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Cherry-Picking the Bible

What I Heard on the #704 Bus

Today, I went by bus to the Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax. On the return trip, I took he MTA #704 from Fairfax and Santa Monica back to my apartment in West L.A. I was treated to an interesting conversation between two Christian women sitting in front of me. They had each read certain fashionable sections of the Bible—but not the entire Bible—and were talking at cross-purposes during the entire 40-minute ride. They used a lot of five dollar words like “tribulation” and freely speculated what was in the Mind of the Creator. They had slightly conflicting views of hell, and went into great detail on how worms devoured buried corpses.

Raised as a Roman Catholic, I never regarded the Bible as the only authoritative source of God’s word. To do that would be to admit that God perhaps existed two thousand years ago, but has not had anything to say to man during the intervening two millenia. (Catholics believe that God also has spoken  through the Saints.)

The two women were passing a Bible back and forth so that they could score points off each other. I noticed that theirs was a Protestant Bible, minus the books and selected chapters that Martin Luther had pulled—although they were set in concrete by the 5th century A.D.— well before the Christian/Orthodox and Catholic/Protestant splits. These books included:

  • 1 and 2 Esdras
  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • Wisdom (one of my favorite books)
  • Ecclesiasticus (also called Sirach)
  • 1 and 2 Maccabees

Was Martin Luther inspired by God to cut these books? Or did they go against his own religious beliefs?

That’s a big problem with the Bible. Which version does one thump? I prefer the Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha, because it doesn’t reflect any one person’s views. Also, if I were a part of that argument between the two women, I would have made the following points:

  • The Bible is not the only authoritative Word of God: There is also The Cloud of Unknowing, The Imitation of Christ, and many great works by the Saints
  • There are many great passages in the Bible (especially Psalms and Ecclesiastes), but there’s also a lot of dreck that virtually no one believes, such as are found in the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Numbers, and a few other places
  • I believe in God (or The Gods), but I do not presume to look into the Mind of God

Of course, if I had opened my mouth, I am sure I would have been damned to Heck by both women, who were not about to listen to a vile heretic like me.