Recently I saw a list of the top 10 best-selling books of all time. When I Googled this topic to check other sites, I found the list varied except for one—the Bible, which remains the undisputed best-seller.
This list reminded me of the time many years ago when I attempted to sit down and read the Bible just like an anthology. It is, after all, a selection of 66 separate books with a history of disagreement about which of them should be included in the Bible.
I got part way into reading the Bible, but the “begats” became tiresome, the incest of Lot with his daughters troublesome and the treatment of women upsetting. It still rankles me when I attend a wedding with antiquated vows of the bride promising to “obey” her husband, as the Bible commands. (Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:22, I Peter 3:1-22)
During my anthology reading, I discovered that I was especially drawn to the sensual poetry in the Song of Solomon, not usually quoted from the pulpit.
A few years after my attempt to read the best-seller, I read a small book, Your God is Too Small, by John Bertram Phillips (often referred to as J. B. Phillips), a Bible translator, writer and clergyman. He wrote about how our view of God was too small and narrow. It got me thinking some more.
Then later, as I was working on my Master of Liberal Arts from The Johns Hopkins University, I had the opportunity to take two Bible classes, one on Genesis and the other on the Jesus we read about in the New Testament. I found it interesting that there were mostly Jewish men wearing yarmulkes in the second class, “The Search for a Historical Jesus.”
Over the years, I’ve come to believe that Christians focus on the Bible too much. The Bible is too small. Rather than going into a scholarly dissertation, I’m listing a few things that have crossed my mind:
- Heavenly reward: You promise a child a reward for good behavior. Christians believe their good behavior will be rewarded in a heavenly afterlife. As an adult, why should you continue to live a life based on the reward of a pleasant afterlife? This is a narrow view of living. We should behave because it is the right thing to do…period. It is best for a society, for all of us, if each member behaves so as not to hurt someone else.
- Accepting Jesus as the Savior: The Bible tells us that we must accept Jesus in order to get this reward. Huh? What about all the children who never get beyond infancy? They never had a chance to accept Jesus. What about the rest of the world population that is not Christian? What about the Jews? If you believe in heaven, does this mean that Jews are condemned just because of who they are? What about Muslims? Buddhists? This is offensive to me.
- The Bible was not written by God: It was written and assembled by human beings. Many of the stories were first passed down orally. Anyone who has ever played “Telephone,” knows what happens to information circulated this way. Genesis and John were written by multiple authors. The New Testament Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—are not named for the men who wrote them. Those names were given to the Gospels after they were written. Most Biblical scholars agree that the Gospel authors were neither disciples of Jesus nor even eyewitnesses to his ministry.
- Emulating others: Jesus as depicted in the New Testament was a man who set a good example for all of us, Christian or not. However, other people in history are also worthy of emulation—Gandhi and Buddha, for example. We have a lot to learn from other historical figures world-wide.
Today I am bothered by the escalation of mixing religion with politics, especially with the use of the Bible to justify legislation and political thought.
Instead, let’s look at things in perspective and be good people, not because of anything the Bible says but because it is the right thing to do.