Now I know Rob Bell is a controversial figure, and not to everyone’s tastes (My wife apparently finds him really irritating!), but, while I don’t agree with everything he says, I find him to be an amazing communicator and writer. I enjoy his work and find that most of what he says makes perfect sense.
Which leads me to the point of this short post – Rob Bell has been writing a fantastic series of blogs on the Bible. I’ve been following them since the beginning and love them. I’ve heard most of what he says before, but, once again, Rob Bell is doing what he does best – communicating complicated things and making them sound simple!
Here’s a taster:
First, then, a bit about how we got the Bible.
Someone wrote something down.
Obvious, but true. And an important starting point.
The Bible did not drop out of the sky, it was written by people.
Again, obvious, but it helps ground us in how to begin thinking about what the Bible is. Many of the stories in the Bible began as oral traditions, handed down from generation to generation until someone collected them, edited them, and actually wrote them down, sometimes hundreds of years later. That’s years and years of people sitting around fires and walking along hot dusty roads and gathering together to hear and discuss and debate and wrestle with these stories.
The people who wrote these books had lots of material to choose from. There were lots of stories floating around, lots of accounts being handed down, lots of material to include. Or not include.
(There’s a line in the Old Testament book of 1 Kings 11 where the author writes
As for the other events of Solomon’s reign-all he did and the wisdom he displayed-are they not written in the book of the annals of Solomon?
Well, yes, I guess they are…it’s just that we have no idea what the author is referring to. Interesting the assumption on the author’s part that not only do we know this, but that we have access to these annals. Which we don’t.
We see something similar in the gospel of John where it’s written
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of disciples, which are not recorded in this book
and then the book ends with this line:
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
It’s as if the writer, just to wrap things up, adds Oh yeah, I left a ton of stuff out.)
The authors of the books of the Bible, then, weren’t just writing, they were selecting and editing and making a multitude of decisions about what material and content furthered their purposes in writing and what didn’t.
These writers had agendas.
Luke: I too decided to write an orderly account for you…
The Book of Esther: This is what happened…
John: These are written that you may believe…
There were points they wanted to make, things they wanted their readers to see, insights they wanted to share. These writers, it’s important to point out, were real people living in real places at real times. And their purposes and intents and agendas were shaped by their times and places and contexts and economies and politics and religion and technology and countless other factors.
What does it tell us about the world Abraham lived in that when he’s told to offer his son as a sacrifice he sets out to do it as if it’s a natural thing for a god to ask…?
The David and Goliath story starts with technology-the Philistines had a new kind of metal, the Israelites didn’t. The story is undergirded by the primal fear that comes when your neighbor has weapons that you don’t have-like spears. Or guns. Or bombs.
Why does the Apostle Peter use the phrase there is no other name under heaven…? Where did he get this phrase and what images from military propaganda would it have brought to mind for his listeners?
writing in real places,
at real times,
choosing to include some material,
choosing to leave out other material,
all because they had stories to tell.
Now, go and read the rest, about Adam and Eve, and Abraham getting ready to kill his son, and the book of Leviticus and so much more. You can find it here – Rob Bell Blog