Is the Bible Reliable?

No. That’s why I like it. That’s why I believe it is true. People are unreliable. Truth is fluid. At one time the earth sat at the center of the waters under the waters. Then by observation we come to understand that the earth circles a star. Over the decades we learn more and the truth changes again. A religious text that wasn’t a hot mess is to me a suspicious text. I’d expect a species that is a hot mess to write a hot mess book. What? People are not a hot mess? Seriously?

1cor134Mohamed declared he had recieved a revelation. He wrote the القرآن الكريم. He wanted the Bible to make sense. It does not and neither does the Q’uran. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, annoyed at the flaws in translation that have crept in to the Bible over thousands of years, did the scorched earth thing, and started from scratch. They messed up. But, since, they’ve gotten on their high horses and declared all of us to be apostate. No, they are right and we are going to hell. Some Muslims, impatient with God, have decided that the way to bring about a post-apocalyptic paradise is to force God’s hand and have that final calvary battle in Syria.

Sure, God is going to reward a bunch of zealots a post Revelations paradise on earth, with Mohamed returned, because they charged across a battlefield in Syria waving swords and firing muskets at the enemy while riding horseback. That’s not nuts. That’s rational.

Let’s not forget the numerous Christians who isolated themselves somewhere yelling that the rapture was nigh and they needed to be ready. The moment comes and the less insane of them realize that the buzzer on the dryer has gone off and one of the kids is crying because it’s time to eat. Life. Intrudes. Or the more insane of these sects that loses their damned mind and immolates or drinks poison.

If you brought me a religious text designed by Apple that was all bauhaus and logically (Aristotle’s logic) solid I’d not want it. The meaning of the word “bible” is library. It is a selection of religious texts argued over from the beginning. If there is any feature of Christianity it is our love of debate and apologia. We get it from our Jewish ancestors. Our central religious texts reflect that.

How much more loving, poetic, and accurate is a canon of 66 books which have stood the test of time. And, yes, we can’t even agree on a consensus of which books belong in the bible and which should be left out. So, 66 books is a fungible number. There isn’t even one bible. BibleGateway offers roughly a hundred editions of the Bible in various languages and from different sects. Over these books a grand narrative plays out from the creation story(s) in Genesis through to the Revelation of John. It is us. It is reliable in its depiction of the core values, core beliefs of us, of followers of Christ.

Please, though, stop trying to make it into something it isn’t. The foolishness of some, that want to bend the bible into a modernist, utopian exegisis of orthodox truth, reliable in its facts, historically accurate down to the angel on pinhead count, this is nonsense. The bible is a canon of the heart and stomach. It is absurd when viewed through 20th Century, rational eyes. Let it be what it is and the beauty of its truth exposes itself.

John 1:1-John 1:5 ESV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” One of the oft-quoted mistranslations by the Jehovah’s Witnesses is:  “In the beginning was the Word,+ and the Word was with God,+ and the Word was a god.*+  This one was in the beginning with God.  All things came into existence through him,+ and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.” Much is made of a small change, “Word was a God“.

The whole debate makes my head hurt. You can read one article on it here. It is significant to this piece because in spite of our continued wrangling over what we believe, what should and shouldn’t be part of the canon, the Bible thrives. One answer for many is to dismiss the whole mess out of hand because there has been so much hypocrisy, so much evil done in the name of the Lord. If that is you, fine. If humans have any constant, it is our talent for strife. We know the right thing to do yet we still do things we should not.

To repeat something I said in another post, my world is nuts. It is absurd. Nobody behaves, not even God. Them that throw tantrums because there are too many that don’t behave in amenable way are entertaining idiots. As I write this there is a small group of protesters who have decided to occupy a bridge. The idea is that they can stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Many beloved tropes about evil oil companies are sung as hymns by the press and fellow travelers. Those evil oil companies want to pipe oil across sacred Native American lands, ruining the water table, despoiling Mother Earth and worst of all, make money. This is sacred truth for the protest bunch. We who might disagree are apostate. We are ipso facto fascist.

I’m sure, were I able, opening a conversation with the protesters that challenged their orthodoxy, would not go well. They know their truth is accurate, factual. Me, the WASP, just doesn’t understand. If I understood I’d agree with them. The bible is reliable because it accurately reflects us. We are obstinate, sure of our orthodoxies, intolerant of opposition or differences, quick to speak with two mouths and close one ear.  For some, my drunk alien is more true than some wild-assed fable about a martyred carpenter from Nazareth. An absurd word of God works for me.

The books we keep resonate across time. Of all the greek plays to keep we kept Oresteia. Of all the inspirational books across time there are 66 which persist in spite of everything. They reflect who we are and how we can be better. Their very absurdity is what makes them beloved by me. Last bible quote as I end this, Colossians 3:16, “ Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Ok, actually, a couple more: John 1:9-14, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

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