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The epic History Channel series, The Bible, started a couple of Sundays ago. It was quite good I thought, though everyone’s teeth sure looked white and sparkly in those pre-toothpaste days, and I'm always annoyed to hear ancient Israelites speaking in plummy British accents.

Also the first episode left out little details like the Ten Commandments re-play the Lord was forced to do when Moses smashed the first copy of the Big Ten upon discovering the Israelites worshipping a golden calf the minute his back was turned. Oh, and the film also left out even a mention of the 40 years wandering in the wilderness, and why that happened.  

But editing the Bible seems to be rampant these days since so many of us carbon-based life forms are so much smarter than its Author. Bill O’Reilly set himself up as Biblical editor when he had the film makers on his show recently and freely opined that the Good Book is chock full of allegory. How, he asked the movie folks, could they possibly believe stories like Jonah being swallowed by the whale and surviving, and Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? Obviously couldn’t have happened so you can’t take the Bible literally, insisted O’Reilly, a devoted Catholic.

Based on O’Reilly’s editorial standards, nearly everything in the Bible is suspect. If God is just being metaphorical about Lazarus, what about the resurrection of Jesus, the central faith tenet upon which all of Christianity is based? If Jonah and the whale are just a campfire story, doesn’t the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus), being saved from devouring lions (Daniel), felling a city’s walls by marching around blasting on trumpets (Joshua) and lots more fall into the same ya-gotta-be-kidding category?

These events seem to be outside what we know of how the natural world operates, and that’s why some who pride themselves as rationalists object to them. But if God created the natural world, doesn’t He make the rules and can’t He break them if He wishes to achieve the results He wants? And if He can’t how could He be God?

Many can accept His miracles but they want to edit God because they disagree with His moral judgments. Think of that: people actually think God is wrong about right and wrong. Personally, I try not to stand next to any of these audacious types in a lightning storm.
Yet I know committed Christians who say they believe the Bible is mostly God’s inspired Word, but still feel entitled to cross out certain chunks because they disagree with God’s morality.  For example, friends have told me I’m a bigot for noting that through the Apostle Paul in the New Testament (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Tim. 1:10) as well as the Old Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah and the visiting angels,(Gen. 19:1-5) God clearly says homosexuality is an abomination (Leviticus18:22).

So is God a bigot? Is Paul, Christianity’s one-man public relations firm who wrote nearly half the New Testament, a bigot? Neither God nor Paul ever said that homosexuals themselves are an abomination, just that this behavior violates God’s morality. Since Christianity is all about forgiveness and reaching out to sinners, those who say God hates homosexuals couldn’t be more wrong.
Editing God has gone so far that some religious “leaders” even write very popular books decrying hell as a total fiction; just another fantasy from the crowded stable of God’s metaphors.  But hell comes up so often in the Old Testament and Jesus talks so specifically about hell as an actual place where unbelievers suffer eternal punishment (Matt. 5:22, 10:28; Luke 12:5; and more) that it’s hard to wish it away, even to entice new churchgoers in the door.

And please don’t say the Bible can’t be taken literally because Leviticus forbids shrimp cocktails as Bible-mockers love to point out. (Also not on the menu: oysters, lobster, and any finless sea creatures.) If you’ve ever eaten shrimp on the beach – in Mexico, or in Greece for instance -- you know that God in His mercy created this dietary law to spare us an inevitable 24 hours of gut-wrenching misery and an epic bathroom clean-up. In a steamy hot, refrigerator-less place like ancient Israel, the wily crustacean could even claim human lives.  

When you’re tempted to get out the red pencil and revise the Bible to your liking, first consider:  what exactly are your qualifications to correct and improve the work of the Creator of the Universe? And second: once you start, how do you stop?


 


Comments

03/08/2013 12:45

Again, Joy, you're right on! While I realize the makers of this mini-series can't include everything, its become acceptable commonplace to edit God's Word - and that has to be an abomination before God. How can we get it right when we think it's our place to decide on the rules?
Yes, O'Reilly made my jaw drop with disbelief this week. Really Bill? He's quickly discrediting himself as a Christian. I agree with his points of view often, but not this time.
I love your powerful voice, Joy! Thank you for sharing it with us. I thank God for giving you this voice - this much needed boldness, in a day when so many of us hide our faces and hope the evil will just go away.
I love you, lady!

Reply
03/12/2013 12:42

Thanks so much Helen --your encouragement means a lot ! Yeah, O'Reilly is so strange sometimes, I guess his giant ego makes him think he can decide that most of the Bible is "allegory"! Luvyou too --

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Denise
03/09/2013 17:21

Again Joy offers the perspective of a woman of faith. I like printing my favorites for prayerful thought (soul marination). Joy has a gift for a rippingly honest and refreshing style which has a way of shining new light on matters of faith.
I found O'Reilly's bloviating commentary on the Bible irritating because his comments did come across as diminishingly narrow and dogmatic. He doesn't speak for this Catholic and I doubt his comments represent the opinions of Catholic scriptural scholars. I believe the Old Testament is the history of God's interaction with and covenant with men. Whether or not the stories are literally factual is a matter of personal faith. We believe in miracles. Jesus worked many to awaken faith in His disciples and used many colorful parables to illustrate His messages. We do believe the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God. In the Bible we meet the Creator, Redeemer and hear His indwelling Spirit speaking to us.

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03/12/2013 12:52

Denise, I am so honored that you use my writing for "soul marination!"
Thanks so much for your insight into what the Bible is all about -- I agree completely with what you say.

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    Joy Overbeck says hi !

    I'm a Colorado-based journalist and author who has written articles for national mags like Redbook, Reader's Digest, Parents, TV Guide, Cosmopolitan, Health and others, as well as local pubs like 5280 Magazine, Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine, LUXE, Vail Valley Magazine, and others. I've also authored three books, two of them humor books published by Pocket Books, Simon&Schuster. I have a couple of horses and ex-husbands, a lovely cat, and a huge curiosity about God and politics, all the stuff we're not supposed to talk about.

    I'm currently working on a lively book about much-misunderstood Christianity, the fat kid on the playground who's always getting beaten up by those cool atheists in their designer shades.

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