Why you don’t have to read the Bible

I begin scanning the news headlines from the Skimm, and they begin their news summary with a  (usually funny) Quote of the Day, which today reads as follows:  

“Repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish” – GQ, explaining why the Bible is on its list of books you don’t have to read. Bold move.

Immediately I click on the link, which is an article written about

21 books you don’t have to read

In their opening paragraph they begin this way,

“We’ve been told all our lives that we can only call ourselves well-read once we’ve read the Great Books. We Tried….. Some are racist and some are sexist, but most are just really, really boring. So we- and a group of un-boring writers- give you permission to strike these books from the canon.”And they offer a list of alternative books you should read, instead. I frankly wouldn’t have finished the article, if not for this Quote of the Day by the Skimm, which cites what they wrote on the 12th book you don’t have to read: the Holy Bible. The author says it this way,

“The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all people who supposedly live by it, but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”

I concur with the writer that the bible is very highly rated by its followers, and I’ll concede that there are parts of the bible which feel repetitive, perhaps in some ways maybe even foolish and sententious to a first, second, and even third time reader. But “certainly not the finest thing man has ever produced?” This is, of course, where the author and I part ways. The bible has received many critiques over the course of human history. Thousands of eyes have peered into the pages of it, thinking,

“What the heck is this thing talking about?” “Did it really just say that?” “they did what, now?!” 

And I suppose, if you’ve never known anyone who lived by it, never witnessed a person who was at one time walking a certain path in life, and then the next day walking a drastically different one… I suppose you could give up on the whole bible. Toss it into the pile of “classics” that we really don’t need to read anymore. A group of un-boring writers has given us permission to strike it from the canon.

 

But me?

I’ll tell you why I can’t.

In 1927, On October 8th a man named Jim Elliot (top left photo) was born in Portland Oregon. He grew up with two siblings like any Portland kid in a traditional family in the 1920s. He graduated high school with honors- roles in the school newspaper, the wrestling team, school plays, and public speaking. He was in every way the All-American boy, and yet he was different. He believed in the bible, and tried to live like he did. He attended and graduated from Wheaton College magna cum laude with a Greek major. He had a promising future ahead of him. He could have gone on to do anything he wanted- an acting career, a professional wrestler, even a professor. Yet he chose to dedicate his life to pioneer missionary work in the jungle of Ecuador. He focused his intentions on a group of stone-aged Indians called the Aucas, who were notoriously known as killers. They killed with spears. He, along with four other missionaries (who had wives and children and had been working together for four years) had actively made contact with the Aucas. Previously, the only contact the Aucas made with the modern world were well-known incidents of killings (they speared men from the Shell Oil Company who were extracting oil out of their territory in the 1940s) and had regular killing incidents with other tribes in their area.  Jim Elliot, and the four missionaries began making regular contact with the Aucas by way of a plane. They would drop baskets of gifts from the plane into the land. They studied their language from an Auca woman who had been taken captive, and they shouted phrases like  “We like you!” “we want to be your friends” over a loud-speaker from the plane to the Aucas. They did all of this and finally made preparations to meet the Killer Indians on the ground. After a long and well-planned out mission, these five men came to the outskirts of their land on a small strip of land by the Curaray River. A few days into their mission, the Auca’s came. And the Aucas speared them to death. The missionaries had pistols with them, but the guns were never used. They had their plane with them, but the missionaries never tried to escape.  Those five men lost their lives because they believed in that sententious, foolish bible. They believed those Auca’s needed to know about the Jesus of the bible, and they willingly gave up their comforts, their family, their passions, their careers, their very lives, to tell them so.

 Jim Elliot, at age 28, father to a one year-old daughter and husband to Elisabeth Elliot for two years- a man of extraordinary talent, and fierce devotion to Jesus-…an ordinary All-American young man from Portland… would be murdered in cold blood for men he would never know.

The bible claims to be the inspired, inerrant, authoritative word of God.  It is inspired because it was God who wrote it, but he used human authors to write his message. The bible itself confirms this saying, “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. “The bible is also inerrant, a fancy word which means it’s incapable of being wrong. That it has been found to be without error. The bible is also authoritative, able to be trusted as being accurate or true, reliable, and self-confident.

The bible is one big book consisting of 66 smaller books- divided into two books called the Old & New Testaments. There are 39 small books in the Old Testament, and 27 small books in the New Testament. The bible was written over a period of 1500 years, written by over 40 different authors from various walks of life. The authors were shepherds, warriors, prophets, kings, fisherman, and Jewish scholars. The bible was written in three different languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and written in 21 different countries over three different continents. The bible contains over 7 literary genres- narrative, history, wisdom, prophecy, poetry, letters, and gospel. The 39 books of the Old Testament were written foreshadowing and anticipating the birth of Jesus Christ. All of it, all the stories, teachings, narratives, prophecies—every single bit of it was written in anticipation of Jesus Christ. And everything written after Jesus Christ’s life was written to help us understand who Jesus was and why he was the most influential person to have lived on the face of the planet. He not only lived a perfect life (claims made in scripture by Him and by all these other authors) but he also held the most profoundly distinct moral teachings of any humanitarian ever. He not only lived a perfect and incredible life, but encouraged men and women everywhere to live the same type of life, and when pushed- he died for what he believed in. He not only claimed he would die, and rise again in three days, but the authors after his life claim that he did both of these things as well. You can call Jesus crazy, and you might call him a Liar… But the men and women everywhere who followed in his footsteps and died for him? People have been burned alive to light the streets of Rome, they have been crucified upside down, beheaded, imprisoned, eaten by wild beasts… One person might be crazy enough to die for a lie, but for thousands of people after him to die for the same lie?  It seems clear they all believed they died for truth. I find the testimonies of martyrs credible.  I mean, I’ll trust the one who had their throat slit for what they believed in. 

Finally, in all of this astounding diversity about the Bible and the Jesus it points to, the theme and message of the whole bible is amazingly and wonderfully unified.

Inspired, Inerrant, Authoritative. 

To date, the bible has been fully translated into 636 languages, and the New Testament has been translated into 1,442 languages. One of those languages happens to be the Huaorani language, a linguistically isolated language that is unrelated to any other language in the world. Do you want to guess who speaks this crazy language? The Huarorani language is spoken by the Waodani Indians. They were formerly known to the world as a group of spear-slinging killer Indians called the Aucas.

That is before Jim Eliott went in there. Before God went in there.

We all must come to our own conclusions about the Holy Bible. 

But no book in the course of all of human history, in all the people groups, nations, and countries that have ever been formed- has had more authors, has spanned more time, has been better preserved, has transformed and changed more men and women’s lives… than the Holy Bible. 

But overall the bible is “certainly not the finest thing man has ever produced?”   

I beg to differ.

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