notes from the edge of the river – III more on the bible

These writings were from my solo vacation to a little red caboose cabin near Bandera, Texas this past week. A long weekend of relaxing, reflection and exploration.

My struggles with Jesus actually complicate my whole relationship (for lack of a better term) with the Bible, specifically the New Testament. What do I do with all of these scriptures claiming that Jesus was the messiah? I can’t just ignore them. That means the Bible becomes for me a collection of stories. Stories that people interpret and bend to mean what they want them to mean.

Taking the Bible purely as allegory is problematic, because where do the interpretations stop? Where do they enter the realm of the completely ridiculous? I don’t know what I want or need from the Bible yet – I just know that the elusive “it” exists. I can’t pick and choose what I like. When I first starting learning about the bible (and the Early Christianities course is excellent for this) I felt that I was moving further and further away from it.

From what I understand:
1. There are no actual writings of Jesus
2. There are no proven writings of the original 12 apostles
3. What we know of the New Testament in particular was not canonized until hundreds of years after Jesus’ life and death
4. The stories/scriptures were transcribed by scribes over those hundreds of years, making numerous mistakes
5. Some text was actually altered purposefully to counter the religions considered heretical at the time
6. There are many forgeries in the New Testament not written by who the author claimed to be

After this list, I didn’t see how I could be left with anything but an interesting collection of stories. Based on little fact. Stories that inspire perhaps. But then don’t a lot of books? I can think of many books (even fiction!) that I’ve read that completely move and I might even say transform me. Transform my way of thinking and looking at things. I don’t worry that these aren’t fact. I just accept the emotion and go with it. I learn from it and have no problem applying my new found truth to my world.

Why can’t I look at the Bible like this? As long as I don’t condemn others for what moves them. Maybe the Bible is like a treasure chest, where everybody reaches in and comes out with something precious to them. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

I feel at last that I’m approaching this book more honestly than I ever have. I just needed to understand the foundation, the beginning. I didn’t like the feeling (real or imagined) that there were things I shouldn’t know as a Christian because it would rock my faith. On the contrary, I feel I can build faith better on an honest crooked foundation than a smooth façade.

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2 thoughts on “notes from the edge of the river – III more on the bible

  1. Ken says:

    In Part 3 you asked, “Why can’t I look at the Bible like this?” From the prior sentences I had the impression that this question was a question that you were only asking yourself. But the next sentence, “ As long as I don’t condemn others for what moves them,” makes wonder if you are asking someone else or arguing with someone else. Is there anyone who is telling you that you “cannot look at the Bible like this” other than you?

    In Part 1 you wrote: “Some would say that because I don’t ‘know’, I don’t have faith.” Is someone in your life saying this to you? In some sentences I have the impression you are struggling with yourself and in other sentences that you are struggling with someone else.

    In Part 3, you wrote, “I just accept the emotion and go with it.” Can you name the emotion(s) that you feel or would feel if you could just read the Bible like any other book?

    In Part 3, you wrote, “I didn’t like the feeling (real or imagined) that there were things I shouldn’t know as a Christian because it would rock my faith. On the contrary, I feel I can build faith better on an honest crooked foundation than a smooth façade.” Have you ever read the poem “God’s Funeral” by Thomas Hardy? He wrote so profoundly about what it feels like to lose faith. Have you ever read Nietzsche’s “Parable of the Madman?” He wrote so profoundly about the human desire or need to keep it secret.

  2. Jodi says:

    You know, Ken, those are eye opening questions for me. I don’t know who I think has all these expectations of what I should believe or not believe. Actually I didn’t even notice my verbiage until you pointed it out.

    I can’t blame my father as he set absolutely no expectations for me. I haven’t known any particularly fundamental relgious people who would have instilled this. So, I can only conclude that this must come from somewhere in me.

    I admit that when grappeling with an issue I will tend to swing from one extreme to another so that eventually I find an even pace in the middle – but I have to understand the extremes before I get there. Part of this might also stem from the fact that as a historian by training I have to research, research, research before claiming anything definitive. That’s the same principle I’m applying here – which may not be the best 😉

    One of the things I love about blogging is getting others perspectives on what I’m feeling. What’s so obvious to readers may be compeletly overlooked by me. I will definitely read “God’s Funeral”. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll need to take a year off work to read all your recommendations. Thanks so much!

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