkey and sits on it -- the quoted scripture Zech. 9:9 is actually different also.
The stories are clearly different. Matthew's was a very Jewish gospel. He wanted to make sure he covered all of the prophecy. John wasn't worried about it too much. This doesn't make John a liar. It means John was writing to a different audience. What is important to Matthew's audience is less important to John's.
We each have a different view/bias of who Jesus is and what He did. This is fine and good because Jesus is something different to all of us. He doesn't work in my life the same as He has worked in my neighbors life. We each experience Jesus in a way that is unique. That was true of the early church. The early church was very diverse. They had little orthodoxy. Each community thought of Jesus in a very unique way. It wasn't even until the Gospel of John was written in about 90 C.E. that Jesus was widely known to be divine.
So with all that said, I will share what I think the Bible is. The Bible is the inspired word of God. The Bible is authoritative for preaching, teaching and rebuking. The Bible is trustworthy in what it intends to teach. The Bible isn't dependent on perfection. Only God is perfect.
I understand this topic has been discussed at length. By the time I was finished writing this I didn't want to post it because there has been too much discussion about it.
* I would be intrigued to know how many people actually do believe this one to be literal. I never considered it until recently.
What is the Bible to you? How can we better understand the Bible and its role in our Christian lives by understanding how it was written and who it was written to?