(Continued from Part I. You can read it here)
In Part I, I covered the mere endeavor of reading the bible in its entirety. Below are my initial reactions and notes.
As written, it tells the tale of God creating a world. He spends the whole of the Old Testament testing his people and attempting to get them to follow his ways. Time after time, they get distracted and deviate from his plan, so he punishes them. I imagine God speaking of the people of the Old Testament like a patient parent of an unruly child.
“Oh them? They are having a tough time with things. We’re trying to be patient and show them grace, but the little rascals keep making a mess of things.”
I was nearly done with the book before I realized that the Old is merely God trying to prevent the toddler from swallowing anything or hitting its head on a table. After all, if we take all this at face value, this is a young species and a very precocious people.
The New Testament smacks the people in the face. No longer is God trying to guide his people. He’s decided to show rather than tell his people how to live. So he makes a boy and impregnates a woman who will be his Earthly mother. The first four books of the New Testament are different versions of Jesus’s birth, life, and death. Instead of contradicting each other, they act like remakes of Matthew. As if the Jesus franchise needed 4 tries to get it right. And after Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the remainder of the New Testament is like a collection of appendices. Mostly letters from Paul, but also from others, all leading up to Revelations, a book about a vision of Armageddon.
How were these books chosen? I really want to understand this. So much repetition in these books, Old Testament and New, lead me to believe a lot was left on the cutting room floor. What was left out? Is there some conspiracy or backstory Da Vinci Code-style that occurred that we aren’t meant to know?
Also, why are some books so short? I loved being able to increase my progress quicker by reading them, but why the brevity? Was there not a way to combine the books that have multiple entries for a cleaner finish? Thessalonians, Corinthians, Timothy, and John (1-3) are all shorter than the longest books in the bible. Combining the separates editions into one per name would have still kept the books at a reasonable length. It’s only the doubles in the Old Testament that combining would have been too much.
Christianity, like all major religions, is founded on love. This very idea allows me to have educated conversations with people of different ideologies and not take offense. The most important commandment is “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” How can we justify alienating others when we read that?
Allusions to adultery, “sexual immorality,” and other such sins are mentioned repeatedly in the bible. God claims these things are sins and wrong. But I want to clear something up. He’s not telling any of us to judge anyone else by their race, sexuality, intelligence, or any other defining factor. God still says the slogan the Hard Rock Café stole: “Love all. Serve all.” I love the LGBT community as I have many people dear to me as members. They are good people and live lives of love and friendship, exactly the type of existence God preaches. Homophobia is still rampant today, but God loves and accepts all those love him. Those with hearts of hate toward another culture are the doomed ones.
In addition to the traditional natures of sexual purity, sexism is omnipresent. I actively searched for verses that celebrated women as individuals and not coveted virgins or servants to their husbands. As I set that pain aside, I realize this stems from the time in which the bible was written. This is long before a woman’s opinion or thoughts stood for anything. Thankfully, today we can once again, “Love all: Serve all” and celebrate the strides womankind is making toward equality and individuality.
Of all the books in the bible, why is Proverbs not rebilled as the Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Word of God? It’s saturated with concepts and ideas that litter every Christian retail item in existence. In high school reading it, it was like Sun Tzu’s Art of War for me. I could take what was read and apply it to almost any other circumstance I could think of. Its ubiquity made it an easy place to start my readings.
Now that I’ve finished reading the bible, I look forward to reading the Book of Mormon and the Satanic bible. But first, I need to take a break and relax. I want to ensure all that reading has sunk in. I want to go to church a few times (or listen to my old church’s podcast sermons) and be able to recall the verses and stories shared. I’ve never been a huge fan of the birth or death stories, I’m more interested in the deep cuts (no pun intended). As the next weeks and months unfold, I’m looking forward to revisiting this moment in my life and see how things have changed or shaped me.