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What the Bible Isn’t

We Christians have a lot of kooky ideas about the Bible. It is used in all sorts of strange ways and often gets transformed into whatever anybody wants it to be.

In other words, the Bible suffers from the same malady that afflicts Jesus as different people have projected their individual biases, desires and agendas, turning both Jesus and the Bible into something they never were intended to be.

But even if we took away all of the crazy notions about what the Bible is, we are still left not with a single, unified book, but a collection of books written at different times by different people who also had their own peculiar biases, desires and agendas.

On top of this confusion, the books of the Bible were collected and assembled at different times by different people, again with their personal agendas. Some books were included, others excluded, and to this day, Christians still can’t agree on a final canon.

All of this has made the Bible possibly the most confusing, screwed-up, schizophrenic book in history. So what’s an honest, truth-seeking heretic such as I to do?

Well, instead of trying to figure out what the Bible is, it might be easier to talk about what the Bible isn’t.

God’s Inerrant Word. Contrary to popular fundamentalist belief, the Bible does contain errors and contradictions. We have only to read the first couple of pages in the Bible before we run smack dab into a contradiction. In Chapter One of Genesis (verses 20–26), God creates animals first, then human beings. However, in Chapter Two of Genesis (verses 4–20), God creates man first, and then creates the animals. And that’s OK. The Bible doesn’t have to be perfect unless it has become your God in which case you’re most likely guilty of idolatry.

Instruction Book. There is a pithy acronym often seen on conservative evangelicals’ bumper stickers: B.I.B.L.E. — Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Yes, there are laws, commandments and instructions in the Bible, but, again, because of their contradictions, actually following all of them is impossible. For example, in Chapter Five of Matthew, Jesus is recorded as saying: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Then, a page later, in Chapter Six, Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

Science Book. Contrary to what Creationists may say, the Bible is not a science book. The stories in Genesis of God creating the world in a week is mythology, not science, and they are similar to other ancient creation mythologies such as the Babylonian Enuma Elish. But that’s not to say that there isn’t some truth that can be taken from these stories, it’s just not scientific, factual truth. It’s mythological truth. Similarly, no one in their right mind would think that George Lucas’ mythological Star Wars epic is a scientific and historical account; yet, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something about ourselves and be moved by watching those movies.

These are just a few examples of what the Bible isn’t. Personally, I like the fact that the Bible is so mixed up and contradictory. If there was a divine hand in its writing, then God must be a lot like us.

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