Saturday, January 14, 2012

Holy Bible as Graven Image?

I have been puzzling something for the last few days, and my puzzler is nearly sore.

I'm interested in what you, faithful reader, thinks. Here's the question.

Is it possible for the Holy Bible to become an idol?

Recent interactions have made me realize that some people appear to equate the book with God Himself. As if the two are one.

But the two are NOT one. They aren't the same thing.

Jesus left us a church. The church eventually pulled together Jewish scriptures, gospel documents describing His life, and letters describing how to run that church. The church decided what documents were inspired and which were not. The church cooperated with the Spirit to develop the Bible, then published it, protected it, and promulgated it.

Jesus tells us that we are members of His body, the church. He says His body is the church.

Nowhere does it say that He is the Bible. It is an unbiblical premise. He is THE word, and the Bible is His inspired word. But those two are not the same things.

They disturb me, these recent conversations; the gesturing toward the Bible when speaking about God Himself. The comments about feeling hunger and longing, and finally realizing that what was hungered for was God's word.

The speaker was hungry for God. She explored who God is through the Bible, and that exploration of Him appeased the hunger.

The book didn't, He did.

The two are not the same.

We should not worship the Bible, nor any other graven image. And I think that in some cases, this is exactly what is happening.

What do you think?


MSchaut said...

I've known some Christians who worship the Bible at the expense of EVERYTHING else, and their own interpretation of it while they are at it. On the other hand, the problem isn't reverence for scripture, the problem is purely intellectual assent which does not seat faith in our hearts or our will, and impoverishes us from all the saints and Church Fathers, Tradition and actual worship have to offer us.

Suzanne Marie DeWitt said...

Perfect word choice... "impoverishes us".

I understand the desire to want to stand on something that is solely Him. But unfortunately, nothing in this world is that. (Though some could argue the Eucharist is.) The Bible is especially human-dependent; for source document selection, for translation, and for interpretation of what is translated.

Which is in part why He did leave us more. And which is why so many Christians are indeed impoverished...

Thanks for your insights. said...

I will not comment on the New Testament, for which my knowledge is limited- but I am certain what I will say of the Bible will match that.
The Bible that folks read is a translation of a translation of a translation- at best. Each translation- whether or not accurate- clearly reflects the bias of the translator. As such, stating that the words of the bible one is reading are "gospel" (pun intended) is the height of hubris.
I will pick just two "standard" readings.
An Eye for An Eye...
Most folks believe they read the bible - and recoil from the concept that one would remove someone's eye as "compensation" to the other for having an eye removed. That is an abysmal translation. The wording is more closely meaning one must compensate the victim for the loss of the eye or the limb. If he (yes, that was, indeed, the intent THEN) could only make 42 less shekels a month due to this action, the perpetrator would have to make him "whole" by providing that compensation.
When the Supreme Being explains to Moses that Children of Israe-l will recognize the words of the Lord, the King James (and many, many others) version fail to understand the multiple tenses and forms of the language that obtain. SB does not say I am what I am (Sorry, Popeye). The SB says I will be what I will be. If you think you can define the SB, you have failed- because that is not the future embodiment. And, the SB will provide as, if, and when it is necessary- hence the choice of future tense.

So, don't be so "wedded" to the words that you think you know. Seek out the intent- and live you life thusly!

Suzanne Marie DeWitt said...

While I agree with your basic sentiment, not all translations are translations of translations. Some contemporary translations work directly from source texts in Aramaic, etc.

Otherwise, I am with you!

Ike said...

Know the Word of God...but don't make a god of your knowledge.

Michael Dowd said...

I'm with you!

I've written along similar lines on my Huffington Post blog:

Idolatry of the Written Word

Suzanne Marie DeWitt said...

Looking forward to checking out more of your work Michael!