I think I am going to start a group on facebook or something called, “B.A.” or “Blogs Anonymous. I definitely spend way too much time reading blogs on a variety of issues that span from life, religion, and other events and circumstances, I feel as though I might have to join a group and go through a 12-step program or something. In all serious though, reading other people’s thoughts about just about anything is really interesting to me. It seems to me, in many cases, that people are free to express their thoughts in ways in which they are unable to do any other way. I also think the freedom to say pretty much anything or question just about anything also has an appeal many people enjoy.
One of my favorite blogs is Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight. I am not sure how he has the time to write as much as he does but he always seems to challenge me in my thoughts. The other thing that is so unique about Scot’s blog is that so many people respond and write along with him (I, myself have had a good share of responses as well). Read today, Scot posed a question that I thought I would write about here. I hope that you all will respond to the question with your thoughts as well. The question is,
“When you read the Bible, let’s say for formation primarily, what difference does it make to you to ponder authorship or historical questions?”
I have never been asked this question before. It is a very honest and fitting question. I guess another way to ask this question could be something like, “Does our dependence on the Word of God depend on the authorship of each book of the Bible?” To answer this question with broad strokes of the paintbrush, I thought I would keep it to a couple of simple points:
First and foremost, the Bible only means something if we, as believers, decide that the Bible is not just another book to collect dust on our coffee tables. Rather, we must decide that it is God’s Holy Word to us that brings forth revelation from God, through His witnesses, to us in a written compilation of letters, poetry, history, and narrative. The Bible is so distinctive because it spans a timeline of a lot of important history and events. The authors of the Bible, who witnessed these things and felt it important to write them down for us, are said to be about 40 distinctive people who most likely did not know one another and lived over a span of 1600 years. This is very significant. This is the first point to consider when assessing the question we have been asked to answer.
The second point I would like to make is that the narrative of the Bible centers on the mission of God and ultimately the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The story of the Bible ultimately paints a portrait of God desiring to dwell with His creation. This is exemplified through Jesus, who was and is the Word that become flesh and dwelled among humanity. Through Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice, we can be reunited and reconciled to the Father once again. This is the hope in which the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation speaks of and is hard to miss.
In response to the authorship, there are greetings at the beginning of several books of the Bible that give the author’s name (Paul for instance tells us that he is the author of many of his missionary letters and not another person. In other books, we are told that someone else wrote down the words of the intended author. Jeremiah for example did not write his dissertation. Rather a scribe-friend of his wrote down the words he dictated. Finally, some of the books of the Bible leave us with no authorship (Hebrews for one). That should not discourage us from the validity of the Bible. What it should tell us is that the author of the books of the Bible are not as important as the words we are given to reflect on, meditate on, and obey. We cannot allow our relationship with God to be hindered by the lack of an author’s name. We do not need to worry about plagiarizing the Bible – all we have to do is write down the verse in which we are quoting.
Finally, in the cases in which we do have knowledge of the author’s names and an approximate date in which these letters were written, we are able to learn more about the culture in which these books were written. Since you and I (at least for the majority of people I know who read this blog), we are so far removed from the culture of the Bible (both in time, tradition, culture, language, and understanding).
So – to answer the question in one sentence, I would say that pondering the authorship or historical questions of the Bible are not wrong. It is important to be great students of the Word of God – to read great books, commentaries, dictionaries, and other materials and learn what we can with what we have been given. What is more important though: Christ, His Word, His love, and His people. As we do this, can be better stewards of our time and our energies.