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.