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Author Topic: Reading the Bible
Speed
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I'm re-reading the Bible for the first time in many years, and it is an astounding experience. The last time I read the Bible straight through was on my LDS mission in the late '90s. This time I've got a new edition/translation, and a whole different set of reference materials (although I still have my old LDS KJV and supplemental materials to compare from last time).

I'm not starting this thread explicitly to talk theology, so I won't tell you what conclusions I'm reaching this time, or how they compare/contrast with the last time.

But one of the most surprising things about this experience is how few people can relate to it. I've talked to scores of people, of various academic and religious backgrounds, and I've only found one person who's ever read the Bible straight through. And he's got a Ph.D. in the subject. I've spoken with dozens of Mormon missionaries over the last few years, and haven't met a single one who even intends to read the Bible all the way through.

Since Hatrack has, historically, been made up of people who seem to be intellectually above-average, I thought I'd see if it's any different around here. So here's some questions I have for you all:

  • Have you ever read the Bible (however your culture defines that term) cover-to-cover?
  • How many times have you completed it, and when was the last time?
  • What version/translation/edition(s) do you use?
  • What supplemental materials do you use, and why?
  • If you like, what is your religious background?
  • If you like, describe the experience of reading the Bible, anything that surprised you, and any ways it affected your life and religious/philosophical viewpoints.

Thanks.

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Hobbes
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1) Yes

2) Once. Like you, on my mission. Which was finished... 6 years ago. Eek.

3) KJV

4) I used no supplemental material consecutively (minus the aids found in the LDS version). However, for part of the Old Testament I did spend some time with the LDS Institute manuals (as distinct from the myriad of other manuals the Church puts out, most of which I haven't thought to be very helpful) which I found to be incredibly helpful, concise and well written. They are hardly complete, so they wont answer every question or discuss every verse, but they really do shine a light on a lot of different material as well as help you understand the context of the writing a lot better. I should note that I have no idea how well they translate to other denominations. Certainly some of it LDS specific.

5) It was an important journey for me because while I was at the time, and am now LDS, I was raised atheist.

6) It took a while. I didn't read it to the exclusion of anything else. i.e. I read the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants at the same time, as well as other material. But I did read straight through. Well actually, I read the New Testament and the Old Testament simultaneously but I would imagine that still counts. It was a little under a year from when I started to when I finished; I'm happy I did it but I have no drive or desire to repeat.

What it gave me was a knowledge of what's in there. Not that I have total recall of what I read, but that I can remember that certain things exist and about where they are. Rather like learning the existence of an equation, or a branch on analysis. I may not remember precisely what it is or how to use it, but should that problem crop up later in life I know there's a solution and I know where to look. This was particularly true of some of the earlier books of the OT (I still don't know what's in Ezekiel, despite having read it).

Of course it also gave me the ability to say I've read the Bible all the way through. Which is partly a pride thing I suppose, but I thought it was pretty important since I was and am claiming to believe this stuff. Seems disingenuous to do so without having read it. I admit that the spiritual experience was not that overwhelming for me. Certainly parts of it were quite moving. Some to expected and some not. But while individual parts would speak to me, I can't say that when I closed the book on my final section of reading I felt anything special.

Which is why I have no desire to do it again. Reading the lists in the OT, for example, did nothing for me. I'm not saying they can't or that no one can learn and grow from them. But I am saying that for me it was just a question of will power and forcing myself to read through each line. I felt no spiritual connection having done so, and now that I've done it, no reason at all to repeat the process.

So I guess any special insights or experiences or change in viewpoints I related wouldn't really be from reading the Bible cover to cover: it would be from reading this or that individual passage or book. Reading the Gospel of St. John through in a single sitting was a very powerful and meaningful experience for me (something I'm happy to recommend to any Christian [Smile] ). The stories of faith in the Pentateuch really hit me; I ended up sharing many small stories from early in the OT later in my mission at missionary meetings and those were typically met with quite a bit of enthusiasm from my fellows who typically didn't have a good handle on some of the smaller bits from the OT.

Hobbes [Smile]

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kmbboots
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For me, reading the Bible straight through would be like reading a (small) library in the order that things are shelved. I don't think it is necessarily a useful way to approach the Bible.
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Armoth
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1) Yes.
2) I've completed the 5 books of Moses 7 times. Yearly, I'm on a 52-week cycle. Last time was Octoberish. I've only completed the Hebrew Bible once.
3) I used to use the Art Scroll Chumash, but I read it in the Hebrew the last 3 times.
4) I used to use the commentator Rashi, he examined some of the basic questions that come up and provided rabbinic commentary. Now I use Nachmanidies and sometimes Rabbi Samson Raphael's Hirsch's commentary. Generally, I only use them to ask major questions that I have because I can tell something crazy is going on in the verses and the meaning isn't stunningly obvious to me.
5) Orthodox Jew
6) I grew up reading it like it was a fairy-tale, despite the fact that I believed it was true. What I mean by this is that the stories of the Bible occupy the same space in my brain that Lord of the Rings occupies.

5 years ago, I started to read it, and to deconstruct my childhood understanding of it. Basically, I went into the Bible stories trying to relate to the characters I previously never related to. I realized that there were connections between stories from opposite ends of the Bible, similar words and themes being used, things I thought were absurd became clear, and things I took for granted became absurd. In that last instance, it forced me to sit, learn, and clarify.

I think, ultimately, it made the Bible less doctrinal and infinitely more relevant.

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Speed
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Nicely said, Hobbes and Armoth. Thanks.

Kmbboots: Cover-to-cover doesn't necessarily mean in order. Have you ever read every word? If not, how do you decide which words are worth reading and which aren't? Do you have a system of sifting the wheat from the chaff?

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Armoth
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
For me, reading the Bible straight through would be like reading a (small) library in the order that things are shelved. I don't think it is necessarily a useful way to approach the Bible.

Interesting. There is a lot of study on the significance of the ordering of the Bible. I think there is a lot of meaning laden in the structure of the Bible, and I have never read it as encyclopedic entries in a big tome.
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cloark
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1) Yes
2) Once. 2002-2003.
3) LDS KJV
4) For the cover-to-cover reading in question, I used no other study materials beyond those provided in the LDS KJV (bible dictionary, footnotes, etc.)
5) Lifelong member of the LDS church.
6) The general sentiment expressed by Hobbes so nearly matches my own, that I'll just give his comments a +1, and save us all some time.

ETA: If we're not limiting this to just cover-to-cover reading, I've read the NT through a few times, and the gospels through a few times more than that. I mostly consume the Bible as my interests and needs require. How do I pick what to read? Well, having read it all at least once is a start, but also, the frequency with which others refer to scriptures is a good general indicator of how valuable I have found different books of scripture to be. In church I hear a lot about the gospels, and comparatively very little about the book of Numbers. The wisdom of crowds is useful in this case. (Which is not to say that the crowds, myself included, are not missing out on good things in lesser read areas of the Bible.)

[ April 15, 2013, 01:03 PM: Message edited by: cloark ]

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Stephan
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For those that have read it cover to cover, how accurate do you have faith the bible is? Do you believe it is the literal work of a god? Do you believe it was written by people divinely inspired but still flawed (my take on it before becoming an atheist)? Or something else entirely?
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Armoth
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I don't have faith that it is accurate. I have evidence that leads me to conclude that it is accurate.

I believe the 5 books were written by Moses, dictated by God. The second major portion of the Hebrew Bible - Prophets - I believe was written by prophets recording their interpretations of prophecies they had received. I believe the third major portion of the Hebrew Bible - Writings - was written through divine inspiration (but is not direct prophecy from God).

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Speed
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Stephan: I wonder if you'd mind answering the original questions before posing your own? [Smile]
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Stephan
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Only read the first 5 books cover to cover.
Not sure what the version was called, I still have it. My mom's copy of the translated Hebrew Scriptures from when she went to Hebrew school.

Raised in a Jewish congregation. It wasn't reform, conservative, or orthodox. The Rabbi was orthodox, but he came to Maryland from New York to start something different. The rabbi himself was orthodox. But he did not run the congregation that way.

Now I am an atheist. But unlike many, I respect religion.

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Tittles
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I read the Bible cover to cover one time, over a period of about six months. I was fourteen. It was a King James edition. My parents professed belief in a god, but we never as a family went to church. Mother Anglican, Father Catholic. I had already taken a science class at this point, so I started out thoroughly unimpressed and it didn't get that much better from there. Overall it struck me as a book of myths and fairytales, with perhaps a few vaguely historical tales thrown in about the history of a tribe who sucessfully genocided their neighbors at one point, and then faceslammed into the Roman Empire. Followed by the tales of a wandering preacher who may or may not have existed, followed by the tales of his followers desperately trying to build a powerbase after his death.
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cloark
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I believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly. I believe the Bible is a collection of writings by or about prophets who really did communicate directly with God. I believe that the primary purpose of the Bible is to teach about the nature of God and His will for us, and not to teach history, science or other things. As such, I believe that while God created the universe, he took billions of years to do it, and while Noah was involved in a massive flood, it did not literally cover the entire earth.
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Tittles
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I like the cut of your jib, Cloark. I hope you stick around.
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TomDavidson
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1) Yes.
2) I've read the Bible eight times, most recently about six years ago.
3) The King James, the NIV, and the NAS.
4) None.
5) I was born Catholic, converted to the Baha'i Faith when I was 12, and left religion at 18.
6) I'll wait on this one, because it's not as positive as it could be.

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dkw
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1) Yes.
2) Haven't kept track.
3) NRSV, mostly.
4) When reading for personal devotion, none. For work/school/writing, lots of commentaries.
5) United Methodist.
6) I'm not sure that reading cover to cover adds anything that a disciplined study which eventually covered all the major sections wouldn't also give. I do think that reading individual books straight through, in one sitting if possible, gives a different perspective than a more choppy study.

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Tittles
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To finish answering the final question, here's how reading the Bible affected me.

Huge disappointment. My whole life I had heard and been told that this book had the Answers. That all you had to do was read it, and the Truth within would be self evident. I was a proto-skeptic before, but I can honestly say that after reading, I became a lifelong and full on skeptic.

It also lessoned my opinion of most of my fellow human beings. Not that this was the best they could come up with, (in the Bronze Age you take what you can get, I suppose) but that even when better things came along, most everyone decides to put their fingers in their ears and say that the Bible still makes the most sense.

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Bella Bee
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I read it once when I was nine and I was ill for a few weeks. I'd read the abridged kid version and decided to get stuck into the ´grown up´ one. It was the Good News version. As an atheist, it didn't really change my mind, although I was rather hoping it would.

I remember explaining to a religious friend of the same age what rape was by telling her about what happened to Dinah - I don't think her mother was very pleased with me!

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BlackBlade
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1) Yes.

2) Four times. Last time was maybe 5 years ago.

3) King James Version

4) No supplementary materials while I study, though I have read the Bible Dictionary that accompanies the LDS version. I also tried reading through Asimov's Bible Dictionary, but never completed it.

5) LDS.

6) I have found it very surprising just how little I know of what can be known about the Bible. Every time I read it I notice things I did not notice before. All the other things I've learned seem to keep coloring it.

I always skip the lists of genealogy and who sacrificed how many animals in the Book of Numbers. I also read Isaiah in my mind with a Shakespearean actor reading the lines aloud.

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T:man
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1) Nope, currently working my way through it.

2) 0, I've read the five books of Moses twice.

3) Working on a beautiful KJV

4) None! Aside from also reading The Confessions over and over and over again.

5) Well I'd describe myself as Catholic despite never being baptized or ever going to mass.

6) Well I don't know yet.

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Speed
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I'm quite impressed with the replies here so far. I knew there was a reason I liked Hatrack people better than regular people. [Smile]

Tom: I know you're trying to prevent an incident, but I'd love to hear your opinions if you ever feel up to writing them down.

If anyone's interested, this is the library I'm using. The Bible on the right is the one I'm currently reading. Half the books in the stack are the references I used on my LDS mission, the other half are the ones I bought for this go-round. See if you can tell the difference. [Smile]

I'm currently in the middle of Ruth, which I'm enjoying. It's nice to finally be able to read a story that doesn't make me queasy and bug-eyed.

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Itsame
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1. No. I've read chunks of it here and there but never all the way through. I am, however, currently doing so.

2. See above.

3. I'm reading it right now in Koine.

4. None. But I happen to also be reading through the Summa right now if that counts (I'll be stopping soon and don't plan on finishing it).

5. Agnostic. Raised Jewish.

6. How loose the translations often are.

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katdog42
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1. I have read every word of the Bible, though not straight through.

2. I sat down intentionally to do this about 5 years ago during Lent. However, between the readings that are chosen for Catholic mass (which I attend on an almost daily basis) and the readings that are used for the Liturgy of the Hours (which I seldom miss), I hear the entire Bible read to me at least every 3 years.

3. I read from the NAB most days for lectio divina (a form of praying with the scriptures) but study from the NRSV.

4. I typically only use the commentaries presented in the Bibles I use, unless studying for something explicit.

5. I am Roman Catholic and always have been.

6. For the past nine years, I have immersed myself in the Word in ways I never would have imagined. I don't know that it has affected my political or religious viewpoints, but it has helped to underline for me the fact that I believe that God acts in the lives of each of us.

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Speed
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quote:
Originally posted by cloark:
I believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly. I believe the Bible is a collection of writings by or about prophets who really did communicate directly with God. I believe that the primary purpose of the Bible is to teach about the nature of God and His will for us, and not to teach history, science or other things. As such, I believe that while God created the universe, he took billions of years to do it, and while Noah was involved in a massive flood, it did not literally cover the entire earth.

Your first sentence makes you sound Mormon, and your last sentence makes you sound non-Mormon. Which is correct? [Smile]
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TomDavidson
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What has struck me about the Bible, every time I read it, even back when I had faith, is how much of a creative hodgepodge it is -- which is to be expected, of course, given the thousands of years and dozens of authors invested in it. There are Just-So stories, petty legalisms, bizarre rants, urban myths, histories (from hearsay to revisionism to honest attempts at documentation), adventure and science fiction, bureaucratic nonsense, love poems, inspirational slogans, and at least four serious if flawed attempts to come up with -- and defend, in places -- a coherent ethical framework. I'm especially fascinated by the relationship that self-identified Orthodox Jews have to the Bible, since it is a core cultural artifact in a way that I don't think we can possibly appreciate from outside; the closest analogy I can think of is perhaps what Star Wars means to some geeks, where the Phantom Menace is the New Testament and the Anakin of the prequels the protagonist that was promised. Arguments about canon and the demands of cosplay transfer over pretty well. And even though Lucas has tried to release new stuff that screws with continuity, the real fans know that even he doesn't get to do that.

As a guidebook, of course, as an instrument of epistemology meant to help people better perceive and reliably predict reality, the Bible strikes me as largely useless; its prescriptions are ridiculous or hopelessly atavistic where they are not trite, its openly supernatural elements are generally worthy of mockery where they aren't stolen altogether from older and generally more coherent myth, and its philosophies are horribly outmoded except where they intersect the general truths of "this sort of social behavior benefits humanity in general, and thus we think you should do it" that you see in almost all major religions (for obvious memetic reasons.) It's something like Who Moved My Cheese? And Why We Should Stone That Person. (And yes, I'm aware that stoning the person who moved your cheese requires a complete misunderstanding of the core tenet of that God-awful management book; that's what makes it a passable analogy.)

But -- unlike Who Moved My Cheese -- it's a fantastic read. There are so many little details, so colorfully painted, and it is so incredibly, accidentally nutty; centuries of accretion and revision and bizarre oral history produced something that can provide enormously useful semiotic callbacks and powerful allegories even among people with only a passing familiarity with the work. Heck, there are misquotes and mistranslations and out-of-context passages that are themselves so ingrained in our culture that they've become pseudo-scriptural themselves; that's a rare thing, and speaks not only to the quality of the work but to the passion and labor of the fan base. I mean, sure, Notre Dame was a political and economic statement, but it was first and foremost fan art. That's amazing to me.

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MattP
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quote:
Your first sentence makes you sound Mormon, and your last sentence makes you sound non-Mormon.
Because it supports old earth/evolution? That's what they teach in biology at BYU so it's not exactly controversial for a Mormon to say it. Yes, there are YEC Mormons, but there is no official support for their position (or against it for that matter).
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Speed
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I just mean, if there wasn't a worldwide flood, how did humanity get from Adam-Ondi-Ahman to the Middle East?

I know they've got a good, progressive science department at BYU, and I know that a lot of graduates are cool with evolution and an old earth. I've always wondered how they square that with D&C 77:6, though.

But that's a bit of a tangent...

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Speed
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Tom: That's a great way of putting it. I find that I'm a lot more impressed with & inspired by certain elements of the Bible as a nonbeliever than I ever was when I was trying to accept it as fact.

And even the bits that are horrifying and stomach-turning are a lot easier to swallow when you read them as macabre fiction. There are some really shocking stories in there, and it's nice to be able to read them with a sense of humor, rather than awkwardly wedging a moral lesson somewhere it clearly doesn't belong.

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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by Speed:

  • Have you ever read the Bible (however your culture defines that term) cover-to-cover?
  • How many times have you completed it, and when was the last time?
  • What version/translation/edition(s) do you use?
  • What supplemental materials do you use, and why?
  • If you like, what is your religious background?
  • If you like, describe the experience of reading the Bible, anything that surprised you, and any ways it affected your life and religious/philosophical viewpoints.


Thanks.

1) Yes

2) It's hard to say. I've read it through only once consecutively. I've kept a rough track of how many times I've read each book, though, and I would say I've read the bible through maybe 5 times? For example, I've read the Gospel of St. John over 20 times (at least) but only read through the book of Numbers twice. Like most people, I tend to re-read my favorite parts over
and over while skipping the boring parts. Other than looking up quotes for a recent argument, the last time I read it was several weeks ago. (the show "Vikings" inspired me to reread I Corinthians and Ecclesiastes)

3) King James Version.

4) Strong's Concordance, as well as a Ryrie Study Bible. (which gives pretty exhaustive analysis, explanation, weights and measures, historical and cultural context, etc.) I've read maybe 20 books written about the Bible, including "The Bible As Literature" by Henn, which I strongly recommend.

5) I grew up in the IFB movement, which my parents left when I was 12. (due to the church we were attending starting to get a wee bit culty) I stopped attending church for a while, started again at a non-denominational church when I was 16-20. I've attended maybe 15 church services in the past 4 years since. I would say I'm nominally Christian, in that I greatly appreciate and am fond of the ceremonies, culture, and fellowship, but I think it's far too illogical and irrational for me to actually accept and live. (at least at this point in my life) I do believe in God. I also think my belief in God is irrational. *shrugs*

6) The Bible is so tied up with who I am as a person that I think it'd be impossible to fully extricate myself from it's influence. I began reading it when I was 5 years old (I was fairly bright), and even before that my earliest memories are of being told Bible stories (often with the aid of flannel board cutouts), hearing the Bible read at the dinner table, hearing it being quoted and sung and discussed.

I grew up attending a group called AWANA, which teaches young children scripture memorization. (Learning how to memorize things quickly is actually a very useful skill, and I'm pretty grateful for it today) I memorized several thousand verses, long passages of scripture, and several books of the Bible, including the entire Book of James, Book of I Timothy, and most of Matthew, and a large number of the Psalms. (when I was 19 I decided to memorize all the Psalms in a year, but failed) The scripture is always with me.

As far as how it's affected my life? Tremendously. The scripture is always with me, in the back of my head, and it's both comforting and a little disconcerting to realize how fundamentally our literature, culture, and art is based on it. I hear people quote it almost every day, and quite a few snatches of poetry or powerful phrases that are often used for emphasis in writing or conversation are taken from it. It gave me a very large (and antiquated) vocabulary as a child, and opened my mind to a vast and deep world of poetry, symbolism, philosophy, mythology, and story. It wasn't until later in life that the words "2000 years ago" had real contextual meaning for me... the Gospels had such an immediate presence about them that I could almost smell the fish and feel the breeze and hear the creaking wood at the Sea of Galilee.

There is a power and beauty to the words in some places (especially in the gospels and many of the epistles) that is hard to describe or quantify. The stories are especially interesting and quite unique - I'm often reminded of the Star Trek:TNG episode "Darmok" by how some believers I know can (and often do) describe different life stories or situations simply by referring to various Bible stories. You see this often in our stories, books, movies, songs... one could argue that the Bible acts as a repository for tropes that have become ubiquitous throughout Christian culture, since for many, many centuries it was the *only* common story book for all of Christian Europe.

To echo Blackblade, there are always new things I find in it that surprise me, and you could spend your entire life studying it and not have a complete understanding of all of the various meanings and implications possible. I wish I could remember one book I read that (something like "the Bible and Archeology") that gave a cursory overview of Hebrew society around the time the Bible was written, the different people groups referred to, the context that most of the authors were working within, and the intended audience of each book. I don't think it's really possible to fully understand the Bible just reading it on it's own, though.

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Speed
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Thanks for that. One of the things that surprises me most about these responses is how many non-LDS people still use the KJV. Not knocking it--I love the KJV, and that's still the translation most commonly used in adages and expressions. But I was under the impression that most non-Mormons had moved on to more modern translations for general study. Looks like the KJV isn't as dead as I'd assumed. Interesting.
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cloark
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Speed:
quote:
Your first sentence makes you sound Mormon, and your last sentence makes you sound non-Mormon. Which is correct?
I am Mormon. As Matt mentioned, there is no official support from the LDS church for or against old-earth creationism, evolution, or a local flood. (There are certainly a variety of opinions from notable church leaders, however.)

quote:
I know they've got a good, progressive science department at BYU, and I know that a lot of graduates are cool with evolution and an old earth. I've always wondered how they square that with D&C 77:6, though.
The 1,000 year periods in Revelation/D&C 77 are post-creation. The earth was already really, really old by the time Adam and Eve showed up.

quote:
if there wasn't a worldwide flood, how did humanity get from Adam-Ondi-Ahman to the Middle East?
There is lots of time between Adam and Noah. Plenty of time for someone to build a boat, or go on some really long walks. Noah himself built a boat and spent a long time on it. A local flood could have been a nice way to kick off a long boat ride that could end in the Middle East.

I'll be honest, things like this (particularly the flood) aren't things that I consider the highest priority to work out; for some people, possible conflicts like these are extremely important. Once I've learned everything I need to know about the divinity of Christ, and mastered things like loving my neighbor and not ignoring my kids to spend time with the internet, I'll be able to turn more of my focus to things like this. Now, I'm off to read a book about a baby penguin named Pip . . . .

Edit: Fixed quote tags.

[ April 16, 2013, 09:53 AM: Message edited by: cloark ]

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:
quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
For me, reading the Bible straight through would be like reading a (small) library in the order that things are shelved. I don't think it is necessarily a useful way to approach the Bible.

Interesting. There is a lot of study on the significance of the ordering of the Bible. I think there is a lot of meaning laden in the structure of the Bible, and I have never read it as encyclopedic entries in a big tome.
Really? That is how most people, including the religion teachers I had in high school, approach it.
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Armoth
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:
quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
For me, reading the Bible straight through would be like reading a (small) library in the order that things are shelved. I don't think it is necessarily a useful way to approach the Bible.

Interesting. There is a lot of study on the significance of the ordering of the Bible. I think there is a lot of meaning laden in the structure of the Bible, and I have never read it as encyclopedic entries in a big tome.
Really? That is how most people, including the religion teachers I had in high school, approach it.
Ya. A lot of rabbinic commentary points to the structure and meta-structure as one of the major drivers of interpretation.
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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by Speed:
Thanks for that. One of the things that surprises me most about these responses is how many non-LDS people still use the KJV. Not knocking it--I love the KJV, and that's still the translation most commonly used in adages and expressions. But I was under the impression that most non-Mormons had moved on to more modern translations for general study. Looks like the KJV isn't as dead as I'd assumed. Interesting.

There are quite simply no modern translations that match the beauty, poetry, and literary excellence of the King James Version. There are hyper literal translations (such as the NASB), simple and easy to read translations (such as the NIV), and awful Paraphrase translations (like The Message *shudder*), but, as far as I know, no attempts to translate the bible as a literary work. Which is a shame.

quote:
Ya. A lot of rabbinic commentary points to the structure and meta-structure as one of the major drivers of interpretation.
Could you extrapolate on this? I understand that some books, such as Ecclesiastes, the Song of Song, and the Minor Prophets are focused around one major philosophical or theological point and ought to be read as a whole. But what of the Major Prophets who cover many different subjects, or the Books of History, or the Pentateuch? What impact does structure have on their interpretation?

This is a legitimate question, btw. It's a concept I haven't really heard of before.

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Dogbreath
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Also, you should be aware that most Christian Bibles have a different order than the Hebrew Bible. Specifically (for Protestants):

The Pentateuch
The Books of History (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther)
The Books of Wisdom (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)
The Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel)
The Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)

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Armoth
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Yes. Christian Bible orders things chronologically. Hebrew Bible orders things thematically.

I currently work for an organization called Aleph beta Academy where we are teaching Judaism in a way where the relevance and applicability to one's personal life is a lot more clear. The following is a video from an unreleased course on the book of Joshua.

Let me know if this helps: http://clevertech.wistia.com/medias/jescbf8nkx

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dkw
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quote:
Originally posted by Dogbreath:
Could you extrapolate on this? I understand that some books, such as Ecclesiastes, the Song of Song, and the Minor Prophets are focused around one major philosophical or theological point and ought to be read as a whole. But what of the Major Prophets who cover many different subjects, or the Books of History, or the Pentateuch? What impact does structure have on their interpretation?

This is a legitimate question, btw. It's a concept I haven't really heard of before.

High school (and college) Bible teachers have to make choices, because there is a ton of material and not enough time. But there are also Christian theologians and Biblical scholars who write about canonical order.

For example, one birds-eye view is to see the whole structure of the Hebrew Bible as organized around crossings of the Jordan. Israel's 'primal narrative' is the Pentateuch and the former prophets, and it hinges at the river. The Pentateuch is primarily about the gift of the land, and ends at the point of crossing into it. The Jordan is a geographical, theological, and literary border. The former prophets begin with the entrance into the land, but then chronicle the slow decline and loss, ending with the exile. The third section of the canon, the writings, ends with 1&2 Chronicles, even though Ezra and Nehemiah are chronologically later. Which means that the writings end with Cyrus' proclamation allowing the return from exile. Into the land, out of the land, return to the land.

That would be one, grossly over-summarized, example of why the order of the books might matter. For a more in-depth analysis along the same lines, a book recommendation.

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steven
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quote:
Originally posted by dkw:

For example, one birds-eye view is to see the whole structure of the Hebrew Bible as organized around crossings of the Jordan. Israel's 'primal narrative' is the Pentateuch and the former prophets, and it hinges at the river. The Pentateuch is primarily about the gift of the land, and ends at the point of crossing into it. The Jordan is a geographical, theological, and literary border.

"i looked over Jordan and what did I see
comin' for to carry me home..."

Those lyrics make a lot more sense to me now, given all that. Truly your post is a veritable "river of wisdom". ROFL

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dkw
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That song refers to the story of Elijah being taken into heaven.

quote:
Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.’ Elisha said, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ He responded, ‘You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.’ As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, ‘Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

-- 2 Kings 2:7-12 (NRSV)


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C3PO the Dragon Slayer
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1) Cover-to-cover, admittedly not. I've read about 60-70% of the Old Testament (probably more from fragmented readings) and 100% of the New Testament. I've read everything from Adam to Solomon and some scattered passages from the Babylonian Exile and after. And all of Daniel. The biggest omission in my biblical literacy is the minor prophets.

2) I read the Bible recreationally, sometimes when I'm bored with homework, sometimes when the sermon in church is boring, and whenever the book happens to be there. Only once did I go for a complete cover-to-cover devotionals run, which lasted through Psalms and Proverbs and then tapered off. I read the New Testament (a much smaller commitment, not only because it's shorter, but because it's easier to understand) on separate occasions.

3) I use a Laridian Pocket Bible app that lets me compare versions, so I switch between them. I gravitate the most towards the NIV, because it is the version that my study Bible uses and it is written in plain English. I believe strongly in the appeal of the vernacular for religious texts.

4) Both my devotional study Bible and the aforementioned Bible app have commentaries and translation notes, which I have found to be useful to understanding the text.

5) I was raised as a Christian; my grandfather was a Lutheran pastor. I don't affiliate with any particular denomination, and I have some interpretations of Scripture that probably would offend some of my ultra-conservative fellow believers, but I do believe that Jesus is the Christ and that he paid for our sins.

6) I feel like I could go on forever about interesting experiences and insights I had reading the Bible, but I've been typing this for an hour and I need to study for an exam tomorrow. I look forward to continuing to read and hopefully post in this thread.

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Papa Moose
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1) Yes.

2) I've read the Bible cover-to-cover sequentially twice. Once for a class (The Bible as Literature) in college, and once for, I don't know, "personal edification" I guess, also during my college years (though it was in the summer). I've quite possibly read through all of it many more times, though piecemeal, having cycled through a "Bible in a Year" type schedule uncounted times, but never without missing parts here or there, so no guarantee I didn't miss the same part every time. I'm still going through such a cycle now, though I've only been doing the new testament readings most days.

3) The Bible as Lit class used King James. Most of my reading I do with NIV (1984), though for deeper study I have a parallel that also has NASB, KJV, and Amplified.

4) For personal reading I haven't used additional materials in a while (other than a reading schedule), but in various study groups I use what they provide. I used to keep a commentary nearby (well, I studied near where I could access it), and at one point worked through much of the "Through the Bible" series by J. Vernon McGee.

5) Raised slightly heretical Roman Catholic, been to several different protestant denomination churches over many years, currently at a non-affiliated formerly-American-Baptist (I think) church.

6) Hmm. That's a broad question. I guess what surprises me the most (but only to some degree) is how often it seems like I'm reading an entirely different thing than someone else who's reading the same thing. I attribute this difference to the Holy Spirit. Absent this Spirit, I think it's just words on a page (well-meaning words), where with the Spirit it's capital-T Truth. I also recognize that many consider that opinion/experience self-deluding and worthy of derision. So be it, I guess. In that vein, my reading experience was very flat when I took the Bible as lit class. Fuller when I read through the whole thing on my own, but much more meaningful taken in smaller chunks, where my goal has been more than "finish this."

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dkw
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You had to read the whole thing cover-to-cover for a semester class?

Do you think most of your class actually did? How much other reading was there?

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Papa Moose
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A quarter class, actually, yeah. There was no other reading. It was a seminar type class, so the discussion went wherever we took it, rather than following a particular topic. The professor reminded me of a cross between the coolness of Chris Knight and the oddness of Lazlo Hollyfeld. The class was maybe 8 people, and I'm pretty sure one or two didn't read everything, or at least not well enough to remember it when we talked about it.
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dkw
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Upper level elective?

I wasn't thinking -- I was picturing trying to assign that much to my first-year GE class. It would be a disaster.

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Papa Moose
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It was in the "College of Creative Studies," which kinda treated all its classes as upper- or graduate-level. I don't think this course allowed freshmen. I took it as a sophomore, but I believe I was the youngest, and there were a couple graduate students.
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dkw
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So did you actually study the literary aspects of the Bible, or did "Bible as Literature" just mean discussing the Bible from a non-confessional perspective?

(Sorry for the thread hijack. I'm very interested in syllabus development right now.)

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Speed
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These are great responses, thanks everybody. I want to go back and engage with some of the things that have been said when I get some time.

Meanwhile, Armoth, thanks for posting that link. That was a cool program. Made some interesting points, and gave me something to think about.

It also reminded me of some other sources I've been using while reading the Bible. In a previous post I attached a picture of the books I've been using as supplemental resources. But I've also found some online sources that have been very helpful. I'll link a few of the sites I've found most useful.

Bibledex has a video about each book in the Bible. They're short, but quite interesting and well made.

Yale University's Introduction to the Old Testament. I'm about half way through this course, and it's very good.

Yale University's Introduction to the New Testament. I listened to this last year, and loved it. Full of amazing information.

Mormon Stories: An Academic Introduction to the New Testament. This is sort of like a condensed version (if you can call 5-6 hours "condensed") of the Yale course. It was released by Mormon Stories, and Jared Anderson is a Mormon. But the actual content is very academic, and doesn't touch on Mormon theology very much at all.

I've got some others, but I've got to hang out with my 4-year-old, so I'll leave it at that.

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Papa Moose
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Literary aspects. I don't remember it all that well, but we approached it the same way one might approach a novel (or collection of short stories, perhaps). Narrative, point-of-view, style, structure, character development... stuff like that. (Please remember this was over half my life ago, so my memory is far from fresh.)
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Olivet 2.0
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quote:
Originally posted by Speed:

  • Have you ever read the Bible (however your culture defines that term) cover-to-cover?
  • How many times have you completed it, and when was the last time?
  • What version/translation/edition(s) do you use?
  • What supplemental materials do you use, and why?
  • If you like, what is your religious background?
  • If you like, describe the experience of reading the Bible, anything that surprised you, and any ways it affected your life and religious/philosophical viewpoints.


Thanks.

1). Yes.

2). Six or seven times. Used to be a regular thing, and reading new translations when I was a teen. I don't think I've done it since I've been married, so at least 20 years.

3). KJV, NIV, ASV, and I studied koine Greek at Uni, specifically so I could read the New Testament in Greek. I do not recall the specific edition of Greek New testament, though.

4). I did it with Scofield's reference once, Strong's Concordance, and I relied rather heavily on my lexicons when I started the Greek one. Got better as I went and used it less, which was rather the point.

5). My family was Baptist, very religious. We attended church 3 times a week. I was the star of Sunday School memory work (because of childhood eidetic memory) and finished all Awana programs in 2 years. Then, when the Baptists stopped answering my questions (or even calling on me when I raised my hand), I started going to the church that supported my Christian school, which was Evangelical. Went to a Presbyterian school for my degree, where I attended services with many friends (Catholic, Pres. Lutheran and Anglican). Am now essentially an atheist (a six on the scale of agnosticism)

6). Was surprised, initially, by all the sex and how badly women were treated. Reading that stuff after being told all your life that this book holds the truths of existence is a bit confusing. I asked questions until my questions made people uncomfortable enough to avoid me, and then I found new people. My last stab was learning Greek. I finally decided that the Bible could only be a fallible, human document (with some profound ideas, to be sure) that did not deserve the unqualified reverence it was afforded, and gave up on it before deciding to learn Hebrew.

There is a lot in this fellow's journey that I identify with. The video sums up the philosophical violence of my experience fairly well:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2013/04/a-powerful-account-of-one-ex-christians-journey-to-apostasy/

[ April 19, 2013, 08:19 PM: Message edited by: Olivet 2.0 ]

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Teshi
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- Have you ever read the Bible (however your culture defines that term) cover-to-cover?

No, but I taught set of religious studies classes and read a good lot of it in the process, but not in order, as it were.

- How many times have you completed it, and when was the last time?

Once (see above).

- What version/translation/edition(s) do you use?
- What supplemental materials do you use, and why?

NIV. I had some interpretive materials.

- If you like, what is your religious background?

"Non-religious"; now atheist simply because there is a word for it, even if my parents wouldn't necessarily chose to label themselves with it.

- If you like, describe the experience of reading the Bible, anything that surprised you, and any ways it affected your life and religious/philosophical viewpoints.

This is the only reason I am answering these questions. Before I taught these classes, I had a generally positive view of the Bible from a non-religious standpoint. I thought that the stories generally made sense. I was aware of the violence, of course (I had read the New Testament).

Studying the Bible with my classes was a very weird experience, partly because children ask questions. Children, of course, get a fairly extirpated version of the Bible* and yet, and yet there were some times when I had to think, "how the heck can I teach this without blowing my cover?". Not because it was violent, necessarily, but because it simply required an unbelievable amount of mental gymnastics to make it hang together with the interpretations that were commonly applied. Like I said, children ask questions. I absolutely do not believe in dismissing difficult questions as disrespectful or unanswerable and yet if a child pointed to something that obviously was morally abhorrent, or didn't make sense, I had to consult the books and stand up there and explain how it all supposedly worked even though in my brain I was shouting "you're right, small child, it doesn't make sense."

So I used to think that it held together, that it had earned its percieved worth from being coherent and meaningful to a certain group of people, even if it no longer did. Upon reading it, I was amazed that people presumably sat for generations and listened to these tales without their heads exploding and saying, "waaaaaait a second, this is kind of a stretch/awfully bizarre/morally abhorrent/incoherent/downright contradictory with that last bit we read."

Teaching the Bible from the Bible* to children in an explanatory way, even if you accommodate answers and take a respectfully questioning attitude (as I did) is antithetical to teaching them critical thinking skills. You can't champion critical thinking skills and then say, "okay, children, put that aside for a moment and come with me into a land of story where, actually, you have to do some mental gymnastics in order to have this work."

*Please note that for the most part, these children were directly experiencing the text from the Bible. We didn't do all the main OT stories, but we did a lot of them. Even the ones with prostitutes in. Yep.

*As we are all aware, lots of children's Bible stories are deliberately picked to cut out the stories with inconsistencies of one kind or another. Or, they're rendered with the cultural trappings that make them make sense (or simply flesh out the story) that have no source in the Bible.

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