Please Stop Imagining You’ve Read The Bible. Thank You.

So, if you’ve been reading other blog entries, you’ve probably picked up that I love to dive deep into the Bible and search for stuff that I haven’t heard from others, often to my own detriment.  But the more people I talk about the Bible, the more I find out that people don’t really know anything about the Bible.

Take the story of Adam and Eve, for instance. I’m sure you’ve heard it, or at least some version of it, whether you wanted to or not.  You know, the first man and woman weren’t allowed to eat the apple, and Eve wandered off and came back and somehow… beguiled Adam or something. I’m not going to reprint the entirety of Genesis Chapter 3, but if I’ve built any rapport with you, go ahead and read verses 1-6. I’ll just put verse six here to underline my point:

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

A couple of questions… is there an apple here? Is her husband with her or not? If you read on through the rest of the chapter, the lesson is not that Eve shouldn’t wander off on her own, but that Adam should not have listened to his wife over God! (If I’m off on that, let us know in the comments). Read it again. Who told the first lie? Would you guess that it was Eve to her husband…or was it the serpent to her?

I could do this for nearly every famous Bible story. People argue over the creation story how it is impossible for God to create the earth in 6 literal days… but how long is a literal day before the sun has been created, based on Genesis 1? Noah took male and female animals of each type onto the arc, and so we see lions and tigers and bears… but were the animals running around the same as we have today? Did they have every breed of dog back then? Ten breeds? One?

I say all this to suggest one really important idea: you’ve never read the Bible. I’m not sure if anyone has. That sounds alarming, but sit with it for a second. You may have some quotes from the Bible that you know, but if someone said a random phrase with the word ‘thou’ and a moral message was a quote from the Bible, you wouldn’t be sure if it was or not. It’s not a book you read regularly, nor is it a book you can ‘complete’ by reading cover to cover. It’s not meant to study as if it were a textbook or if you were preparing a book report.

There are probably several reasons why you may THINK you have read the Bible. And it makes sense. When you are constantly surrounded by’ Bible talk’ that people claim came from the Bible, or when you are raised on Bible cartoons and an endless amount of secondhand retellings of Bible stories (though if we’re honest, they’re not secondhand retellings), it’s easy to believe that you yourself have studied these passages. But here is an example to consider: Did you know the idea of the forbidden fruit being an apple came about because the word ‘ apple’ and ‘evil’ are spelled almost exactly the same in Latin? A seemingly harmless mis-translation now becomes part of Christian Tradition. But how much of tradition still echoes accurately the original translation of the sacred text? That is what is critiqued by most Atheists who believe they take issue with the Bible.  It is what is defended by most apologists who believe they are defending the Word of God.

But to be honest? No one actually knows the Bible.

And let’s say you’re like me and do study the Bible from time to time; then you’ve probably figured out that you still have a ton of Christian Tradition that you haven’t even thought about, and a lot a of your previous beliefs based upon mainstream church culture and centralized organizations is inaccurate. It’s a painful process that constantly uproots that which I thought was firmly planted. Maybe that’s why I don’t study as much as I should, as hard as I should. Heh.

I don’t have a big lesson here. The Word of God is this eternal thing that we will never stop learning from. A chapter read during one part of your life reveals something new (but not contradictory) when read again during another stage of your life. But consider this: if you cannot show me your beliefs from the Word of God, consider that your beliefs aren’t based on the Bible. And if your beliefs aren’t based on the Bible… what are you going to do about it?


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