Have started reading the bible again from the beginning

(113 Posts)
NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 13:41:38

am mightily confused about some things to do with the God in whom I believe.

anyone want to try to help with some of my questions?

Varya Wed 02-Jan-13 15:53:57

I have been re-reading the NT and Psalms in the Gideon Bible. Dont pay much attention to the OT nowadays. Probably will start on it when I have finished Psalms and read the OT in the NIV.

KayHarker Wed 02-Jan-13 16:06:27

No Cote, I think I'm saying just the opposite. To read the bible you need to engage fully with the text - and deal with the imperfections of the authors.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 16:07:23

Well how refreshing!

Yes good idea to start with GNB for a first dash through. Make notes of the tie-ups and mismatches, then go back and start to sort some of them out.

An NIV or similar with good cross-references can help, and I've recently discovered that some of the cheaply available Kindle versions have got efficient concordance-like lookup facilities.

My scientific school upbringing got me to at least agnosticism with 100% belief in evolution (as was the spirit of the age 'if you hear it on the BBC, it must be right'), then nearly(?) atheism but overseas gap-year experiences brought me to conversion.

Mainly been in independent Evangelical churches but various factors (lack of love in Fundamentalist circles for one) migrated us back into a C of E and pretty 'high church' environment at that.

DS3 is a Grammar School Head of RE and Philosophy, so a useful backup resource, though he does now have an inherited tendency to ask questions to help questioners find their own answers, rather than telling them.

Loads of 'terribly sound' books on our shelves - increasing numbers now available via Kindle though, so easy to acquire.

And to crown it all, I'm at present a '6-day Creationist' (if labels mean anything), for want of a better explanation of Life, the Universe and Everything. Willing to listen to others, though, if they've got a better one.

I loved Joanna Lumley's recent 'take' on the search for Noah's Ark. Why is everybody still interested in it, 5000+ years on?

So provided we can all stay polite and rational, I'm up for it. If I attain average life expectancy, I should be around for another 20 years or so.

Starting thought: if God is supposed to know more than us, then probably wiser to sit 'under' the Bible seeking and praying for understanding, than 'over' it, imposing preconceptions we imbibed from who knows where.

KayHarker Wed 02-Jan-13 16:07:27

Not sure I'm making sense, a bit poorly today.

CoteDAzur Wed 02-Jan-13 16:15:28

"To read the bible you need to engage fully with the text - and deal with the imperfections of the authors"

Does "fully engage" mean something other than regular English comprehension?

And are you saying that where Bible doesn't make sense, that is the fault of the authors?

It is a lot easier if you view the Bible (both testaments) as having been written by people in their attempt to explain what they thought God was saying to them, how God was acting, how they believed they were supposed to respond. And that changed over time, and is different in different books of both testaments, because they were written by different individuals or groups, at different times, in different circumstances, with different views of the world.

So, I would say it's not so much that God changed, but that our understanding of God changed (is still changing). And perhaps the way God deals with us changes as our (collective) understanding changes. So, when your child is a toddler you put them on reins, as they get older you teach them road safety - your aim is the same, and your priority (to keep them safe) but the ways you try to achieve that reflect their ability to understand the issue.

A lot of the strict rules in the OT were necessary to the way their society worked at the time, later those could be relaxed because they were in a more settled situation. Likewise wars and threats of wars with small neighbouring countries had given way to occupation by the Roman Empire, and that needed to be dealt with in a different way (eg render unto Caesar what is Caesar's)

If you are serious about reading the bible and understanding it, then I'd say you ough to switch to a more accurate translation - Good News is aimed at being easy to read and understand, but it over-simplifies things. I'd recommend the RSV or NRSV if you want accuracy - that way at least you can tell if what you are struggling with was in the original language or not.

Also, find a book or set of books which explain a bit about the way things were, and the situatios in which we believe certain books were written. I had a pair of really good ones, one for the OT and one for the NT and I can't remember the names. If they come back to me I'll post a link!

timidviper Wed 02-Jan-13 16:22:27

I haven't got around to a full reading of it yet but, in preparation, I have a Study Bible which has learning notes in the margins, and a concordance, index and reading plans at the back. It looks very useful, now I just need to organise myself!

JakeBullet Wed 02-Jan-13 16:24:17

You are awfully interested for a non believer Cote.

Am guessing you had faith at some point given your knowledge.

KayHarker Wed 02-Jan-13 16:31:35

Does "fully engage" mean something other than regular English comprehension?

not if regular english comprehension means dealing with poetry like poetry and so on.

And are you saying that where Bible doesn't make sense, that is the fault of the authors?

Yes, I suppose I am.

CoteDAzur Wed 02-Jan-13 16:43:39

Jake - Yes, I am interested. Why shouldn't I be? It is a mass delusion that affects billions of people, and it's fascinating.

You are guessing wrong, by the way. I have never had faith, not ever. Some of my earliest memories are asking people why they think there is a God (in nursery).

If there is anything else you would like to know about me, feel free to ask smile

Old Testament and New Testament - these were the introductory books I had.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 17:25:17

Cote It is a mass delusion .. or .. It seems to me to be a mass delusion .... scientific and objective data on the occurrence of mass delusions, please ....

Scots mum lovely picture - very apt!

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 17:29:43

Wow, thanks all. I popped for a nap and come back to some super answers. Will read and digest.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 17:44:48

OK let's start on those stubborn Egyptians (I've just downloaded a GNB Kindle version price £6.99 so I can do this whole thing on my laptop from the sofa).

Exodus 7:3-4 I suppose? 'I will make the Egyptians Stubborn' God says to Moses.

Did the Egyptians think God was making them stubborn? No, they just were stubborn. God brought various plagues upon them to get their attention, and they did pay attention for a while then turned back. It was pretty plain that God wanted them to let the Israelites go.

Eventually, when the Egyptians decided to chase into the temporarily receded Red Sea, there were consequences. So there were warnings, then there was an unpleasant result. Sounds pretty fair but firm to me.

Am I on the right track?

I would view that bit as - the Israelites believed that their God would do that, as they viewed Him as totally their God, and therefore He didn't have to be fair to any other people. His responsibility was to the people of Israel, and they believed that He was going to make a point to the Egyptians by proving he was more powerful than their Pharaoh/God.

It doesn't suit our view of God, but you have to get into their mind-set and think about how they viewed God and therefore how they interpreted things that happened. I don't think we have a literal description of exactly what God said to Moses, we have what people much later assumed God must have said.

Woolly liberal CofE clergy checking in grin

The Bible isn't a book but a library, a collection of books, law, poems, proverbs and letters that were orgionally stories told orally but were at some stage written down and then edited and reedited. Much scholarly ink is taken up with working out who wrote what and when and that is before they get to why. All of the different books of the Bible should to be read in their historical and cultural context. Also they have to be translated as the OT is written in Hebrew and the NT in Greek. Translation involves language which is carries cultural baggage so to unpick any bit of scripture generally involves work.

So how do Christians make sense of a God who seems so different in the OT to the NT? This is something that has baffled Christians since the very early days.

One answer might be that as people changed in their understanding of what God was like then how they wrote about that understanding changed. The starting point back in the Bronze Age in understanding of Gods in the ANE (Ancient Near East) was of sacrifice to make the Gods do stuff for you - like rain on your crops or defeat your enemy. An understanding of a single God that chose a people and had a relationship with them is radical. How that is interpreted by people is bound to take some working out. That is a starting place for a lot of the OT which seems alien and difficult for us today.

Hope that helps.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 17:59:17

Just trying out my new-found Mumsnet gizmo for creating links .... if I was going to recommend a single book which I have found the most help over the years in getting my mind round the whole Bible it's this: Bible Survey by William Hendriksen

This is the Amazon link to pre-owned copies

JakeBullet Wed 02-Jan-13 18:08:56

Ok guessed wrong about you Cote, thought you'd perhaps had bad experiences from a faith point of view.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 18:13:32

Jake scientifically we know this is impossible

I'm looking forward to seeing your scientific proof and references for this ..... particularly in the light of what, e.g. the current body of opinion is on all that happened in the first few microseconds after the 'big bang' .

JakeBullet Wed 02-Jan-13 18:27:14

Started thinking about it after our very academic priest said much the same. Yes I can't prove Genesis wrong, I can though look at the theories of evolution and say it's unlikely the world was created in seven days....very unlikely. Can you prove otherwise then?

What IS interesting is that the creation follows roughly evolution with the seas, the living creatures in the sea, then on land and finally evolution of man. It's interesting that the book of Genesis was written in a similar way by people who did not have access to written theories of evolution.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 18:29:56

My understanding of an eye for an eye was that in Moses' days there was a tendency for retaliation and retribution to be disproportionate and a bit 'over the top'.

So the command for an 'eye for an eye' meant 'only an eye - no more' was an early step to a more civilised code of justice. Can't give you any backup references offhand for this though.

Things gradually progressed down the years until the ultimate plan materialised - a completely innocent person taking cruel unjustified punishment without even raising a murmur of complaint: "forgive them, because they don't even know what they are doing"

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 18:38:50

thank you all!!.
I think my misconception is that is can be read as a single book rather than a collection.
Genesis so far has flowed readily into exodus.
it is easy to forget that they are a collection of works.

This was one of the books on my OT reading list at college www.amazon.co.uk/How-Read-Testament-Etienne-Charpentier/dp/0334020573

and www.amazon.co.uk/Introducing-Old-Testament-John-Drane/dp/0745955037/ref=pd_sim_b_2 this one is probably available from the library

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 18:49:56

No of course I can't prove it - I wasn't there and it's not a repeatable experiment.

But before we go much further you might enjoy dipping into a recent book Science and Religion - a very short introduction

He tackles such questions as what do we really know, and how do we know what we 'know'.

Also why the current evolution / creation debate arose and why some of the protagonists are a bit rabid. Interesting point that 'science' depends on trust, and that 'science' is so broad now that it's probably impossible for any one person to have a total grasp of all the info.

You should be able to get through it by the end of this evening as it's on Kindle. I've got to go off and slog through a volume on North Korea lent to me for the Christmas period by DS3. He needs it back so he can bring himself up to date for his 6-formers.

See you tomorrow?

How do you do that neat thing with links then?

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