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Reflections on the Bible

February 15, 2013

Sunrise BibleHaving read large parts of the bible, I think it is time to draw together some thoughts on it. Here are some of the things that have stood out, or surprised me, compared to my expectations going into reading it.

I was surprised from reading the prophets just how much persecution they were willing to face and how daring the things they said were. Jeremiah predicted the downfall of his own people to Babylonia, in the face of many other prophets trying to appease the current King of Judah by saying all would be fine. In general the prophets were very antagonistic to the current Kings and were far from being apologists, telling people what they wanted to hear from God.

Another surprise was being able to enjoy some of the historical books of the bible. Something I was particularly reluctant about going into it. The books of Joshua, Samuel, Judges, Kings, Chronicles. Once again here I expected the writers to be telling people what they wanted to hear. But there are many interesting historical facts recorded. And you get a real idea of historical individuals involved in it all. Yes, there is a certain amount of skewing of things to fit the general theme that God punishes them for not worshiping him properly or for worshiping idols, by sending plagues, sending armies to defeat them in wars etc. It seems there is a real need to find a personal significance in all these events of war, when it could just be chance or other factors that determine things at times. But still, for such an ancient document, to have such personal details preserved is quite unique. There is a very personal, human feel to the people, unlike other ancient histories which feel more obviously mythical, transforming historical individuals into gods, such as in Homer. If I read an ancient greek history it may look good, but feels obviously contrived for artistic effect. But with the bible, it feels much more like an accurate record of what the person recording it saw was going on at the time.

The widespread, persistent use of sacrificing animals to God was a surprise to me. Thousands of bulls, lambs, sheep during passover and many every day it seems in order to keep to the original Law of Moses from God. It seems such a strange practice to me, and I cannot see the rationale for it. A way to not take the things provided for us, such as food, for granted maybe.

The book of Job and Ecclesiastes were also a surprise. The quality of these as philosophical reflections is of a very high standard. Little is said to justify God or persuade people to believe in god. Partly because back then they seemed to take for granted the presence of God in some form. Instead they give the impression of independent, intelligent reflections on God, on being a good person, and the kind of things it involves and the difficulties it can entail.

So these are some of the pleasant surprises I have had from reading the bible the last couple of months. This is not to get into the new testament where there is more to be said also, but I will maybe save that for another post on another day.

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