Food for Thought-3 Things to Remember Before Starting a Lenten Bible Study

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1. The Bible is the product of well-intentioned human beings. The Bibles we use emerge from two distinct ancient communities. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) comes from the history, people, and traditions of ancient Israel. The text of the New Testament first originates in the early Christian church. When I say, “the Bible is the product of well-intentioned human beings”, I’m not denying the existence of God. Nor am I disputing the idea that God inspired humanity to do certain things then record those events for posterity. I am saying the Bible isn’t a divinely created product in the way Islam regards the Quran. The Bible is a collection of many different types of writing (politics, history, theology, poetry, genealogy) which tell the history of how people understood their relationship with God.  Fallible people wrote our holy book.  God didn’t write or dictate words to a scribe.  There are contradictions and errors throughout the Bible.  Once we realize that God works within our mistakes, we can read scripture with fresh eyes.

2. The Bible should never be interpreted literally or factually. “”The Bible said it and that settles it” has never been a good rule to use.  The Bible is not an accurate recording of history. Nor is it a science text book. The metaphorical language used by the ancient Israelites was never intended to be taken literally in the 21st century. Legal, ethical, and social practices common 2000-3000 years ago are not relevant to all eras and locations. Though some carry a universal ethical message; (such as Leviticus 19:18-love your neighbor as you love yourself) the sacred traditions of bronze-age nomadic people cannot be imposed in 21st century Christians.

3. Does this deny the reality that the Bible is sacred scripture? No! We need to ask, “Why do we think the Bible is sacred?” Is it because we regard its origin as sacred? Or, because our ancestors valued the words and stories enough to set them apart from all other accounts of God moving in history? Scripture is sacred because it has been passed down to us as a functioning means of allowing God to speak to us today; not because it originates directly from God.

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