Random Colin: the Bible Isn’t a bible

Random Colin has a post up called, “The Bible isn’t a bible…” It’s in part about what the Bible is not (an instruction manual) and also what the Bible is. By all means have a look.

Something I find myself saying to my students, repeatedly and in different ways, is that we have to begin biblical studies by discovering what the Bible is (as opposed to whatever we might already think the Bible is). This discovery does not happen all at once, but rather happens over time, and only by one means: reading, reading, reading. The discoveries are piecemeal, but add up: the prophets prove not to spend all their time predicting the future; the Psalms are not so bland and nicey-nice as our lectionaries suggest; Job is neither silent nor uncomplaining; the Law doesn’t include much law; the Canaanites of Jericho don’t trust in their faboo wall. The more one actually reads the Bible, the more one says, “What gives?” And as surely as the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, “What gives?” is the beginning of knowledge.

I’d gotten the heads-up on Colin from Bryan at Hevel and John at Ancient Hebrew Poetry. I’ve been reading him for a while now, and have now also and belatedly added him to my blogroll. While you are over there reading about what the Bible is and is not, browse some other posts for a bit.

[Later: I see Colin has moved to WordPress. Here is the link to The Bible isn’t a bible…, and to his Home Page.]

4 Responses

  1. Thanks for the press Brooke, I’ve added you to my blogroll as well (something I’ve long meant to do).

    You make a great point here. I grew up in an evangelical church and was certainly one of those young college students who “knows” all about the Bible. Thankfully I had fantastic OT and NT profs who blew my preconceptions to smitherines.

  2. I came to my Literature of Ancient Israel class with some preconceived notions about biblical inconsistencies, and some of those have proved true. My original conclusion based on those inconsistencies was that the entire document was unreliable and should be ignored. What I didn’t expect was to find music in that tension. I like the following statement by Colin: “The great power and theological depth of the Scripture is found within these points of tension, and again within the tension between our lives today and the various parts of this ancient collection of books. The Bible is like a stringed instrument in this respect. It only works because of great tension.” All stories cannot be all things to all men at all times. Life is not harmonious and our relationship with one another and with God cannot be expected to be harmonious at all times either.

    • Oops: I forgot to mention that after reading Colin’s post I though of the words “For the Bible Tells Me So.” In addition to songs with those words in the title or lyrics, I encountered the documentary of the same name. It is on the way some groups leverage biblical teachings to direct hatred at the LGBTQ community while conveniently ignoring other admonitions. Slavery, women, divorce, etc., come to mind. I’m dumbfounded by the inability of people to read the Bible for what it has to say to us today. We may differ on the details but surely we can all recognize the fact society has changed in the past couple thousand years.

  3. “It scares us so much that we aren’t allowed to critique the Bible, we aren’t allowed to ask it difficult questions. We accept it all dogmatically because we think it’s all dogmatic, but it isn’t. There is room to question and challenge the Bible. Do you know how I know this? Because the Bible questions and challenges itself. Ezekiel questions the Torah. Lamentations questions Deuteronomy and the great deuteronomistic history. Jesus questions the Law, even as he says that he does not set aside even one jot of it.”

    I appreciate this quote because it gets ride of the elephant in the room as first year students in seminary. This quote invites us to discover the bible without being fearful to ask difficult questions, or say something outside the context of Sunday school. Sometime we need the okay to challenge what is taught, and Colin’s blog encourages that freedom. Thank you.

    When Colin stated that the Bible is a piece of literature, and not just an instruction manual, I couldn’t help but think of the cookbook in Barns and Nobel called “The Cookie Bible.” The cookbook is clearly an instruction manual for making delicious cookies. Yet the non-cookie Bible is limited, and perhaps quite confusing if it is only seen as an instruction manual. Because the Bible questions and challenges itself, how would we know what to do if we followed its instructions literally?

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