David Plotz over at Slate Magazine is doing a series called “Blogging the Bible.” I have always wanted to do this myself, so I am interested in reading his observations. Plotz who describes himself as a “proud Jew, but never a terribly observant one, ” became interested in doing this when he read the story of the rape of Jacob’s daughter Dinah in Genesis 34 and the unsettling details that followed. Though he grew up reading and studying the stories in Hebrew school and in a rigorous Christian high school, it was this story that he doesn’t remember being taught. He says,
This is not a story they taught me at Temple Sinai’s Hebrew School in 1980: The founding fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel lie, breach a contract, encourage pagans to convert to Judaism only in order to incapacitate them for slaughter, murder some innocents and enslave others, pillage and profiteer, and then justify it all with an appeal to their sister’s defiled honor.
I think there are many Christians that find themselves in similar circumstances. They begin to read parts of the Bible that they find very disturbing and they wonder why they were never taught those passages growing up, or why the same stories were made to be so nice and tame when they were little.
So Plotz has decided to blog through the Bible, posting observations from the viewpoint of someone who is ignorant to the Christian or religious teaching of it. He says,
Like many lax but well-educated Jews (and Christians), I have long assumed I knew what was in the Bible–more or less………
So, what can I possibly do? My goal is pretty simple. I want to find out what happens when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based. I think I’m in the same position as many other lazy but faithful people (Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus). I love Judaism; I love (most of) the lessons it has taught me about how to live in the world; and yet I realized I am fundamentally ignorant about its foundation, its essential document. So, what will happen if I approach my Bible empty, unmediated by teachers or rabbis or parents? What will delight and horrify me? How will the Bible relate to the religion I practice, and the lessons I thought I learned in synagogue and Hebrew School?
I’ll spend the next few weeks (or months) finding out. I’ll begin with “in the beginning” and see how far I get. My wife, struck by my new biblical obsession, gave me a wonderful Torah translation and commentary for Hannukah, the Etz Hayim, which was prepared by conservative Jewish scholars. I’ll read that and dip into the King James and other translations on occasion. (But I’ll avoid most commentary, since the whole point is to read the Bible fresh.) I’m sure I’ll repeat obvious points made by thousands of biblical commentators before; I’ll misunderstand some passages and distort others–hey, that’ll be part of the fun. I hope you’ll tell me how I’ve screwed up by e-mailing me at email@example.com.
I am very interested in what observations David will be making, and in fact, I am already a little behind in my reading since he has already begun posting. But I wonder this. How many Christians have ever read the entire Bible from cover to cover? I didn’t till I was 23 years old. And why haven’t we read the entire Bible? If it is the inspired book that we live our life by, and are willing to even lay down our life for, why haven’t you read it? I am amazed at what people will fight tooth and nail over concerning the Bible, and then I find out they haven’t even read the whole thing. If that is the case, then I think you will be curious at the observations that Plotz makes. Post-seminary, and five years into being a pastor, I know I am still amazed more and more everyday at the parts that I missed before. I am amazed more and more at the questions I have as well.
Check out his post and I would be interested to see what you think.