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Beyond the Bible

A couples weeks ago I mentioned one of the things that can raise the inner snark in me. It was the concept that Jesus is enough for everything. Check out the past post (here) for it because it helps explain some of what I'll talk about today.

In regards to life outside of the specific realm of marriage, the words that always annoy me is, "The Bible has all my answers." Within moments of those words casually slipping out of the person's mouth, I can usually come up with three times in which the Bible doesn't have the answers without thinking about it. Usually it involves means to murder someone, or answers to an art problem.

The above photograph is part of a warp from a few years ago. Threading the warp ends through the heddle keeps the warp from twisting and knotting too much. It doesn't mean it always works, but it means the warp normally doesn't knot.

Many people tend to think of the Bible in that concept: thread this thought into here, and it will come out on the other side easily. They liken the concept of opening the Bible as the means to organize their lives, and answer all life's questions. For those of you who do turn to the Bible for all your answers, understand I'm not discounting what you have experienced because I know God uses everything to draw his people close.

What I am saying is that the glib response can, once again, do more harm than one considers. For me, these comments sometimes came across as "You're most obviously not spiritual enough because you don't understand that all life's answers are found within the pages of the Bible - often before I even begin to look." Add a snooty accent, and you'll get the picture.

I cannot describe how many times it hasn't happened for me, much to my annoyance. I have scoured the scriptures, contemplated truths, and researched what words meant all to finally just pick something and try it. For me, answers to my questions are rarely found in the Bible. Truth be told, I have always looked at more like guidelines than an answer book. I have too many questions, and the Bible was written a long time ago.

With writing murder mysteries, I have to dive into other aspects of life. I have to understand why a character murders or another contemplates murder. In that regard, the Bible acts like any other work of literature that helps me understand humanity. Literature most often touches into the deeper parts of humanity in ways that the other arts cannot. We can delve into a room and watch a woman slowly go insane with Virginia Woolf; explore the dark streets of London with Charles Dickens; and float down the Mississippi with Mark Twain. Through all these adventures, we learn more about ourselves as well as the culture, motives and times of other cultures.

Keep the Bible as your plumb line, but please explore the rest of the world's literature. By learning about other cultures, we will learn more about our creator. I am one of those individuals who believes that God has written his truth across the world - the universal truths so many people speak about are God's hand prints.

The Bible, quite honestly, doesn't have all the answers. Much of it is written in literary form; other portions are first hand accounts. It takes history, cultural studies and science to teach us more about what the Bible says. To understand the history of Egypt is to gain new insights into the first half of the Old Testament. Learning about Roman and Greek views adds to the layers in the New Testament.

For those of you who, like me, find little in the Bible, may I suggest reading it as one would any other piece of literature? If you like poetry, view it as you would an ancient poem and learn from there. For those who are more historical, read about the kings and queens of Israel and Judah. Travelogues more your style? Acts is a good place to start. When I stopped trying to gain deep spiritual insights from the Bible, and started to read it for research on time periods (primary sources, after all), I learned more.

When I stopped expecting it to have all the answers, I found that what I learned from research explained more when I read the Bible. As it is the religious scriptures of my faith, I do not discount it. I recognize the plumb line that it is, and accept that to best understand the Bible, sometimes I need to close it and open another book.


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