Sunday, February 12, 2017

Misconceptions about the Bible

I wrote this on Quora in response to the question "What are some of the misconceptions about the Bible". I found that in identifying the misconceptions I was also identifying how I view the Bible. 
So, here are the top ten misconceptions I see that people have about the Bible:
It is a rule book: This is simply not so. Yes, there are some rules. Someone counted them once and came up with a little over 600 of them. Others even prioritized them. This was the context of the question asked of Jesus “Which commandment is the greatest?” 
I printed them all off one time just to get a visual. They fit on 4 pages of paper. Single sided. I laid them next to the Bible and asked: Is the Bible a rule oriented book? I had to say no.
The Bible has an answer for everything in life: Again, no. It is not going to tell you which job to take, how to invest your money or why bad things are happening to you. It simply does not do that. That is not its purpose. It is to expose the nature and personality of God. It may be that as you get to know God better and get to know Him at a personal level, you start to make better choices but straight up answers are often not there.
The Bible is full of hidden meanings: There is no hidden sub-story. The numbers are numbers. Revelation is a type of literature that was common at the time of its writing but uncommon today but is still just literature. You just have to be a 1st century Jew to really get it. When you read the Bible, read it for what it says, not what you think it might be saying.
The Bible is explicit in how we should worship: Nope. Oh, there are a lot of examples of worship in the Bible but it is almost completely silent when it comes to the actual mechanics of how we “do church”. Singing and preaching and prayer and reading the scripture, they all show up in some of the examples of worship we see in the Bible but there is never a complete worship service described in the Bible. Yet this is the point where many Christians spend an inordinate amount of time bickering.
The Bible is written by God: Now this one needs some clarification. Being “inspired but God” and “written by God” are two different things. The Bible was written by ordinary people. They had the skill to either write or dictate to a scribe. Not all were literate. Their individual personalities can be seen in their writings. So much so that some book’s authors are identified by style and vocabulary. That said, God did play a hand in ensuring that what He wanted captured in writing was fundamentally accurate and complete. This applies to what books are in the Bible as much as what is written in the books. This is fact if you are a believer and not even a question worthy of discussion if you are not.
The Bible can be understood 1 verse at a time: Devastatingly false. Through the years the Bible has been used a tool to coerce behaviors by clipping verses and stringing them together to say whatever we want. This is a practice that has been the foundation of almost all splits, fights, even wars that were initiated by this misconception. The Bible is literature. It is to be read with both textual context and historical context. Before you say “The Bible Says…” Read the entirety of the context around the verse and see if what you are about to say is in line with the point of the author and if the historical context of what is being said is relevant.
To be a Christian all you need is the New Testament: You simply cannot understand the New Testament without the light of the Old testament giving it clarity. Jesus was a Jew. All He knew was the Old Testament. All He taught was the Old Testament. He did not bring anything new. He brought clarity to the old. Jesus exemplified personality, character, and attitudes of God. The God you can know by reading the Old testament. Jesus brought the Old testament to life, literally.
Only the King James Version is the “Real” Bible: How arrogantly English centered this thought is. Does this mean that the Spanish speaking people need to learn English? The same for all other languages? Or, the modern English speaking person learn an archaic dead version of English? There are so many reasons why this is wrong that we could spend all day here. Choose a translation that you can read. There are many good ones. Jesus Himself read from a translation of His Bible, the Hebrew scriptures, at the time. He read the Greek translation. It is not the words themselves that are scripture it is the teachings and stories behind the words.
The Bible is misogynistic: This may seem to be accurate but as I said above one must read the Bible within the context of its historical setting. The Bible actually goes counter-cultural to the times in which it was written. Many of the “rules” that the Bible contains are there to protect women from the man-centered society. The Gospels are filled with the activities and honor given to women that other literature of the day would ignore. The role of women in the Bible is often downplayed by our own misogynistic society.
Everybody should believe the Bible: I just wish it were true. However, God gave us all free will and offered us the opportunity to know Him through His word or reject Him. The Bible is just a book, a long and difficult book, a tedious boring history of a people long dead, a source for conflicting agendas and a hindrance to those that do not believe. Faith is an active factor in the value of the Bible. Without faith, it is just a book. With faith, it is the heart and soul of God.