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How To Read The Bible (without switching off your brain) by Simon Taylor

February 15, 2016

 

I was recently involved in a spat with an atheist who said that the Bible was unbelievable because it had snakes and donkeys who talked. Simon Taylor suggests hat the very oddness of these stories is because it speaks about a God who is totally incomprehensible.

This book started life as a series of pub discussions in my city.

He talks of the dangers of plucking verses at random and out of context (though the Sikhs do this when they take hukam but the Guru Granth Sahib is poetry) and of reading the Bible from cover to cover like any other book; after all that’s not how we read telephone directories. He speaks of the variety of translations and about the need to ray in order to be lifted up into the conversation of the ages.

Texts are meant to shock us, to provoke reflection and to change us.

The verse that fundamentalists take to mean that scripture is inerrant says, in fact, the opposite, that it is ‘God breathed’ – the same as humans – and humans are fallible.

Readers unfamiliar with the Christian tradition will find it hard to relate to the idea of humans as ‘the crown of creation’. The phrase appears in one of our Eucharistic prayers and is implicit in the creation stories – but then again postmodern people find the idea of an overarching narrative difficult and I think the Bible can be read without it, without resorting to a pick and mix approach.

The synoptic problem is explained well and illustrated by a section of gospel parallels.

More people need to know, and this book explains it simply, that the seven days of creation in Genesis are a parody of the Babylonian hymn of creation performed over a seven-day New Year festival and aren’t meant to be an account to be taken literally.

I hadn’t noticed before that the prohibition by the pastoral epistles of women teaching is similar to Adam’s complaint about his wife and that God didn’t accept this as an excuse.

There’s a welcome section about anti-Semitism. Even ministerial education often leaves this out so our liturgies and preaching continue to foster ill-feelings towards the Jewish people.

The author is wrong, on p. 55, when he claims that Roman Catholics don’t use the traditional ending of the Lord’s Prayer. It is said daily at mass, after a short embolism.

This is a good book to give to a new Christian or seeker and it would also benefit many people who have been going to church for decades.

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2 Comments
  1. Thaddeus permalink

    As read this article, I wondered what the author meant by a ‘fundamentalist.” Are they people, who take the Bible more seriously than others? Do they take God at His word? Can a person, who follows the instructions of their dishwasher or washing machine be considered a dish washer/washing machine fundamentalist?
    Another ‘strange’ statement is that of “The verse that fundamentalists take to mean that scripture is inerrant says, in fact, the opposite, that it is ‘God breathed’ – the same as humans – and humans are fallible.” So, does the author suggest that God makes mistakes?
    “that it is ‘God breathed’ – the same as humans – and humans are fallible.” How does ‘God-breathed’ equate with being human? Is God also fallible? What sort of God does the author believe in? It’s certainly not the God of Scripture.
    “More people need to know, and this book explains it simply, that the seven days of creation in Genesis are a parody of the Babylonian hymn of creation performed over a seven-day New Year festival and aren’t meant to be an account to be taken literally.” So, the Creation account is not historical narrative; Jesus thought so.
    “I hadn’t noticed before that the prohibition by the pastoral epistles of women teaching is similar to Adam’s complaint about his wife and that God didn’t accept this as an excuse.” This is really begging the question and truly wrenches Scripture out of context.
    In my opinion, this is quite a godless book and would confuse a new Christian.

    • Jesus thought nothing of the sort – in any cased, how can anyone know what jesus thought? We are notr mahines so the analopgy of ther bible as manual doesn’t hold. Many have found this book to br life-givingly helpful.

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