(UPDATE: I have enabled comments on this blog series.)
You receive a package in the mail from a complete stranger, someone you never seen or never actually talked to, but you know is famous. Inside is a book containing the only authorized biography about this person, written by those who claim know him best. They all claim to have received exclusive permission to write a portion of his biography, but there is no physical proof of this person’s past or current existence. The authors of this book want you to accept on faith that this person exists, and that he can do all the amazing things the authors claim in the biography. Oh, and the authors asks you to do everything this person commands for the rest of your life. Do so, and he will reward you greatly. You can also choose to ignore him, but risk horrible consequences. You must, however, form your entire opinion of this individual only from what you read in this book. Wouldn’t it be worth your time to read this authorized biography before you make up your mind?
If you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about the Bible, or perhaps any sacred script that claims to determine one’s standing with a deity.
In my 30’s I once read the Bible cover-to-cover. I was a much different person back then, in a much different state of mind. I was looking for comfort and answers. I’ve studied large chunks of the Bible since then, but I haven’t completely re-read it. Now I’ve decided to take another stab at God’s authorized biography for the express purpose of meeting “The Man” all over again. This time, however, I’m doing it a little differently. This time I want an absolutely fresh start.
What would it look like if someone took the Bible completely at face value, from beginning to end? By “face value’, I mean abandoning all preconceived notions, assumptions, biases, bigotry, or the mental baggage acquired over a lifetime of hearing and reading about other people’s interpretations of the Bible. In other words, take the Bible literally from beginning to end?
Where would that lead me? I don’t know, but I’m about to give it a try.
So, why am I doing this? Let’s start with a few points that aren’t reasons.
I’m not doing it for attention or to fill some narcissistic need. This process is actually well underway already, completely in private. I’m not doing this to prove something to anyone. Let me be clear, I am not a Biblical scholar. Heck, I am not even a scholar. Actually, I am not even a particularly intelligent person. But I am curious, and I am searching for answers. My opinions are my own and they are just that – opinions.
I’m not doing this as Bible “study”. Study assumes a desired outcome, a learning objective. This is Bible exploration. I’m like a traveler, stepping into an unknown land. I’ve heard of it, flown over a time or two, but never really spent time under the rainforest canopy. Now I’m about to step off the well-worn trail.
So here’s reason why I’m doing this…
I want to go back to square one, to take each piece of scripture in slow deliberation and immerse myself. I want to know exactly what it says, and make up my own mind. To do that, I will throw out everything I know, or think I know, about God, Jesus, and what others have told me about the Bible. So much of what we think we know about God and the Bible comes from other sources, but not from the Bible. As Master Yoda once said, “Clear your mind, and unlearn all you have learned.” This time I will approach the Bible with no assumptions or no preconceived notions. I want an absolutely fresh start.
Why am I posting it online? Well, I don’t really know why, let’s just say I feel compelled and leave it there.
Here’s how this is going down…
This process will approach the Bible on multiple levels.
First, I’m looking at the Bible as a Holy document. Billions of people across the planet consider all or part of the Christian Bible as holy, or divinely inspired. As a Christian, so do I. But should I? If God truly inspired or had a part in writing the Bible, then if I approach it with an open mind and heart, then it should speak to me. It should make spiritual sense.
Second, I’m going to look at the Bible as a historical document. It starts at the beginning, discusses real places and, I assume real people and real events. I love history, so I will be cross-checking places, events, and people from time-to-time with other sources just to see what I find.
Third, I’ll explore the Bible as a piece of literature. It is, as a matter of fact, a collection of books written by people who claim to be inspired by God. I’m going to be scouring it for great writing, quotes, stories, and characters.
Each week I’ll post my thoughts and feelings regarding one small section of the Bible, read in sequence from Genesis to Revelations. This will take a long time. I’ll open with my general impressions of the material before I go into detail. A lot of it will be stream of consciousness. I’ll wrap up each post with a summary and a few closing thoughts, as well as a look at the following week’s scripture.
I’m going to have some fun with this, too. So, I’ve created some special features the post from time to time to make the Journey a bit more interesting. Here are a few:
NOT WHAT I LEARNED IN SUNDAY SCHOOL: This are moments when the Bibles differs from what I have heard or was taught from other sources.
GEEK ALERT: For those times my mind gets blown.
SPOILER ALERT: I’ve read ahead, skip this if you don’t want to ruin the surprise.
ENOUGH ALREADY, BEGOT ABOUT IT! For those times when a quick summary of extensive material will suffice.
HOLY FACE PALM: Sometimes I think The Lord must ask Himself, “Why do I bother?”
OLD TESTAMENT AFTER HOURS: Sometimes, the Bible gets seriously adult (and sometimes weird), and my discussions may not be suitable for younger viewers.
GOD SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME: When God lets loose with some seriously double-barreled smiting
Some ground rules:
I’m using the New International Version of the Bible. Supposedly, it’s the most accurate translation from originally sources. I wouldn’t know anything about that. I do know it’s easy to read, and I have a copy.
This is a preach-free zone. I am SHARING, not preaching. While I am a Christian, this is a personal journey of discovery that I have invited you to tag along. The Bible can speak for itself, and you can draw your own conclusions. You can take or leave my opinions.
Comment-free zone. I’ve disable the comments. If you want to comment on any given installment, please feel free to post it on your own social media or website. It’s not that I don’t respect your opinions, but any discussion of the religion always brings out strong, and unique, reactions in people. First, I don’t have the time for trolls. Second, I am sure many people out there who are experts on the Bible. I respect that, but as I stated earlier, I am not one of them. Unfortunately, some people aren’t just experts, their zealots. I fully expect to unintentionally wander into the realm of heresy before this is over. If I make an incorrect interpretation of scripture, it’s an honest and innocent one. Feel free to correct me, or damn me, just do so on your own blog or social media, not mine. On the other side, I’ve seen secular humanists get pretty nasty, too. If you feel the need to berate or insult me, the subject matter, or anyone’s faith, you can also do so on your own forum.
Respect and humility. I will NOT disrespect the Bible, its followers, or its detractors. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean this Journey isn’t going to get bumpy (or humorous). Be prepared, because I am going to ask some honest, tough questions that may make some people uncomfortable. I ask tough questions because I am compelled to. I’m going forward believing God can handle the tough questions, and won’t hold it against me.
With that said, I really shouldn’t be doing this. Even undertaking this endeavor only proves I am a crazy and no one should listen to me anyway. You’ve been warned. But I’m going to do it anyway.
I do not know if the man going into this journey will be the same man who finishes it.
Next Saturday, the Journey begins with Genesis 1 & 2.