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The Bible: A New Perspective

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Over the last week, I’ve been engrossed in reading a feature on Blogging the Bible: What’s Really in the Good Book. David Plotz, who is Jewish, not only went through Hebrew school as a child but attended a “rigorous” Christian high school where study of the Bible was mandatory. But when he picked it up as an adult and read the story of Dinah in Genesis 34, he realized he did not know as much about the Bible as he originally thought. So he decided he was going to read the entire Bible and blog about it as he went along.

Like Mr. Plotz, I grew up in church and attended a Christian school (in Jr. High). I also graduated from a Christian college where I was required to take three religion classes. One of the professors loved to challenge what the students knew/believed, so he had us examine some of the more bizarre stories related in the Bible. But even when confronted with stories I don’t understand, I’ve always approached the Bible—whether as a student or as a teacher—with a very strong doctrinal Protestant worldview.

I’m pleased to say I now have a new perspective on the Bible. Mr. Plotz’s series, aside from stripping away all doctrine and posing questions many of us “good church folk” would never consider asking for fear of sounding “un-Christian,” has helped me see the Bible as not just a collection of historical fact, mysterious and incomprehensive analogy and prophecy, and lots of verses that call songs and hymns to mind; I’ve started viewing it as a work of literature.

Now, I’m not by any means trying to get into the debate of how it was written, or what people believe about the process of its inspiration. I know what I believe and I’m not going to open up a can of theological/denominational worms.

What I am saying is—wow! What great stories! In reading these blog entries, I’ve seen the Old Testament through fresh eyes—and been reminded of the sometimes-cinematic quality of the episodes related. Remember the story of Michal helping David escape Saul’s murderous rage by putting a “household idol” in the bed to make it appear David was sleeping there? (Hello? Bueller . . . Bueller?) Or the fantastic suspense of the story of how General Sisera, enemy of the Israelites, escaped Barak and Deborah’s army only to be killed with a tent-peg to the temple by the woman Jael (Judges 4)?

Theology and denominational worldview aside, what has really struck me in seeing this fresh perspective on the Bible is how our identity as a culture—whether Jew or Christian—is founded on a tradition of story. Of plot, character, setting, theme, tone, and style. These are the kinds of stories that Israelites would tell sitting around the campfire—perhaps even the stories that Jesus heard—on the long trek to Jerusalem for Passover. These are the stories that Jesus discussed with the elders in the temple when He was only twelve years old. These are the stories that the disciples told each other on those long walks from town to town when Jesus sent them out two by two.

These are stories. Yes, I believe they truly happened. But I also believe that the Bible is a book that celebrates the creativity that God instills in each of us which some of us have turned to writing. Every genre is present:

Romance—Ruth, Song of Solomon
Chick Lit—Esther
Women’s Fiction—Sarah, Hannah, the woman at the well, Lydia, Mary Magdalene
Erotica—Song of Solomon
Poetry—Psalms, Ecclesiastes
Literary—the prophets
Historical—Ezra, Nehemiah, the Pentateuch
SciFi/Fantasy—Daniel, Revelation, Ezekiel
Action—Joshua, Judges, David & Goliath
Political Intrigue—I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles
Children’s—Jonah, Zacchaeus, Jesus, David & Goliath, Baby Moses in the bulrushes
Mystery/Suspense—many of the David/Saul episodes, Judges, Jacob/Esau

I’ve probably missed several and you may quibble with me on if these really fit the categories or not, but I hope my point is clear. The Bible should stir and feed our creativity and imaginations as nothing else in the world can. God is Creator so He gave us the ability to imagine and be creative. It is incumbent upon those of us who want to please Him and who strive to be more like Him to not squander that gift, but to use it. To practice it every day. To hone it. To study it. And to commit it to His purposes.

  1. Anonymous permalink
    Friday, December 1, 2006 9:30 am

    I’ve always loved the stories of the Bible, but had never really thought about where they would fit in genre-wise. Now when I read them, I’ll be looking at the genres of the stories.

    And I followed the link to Blogging The Bible, I read through his blogs on the chapters of Genesis and while I didn’t agree with all of his observations and opinions (but they’re his opinions so I don’t think it matters if I agree with all of them) I did find it interesting and will definitely read the rest of his take on the Bible. Thanks for sharing the link.


  2. Anonymous permalink
    Saturday, December 2, 2006 8:26 am

    Great list! Such a fresh way of looking at the Bible, and like Delia, I never thought about it that way. I need to re-read it, because there’s always something new.


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