Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Greatest story ever interpreted

Over my lifetime I have on occasion read most parts of the Bible. I have heard it proclaimed through countless sermons in church, marriage and funeral ceremonies as well as my favorite service, Stations of the Cross. It is often said it is the greatest story ever told. That may be true but it is also the greatest story ever interpreted. Most would agree the Bible dates back nearly two thousand years. It is the story of our creation from God's hand, the coming of the Messiah and the eventual end of the world.

I have no doubt there are grains of truth in the stories littering the books of both testaments. From the Dead Sea Scrolls unearthed in the forties to the books inscribed in the middle ages and before there is some historical fact. The oldest books having been translated to various languages have certainly lost their accuracy. I believe the Bible has Divine inspiration but consider the experiment done in every grade school class. A story starts with the first student but by the time it gets to the last it is nowhere near the same.

Consider what much of the Bible is meant to convey and who was the original targeted audience. Whether the teachings came from priests of various orders, monks, scribes, pharisees or whomever it was meant to instruct uneducated sheep farmers about the ways of God and the proper way to live one's life. How do you teach such in-depth issues? You tell it through stories; simple stories with a clear message.

How best to promote fear in the uneducated? You do it with fire and flood, plagues and pestilence. All these are easily recognizable to farmers and city dwellers alike. Even now as archaeologists and believers continue to look for Noah's ark many cultures have stories concerning a great flood. Science has shown evidence of such a catastrophic event in layers of exposed stratified rock at many places around the planet. The evidence of flooding far predates the historical record both written and spoken.

I believe the Bible should be taken as reference and used as a guidepost but not as literal fact. The world is far older than described by literal interpretation of scripture. A teacher once told our class that "as long as you believe God started it, somewhere along the line he placed a soul in man and someday he will end it", you can believe in the science and take the rest as faith.

(Don't tell Mom.)

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