Over that past 6 weeks I’ve been hosting a series of Bible Studies called Everything You Know Is Wrong* (*probably). It grew from a growing realisation that most people, despite being members and attenders at church for years and years, haven’t had the chance to explore the Bible much. Lots of us are stuck at what we got at Sunday School because the stories we are told when we are children stick deep in our memories and nothing has happened since then to add to them. So, we still think Jonah was swallowed by a whale, even though the Bible calls it a big fish and that Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem, even though there is no mention of a donkey in any of the stories.
Those are symptoms of something deeper.
We don’t know how to engage critically with the Bible.
And that, I think, is problematic.
So, for the past 6 weeks we have been exploring what kinds of literature the Bible contains, and why it matters that we know, for example, that Genesis 1 is a poem and Genesis 2 is a myth. They are different kinds of literature so we should deal with them differently. And if you just got annoyed that I called part of the Bible a myth, you should probably go and do some thinking about what a myth actually is (hint: it’s a particular type of story that tries to explain a greater truth – like God created – and it’s kind of like a parable).
One of the other ideas we have grappled with is what ‘truth’ is, because there is more than one kind. There’s the ‘scientific, mathematically provable fact’ kind but there is also the ‘I love my wife’ kind and there is the ‘tells us something about the nature of humanity and /or God’ kind. Each of these is ‘true’. Our problem is that we value the first kind more than the others, which is a problem when the Bible is written mostly in the second two kinds. You don’t read a poem utilising mathematical proofs. It may be a style that uses a certain kind of lines or words, but that’s about construction not content. That a poem has 7 words in the first line and 14 in the second tells us something, but not what the poem is ‘about’.
We’ve had loads of fun and some pretty deep conversations about creation, sacrifice, promises, relationship, wilderness and incarnation. We’ve discovered that the Bible is nothing like we thought it was and that we will probably never read it in the same way again…
and that’s great!
We may also have ruined Christmas.