Thursday, September 15, 2011

What "is" the Bible? Part 1

For the last couple of days my mind, my heart, and my very being have been involved in self-reflection, meditation and prayer. Not every second of the day of course (hard to do that when you also have to go to work, school, and attend to other matters) but when I do have the opportunity I use those moments to ask questions, get answers, ask new questions and so on. This is in part to what I discussed in my blog entry
In regards to "same-sex" marriage, why would a Christian quote from Leviticus 20:13? and is also related to the sometimes wonderful, sometimes painful, and always joyful aspects of my still very exciting journey as a Christian, and of course as a human being.

I then started to reflect, when it comes to Christianity, on why some of my fellow Christians have told me (in conversation, online debates, or chats over coffee) that they are Biblical Christians or Bible-believing Christians. I will leave for another day the definitions of these terms and their context in both the Christian Fundamentalist world and the Christian Evangelical world (while both of these share some similarities they have a lot of differences between them) and why that is. For now I go back to when I ask a Christian why he/she refers to himself or herself in this way, it appears that all of the responses come down to one thing: the Bible.  That has made me ask myself many times in reference to this and other issues: what "is" the Bible?

We can discuss the way we "see", "read" and "use" the Bible as one way to answer this question but it is not the ONLY way. Some of us say quite simply: it is the word of God. Some of us say it is the inspired word of God. And there many others, but they all point to what it means to us. I believe it is also very important to look at the process in history that lead to the creation of this book that you may have a copy of, not just on your desk or at your church (if you have one) but perhaps next to your hospital bed, in your classroom, etc. In addition, we have truly come a long way since the days of the Gutenberg press, and the Gutenberg Bible. These days we can also find the Bible in electronic form in the web and our mobile devices like the iPhone, the Droid, the tablet, etc; I have a few Bible apps myself. Now, what I am about to say may be familiar to many of you. So, it may sound like I am not saying anything that is new, but perhaps to some of you it may be new, or you may have some disagreements with it.

First, what we know as the Bible was not a created as one/single book like one you could write yourself right now, from the first page to the last page. It was first in oral form (both for the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament) and then later it was written down in a particular language, for example in Koine Greek like in the Septuagint, itself a translation of the Hebrew Bible. Second, these writings circulated around the many parts of the Roman Empire as letters, as fragments, as separate documents and would start to be collected by the Church (for now let us define "Church" simply as the Christians and generations of Christians around the Roman Empire including their Christian leaders) and third, someone made a decision of what "books" would be part of the canon; some books made it, some didn't. This happened over the span of many centuries, including writing, rewriting, editing, and translating of documents and: we have no originals, all we have are copies.

In the second part of this entry we will look at a timeline of the process of the canon of the Judeo-Christian scriptures that we now know as the Bible. We must remember the following: what follows happened over 1,000 years BEFORE the famous 1611 "Authorized King James Bible" in the English language of that time, including the 16th century German language "Luther Bible" translated by Martin Luther.

To be continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment