Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Bible is not a Book

Gutenberg Bible
Mr. Gutenberg did a wonderful thing.  Modern printing presses have made the Bible accessible to the masses.

However, I wonder if Mr. Gutenberg knew the negative theological consequences of binding of all of the books of the Bible into one volume and presenting it to the whole world.

Even though our modern Bibles come as one bound book, the Bible is actually composed of 66 different books, each with its own genre: poetry, history, legal code, protest literature, pseudo-biography, and letters.  But when they are all put together in one volume, we are tempted to say "the Bible says such and such" when really it is Paul who says that, or a piece of poetry, or Jesus, or a lawyer.  This is danger inherent in people like Harold Camping, proponent of the most recent date for the end of the world.  To really get into the Bible, we have to break it apart and look with dissonance.

For example, in Revelation 17 the great whore of Babylon is identified as the Roman powers that are "drunk on the blood of the saints" (17:6).  Revelation is written to warn Christians against bowing down to the emperor or worshiping the beast of Roman power.

On the other hand, you have Romans 13, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities" (13:1).  Or, 1 Peter 2:17, "Honor the emperor."

I find this dissonance beautiful, not disturbing.  If there are disagreements and arguments within the very text of the Bible, then maybe us squabbling Christians are just living into our tradition.

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