Friday, September 29, 2006

Reading a little Scripture


I teach technology. It’s a great job. I didn’t want to teach technology. I wanted to teach English.

I love to read. I love to write. (This blog is pushing 80,000 words!)

I took many courses in literature and writing. Poetry, prose, speeches. Research writing and creative writing. Linguistics and language development. American lit, British Lit, Medieval Lit. Oral literature, speculative literature, the Bible as Literature.

The earliest memories I have of the Bible is the large black family tome on a shelf, and the one on my mother’s lap. At that age it was a mysterious object of ancient wisdom.

Other Bibles came and went.

There was a children’s Bible, full of cute pictures of animals and heroic deeds. I don’t remember any dark passages about seductions and murder, rape and pillaging. Perhaps they were cleaned up for the small of stature and tender of heart.

There was the Bible I had as a teen. The one which garnered me a gentle admonishment from a passing adult at church when he saw me sitting on it while I waited for my mother and stepfather to pick us up.

There was Good News for Modern Man, my high school (New Testament) Bible. That was the first Bible I read voraciously. 1972. Good year. I was a freak. A Jesus Freak.

Right after high school was the time I moved into a small sandstone cave to get some peace and quiet while I tried to understand what God was all about. I had a King James Bible with me then. Along with a copy of The Bhagavad Gita, The Upanishad, The Katopanishad, Patangali’s How to know God, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, The Koran, The Book of Mormon, Sayings of the Buddha, Mao’s Red Book, The Lost Books of Eden, The Book of the Hopi, Journey to Ixtlan, and Euell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus (a guy has gotta eat). I stayed there until I read them all, nearly three months working though a dozen large candles and really needing a good bath (the creek could only provide so much).

All that reading left me confused and sent me on a side journey from the path I should have taken. But it did give me an appreciation of the beauty of the English language at the time of King James. The English language was never more beautiful.

The course I took on Oral literature (given by a very sweet, very kindly and gentle soul who was the worst lecturer of all time) dovetailed surprisingly well into the course on the Bible as literature (given by another sweet, if chain-smoking and slightly odd soul). The Bible for that course was the Oxford Bible.

It’s a good Bible, even if some believers are a little suspicious of it. It is edited by a series of great scholars who did their very best to understand the context of the books and carefully translate their words into the closest literal meanings of modern English. I still use this Bible. It is my primary source of personal reading.

I bought a copy of The Bishop’s Bible and used it for research (it is the version Shakespeare probably used), and finally gave it to my pastor as a gift. (I enjoyed that one a great deal.)

For my blog I usually use the online version of The New Intenational Version found at Bible Gateway.

This is just my life. Lots of Bibles. All for different purposes, different times, different seasons of my life. I have books to help me interpret them, and understand them, and see them in new lights. I have The Jerusalem Bible, and Asimov’s Guide to the Bible. I have The Testimony of the Evangelists (by Simon Greenleaf!), and The Amplified Bible. I have so many books on it that it would be a tedious and unfair list to place here.

So many Bibles. Does the quantity and variety of all of them make us complacent about their value? Perhaps a little. I think I take it for granted.

I read them in many ways also. I read them for inspiration. I read them for answers. I read them as a duty, and I read them as tools for writing.

I enjoy reading them as literature, noting the clever phrase, the subtle humor, the context of authors and how they reflect the changing world view of human history.

I have grown through a myriad of ways to read and interpret them. And the strange thing is, with all of the reading I have done, there is once again a simple truth about how I view scripture.

For me, even today, it is still a mysterious object of ancient wisdom.

16 comments:

jel said...

Hey Friend,

great post!

reading is a blast!


have a great weekend !

my best to the family! :)

SocietyVs said...

Love the post and the amount of research you put into your faith, that incredibly awesome.

Jim said...

You should be teaching technology. You went after that Bible like a scientist.
BTW, have you read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity? It is supposed to be a good book to give a technically minded non-believer.

Did you really live three months in a cave? Or is that a figure of speech for hibernating while you studied?
..

curious servant said...

Hi Jim!

I've read Mere Christianity twice. Once with a group of guys. It isn't a good group discussion book because the arguments are so solid, so logical that after reading a chapter a chapter all one could say is "Yup, that's's right."

As for the cave... not a figure of speech. I really did it.

I've quite the varied background.

Fox's Mom said...

Another great entry, keep pushing those words waaaaay past 80K+!

Have you read the Lamsa translation of the Peshitta?

BTW, I keep meaning to tell you, I read the Testament of Job-frankly, this version makes more sense to me. The one most of us read in the NRSV, KJV, etc, doesn't make sense-why would God make a deal with the enemy-it simply didn't seem right to me. After I clicked on the link you provide, I thought, "Yup, this is it.":) Thank-you, CS.

Peace to you and yours, hope your Oregon autumn is as nice as the one I'm profoundly grateful for here in North Georgia. Bianca

curious servant said...

Glad you enjoyed the link.

I'm not always sure what to make of much of what I read... but I love to learn things and see how they fit together.

As for our weather... it has been amazing lately. We've had above 80 weather (84 or so) for over a week. Very nice. Won't last long.

Lucy Stern said...

My favorite bible is the King James version + the Book of Mormon as another testament of Jesus Christ. Nice post.

curious servant said...

I think the King James Version is the most beautiful, although some of it seems to have been interpreted to provide a particular message.

I happen to think that Shakespeare worked on it.

Vicki said...

I always thought you were well read, but wow--such a varied background! Glad all that reading led to Truth. Blessings, my friend.

Judas Hate said...

I was thinking of you , Brenda, Jeremiah and Isaac this evening. I was reflecting on my great abundance in wealth (Although monetarily poor, I am rich in so many other ways).

My wife and children are always first in my thankful prayers. Then comes breath, realization, smell, taste, touch, sound, sight, bugs, water, fire, skunks, etc.

I much dislike saying "etc.", but if I don't, I'll never stop.

To the point is, you are also on my list of thankful prayers and I just wanted to tell you.

Be well, my brother.

J.

Jada's Gigi said...

I find that reading different versions opens me up to new thoughts...and on to new revelations and conversations with the Lord...we get so used to one version that we can't see outside that particular box..well I do anyway...I do have my favs of course...:)

Anonymous said...

Have you read the Douhay-Rheims version?

curious servant said...

No, I haven't...

But there is something to the idea that perhaps we have too many Bibles. Though I may object to certain interpretations that the King James makes, it does not really pull it away from what is the central point.

For so long scripture was something to be guarded, sometimes literally. They were so rare that churches only had one and it was chained to the table to prevent theft.

There areplaces in the world that are just now getting their own version of the New Testament.

Yet my shelves are full off Bibles, and commentaries, and histories and apologetics.

Might this not encourage me to take it too casually?

One is truly enough... If I have more I need to be careful to treat it with continued reverence and share what I have.

Hence...

this blog.

Kathleen Marie said...

Some great reading here. It is good to explore our faith and rediscover why we believe what we do. At the same time if we have to many Bible's laying around we need to be giving them to that new believer we have shared our faith with. Blessings to you!

ukok said...

I'm always guaranteed a good read when I visit Job's Tale, I know that much :-)

Ame said...

it is amazing, isn't it, how the bible, in all its forms, meets us where we are and yet also challenges our intellect and emotion and soul. i love that. your journey away from God reminded me of what i read last night - I Kings 11:1-3. gosh, we have to be so careful what we allow into our lives because, despite our past intimacy with Almighty God, we are yet still human and easily swayed.