As noted previously on this website, writing a book review of the Bible remains something of a daunting task. Yet reading and reviewing important literature constitutes a central part of what pursuing truth is all about. The Bible we are reviewing today is the New International Version The Journey Bible, which is all about “Revealing God and How You Fit Into His Plan.” This Bible has peaceful, water-colored cover, and is sturdily constructed for a paperback. There are always concerns about how long a paperback cover will last for a book as thick as the Bible, but Zondervan’s years of experience in this realm seem to have produced a quality Bible here. The best feature of the Journey Bible comes right at the beginning, in the “Read This First” section. Here the editors explain how this Bible is designed for people asking questions about God, how this version is not offended by intellectual rigor, and how the resources included are designed to help people along their journey to God, provided they approach the message within with an open mind. This seemed like the perfect opening to a seeker friendly Bible, and does an excellent job of setting the tone for an honest reading of the Bible text.  Continue reading
Several weeks ago I was chatting with some friends about the topic of God (Yahweh) in the Christian Old Testament. And, as is often the case, we ventured into the topic of whether or not Yahweh commanded genocide during the Old Testament period. While I am by no means an expert on this topic, I proceeded to suggest that God did not actually command genocide in the Old Testament, or at least what we would consider to be genocide in today’s context . Thinking about this topic led me to think more about how we read and interpret the Bible.
Many Protestant Christians talk about reading the Bible “literally.” But I often don’t understand exactly what that means. Websters defines “literally” as “in a literal manner or sense; exactly.” When applied to the interpretation of a written text, this type of reading would seem to indicate that you take the text at its simple face value. But there are many portions of the Bible that even those advocating a “literal” reading of the Bible do not suggest should be interpreted woodenly. For example, the parables of Jesus. Is it possible that the Parable of the Sower or the Good Samaritan were actual events that Jesus was merely repeating for his followers? Possibly. But most people who have read or heard these stories have understood them as parables–stories that Jesus told to make a point and teach a truth–and not as historical narrative. But parables are not the only parts of scripture that should caution our desire to read the Bible “literally.” The Wisdom literature of the Old Testament (the central portion of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes) and the Psalms are two additional chunks of Christian scripture that most people are hesitant to interpret “literally.” Continue reading