Reviews: The Bible
NOTE: This is written by a Christian. However, I will attempt to be as fair as possible. The Bible is, and has been, the world's best-selling book for years, due to the controversy it has been causing since ancient times. Christians regard it as God's true revelation to His people, while those outside the faith have varying opinions on it, from "a good book" to "a collection of myths and legends," among others. While it certainly contains excellent advice on moral living (though to biblical Christians, it is much more than a moral rulebook), some, even within the faith, may find certain parts disconcerting, such as periods of the Old Testament when God instructed the Israelites to war with those inhabiting Canaan (the land promised by God to the Israelites), resulting in the deaths of many. On the flip side, it contains heartwarming ventures as well, such as the powerful story of a God who became a man to save us from our own destruction. Is the Bible a reliable source of truth? I personally say "Yes, it is," but for you, the reader, I cannot answer that. That is something you will have to answer yourself.
You should read it, but equally you will get nothing out of it
Disclaimer, I believe I'm an exception to my opinion. I was agnostic and got converted by my experience of reading the Bible First of all. Yes this is something you should read. Duh. 1, it governs the behaviour of 1 billion humans. 2, every material you thing you create in life will be destroyed, every friend you meet will die, every emotion you feel will be forgotten. Every legacy will fade into nothing. If you aren't at least exploring what your personal goals and path should be then you're are deluding yourself with apathy. If you believe lack of evidence proves a negative A) You are no mathematician. B) You refuse to open doors because nobody has proved conclusively to you that there is anything behind them. Secondly, if you do choose to read it, don't start at Genesis. Not because it is "less favourable" but just because you will give up around Leviticus and you'll have to go back to my "firstly" (I started at Genesis). Read a selection of Jonah, Ecclesiastes, EITHER Mark, Matthew, Luke and then read John, Acts and a random sample of letters. Revelation if you feel optimistic, and then go from there. Thirdly, you will only get out of it what you will get into. Stuff requires thinking and if you are set to think negatively, or positively then you will interpret it this way. I was reading an interesting Atheist annotated version which was fine until I read stopped and realised that he was challenging statments like "How much more is a human than a sparrow?" when X) It was a metaphor, Y) the writer probably wasn't vegetarian and so a human isn't worth more than a something he would happily kill and eat if it tasted good. I read the Koran recently and I'm going to have to read it up again because I realised I was so caught up in thinking Islam as inferior that I'd stop being willing to actually understand how it could make sense, and the true meaning of what was written. Don't do this. Fourth, don't read the King James, it is mistranslated. The NIV, RSV or ESV are all fine. The Good News too, but remember those aren't literal. Fifth, enjoy and appreciate it for the powerful kind figure Jesus was even if significance gets in the way of that. Remember that many christians believe that creation wasn't word for word in the same way that God didn't literally take away the Devils legs and force him to be a snake just after
An Extremely Difficult But Rewarding Read
The Bible is one of the most influential and controversial works of literature ever created. If it is put under technical scrutiny, one will find several flaws, including but not limited to severe Values Dissonance, Purple Prose, Arc Fatigue and an extremely confusing timeline and continuity. The problem, however, is not in the errors which seem to exist on the surface, but in the fact that most people can't look past them and see the deeper meaning. At more than sixty books and heaven knows how many pages, the Bible can be taxing to read, let alone understand. Often it takes years of study, of learning the history behind the events of the Bible, the various aspects of the culture of the people of the Holy Land, and all the minor changes made in the Bible through years of being translated and re-translated. Knowing the context is essential, especially when reading the Old Testament. Things like all those nit-picky laws from the book of Leviticus might be incomprehensible or even nonsensical to us nowadays, but when the Bible was written, things like that were very significant. Another issue is the fandom/Fandumb. Without even addressing the Hatedom and its various problems, the people who believe in the Bible have a myriad of differing ways of interpreting it, and each group is usually adamant in their belief that their interpretation is exactly the right one. Some people take everything in the Bible completely literally. Some consider the stories to be nothing more than elaborate parables. Some settle in between these two extremes, believing that the Bible is mostly true with some exaggerations. Many extremely well thought-out arguments can be made for each of these interpretations, but they are to be taken with a grain of salt, as none can be proven to be correct. One should study the Bible on one's own and form one's own conclusions. Unfortunately, the Bible's value as pure entertainment is minimal. Nevertheless, readers may notice excellent use of plot devices such as foreshadowing as far back as Genesis. The plot of the Bible is far more cohesive than most people give it credit for, and it's especially impressive for a book which was written by so many people over the course of thousands of years. My advice? Give the Bible an honest try. I can't guarantee you'll enjoy it or believe it, but giving it any effort at all is commendable.
Important to know; A pain to read - a non-religious review
No one can doubt the immense influence the Bible has had on imagery in literature, art, film and TV. Nor can its influence on history be set aside. It is vitally important to be familiar with the Bible to understand these things. That said, it's a giant slog of a read. I doubt anyone but biblical scholars has really really read the whole thing. (If nothing else, I suspect most people only skim the "begats" passages). If you're not familiar with the stories, get a Children's Bible and read that. You'll get the most important bits. The only thing that's probably not in there that you might want is Revelations, which is much more manageable than the whole darn Bible. Frankly, unless you're really into art history, literary analysis, etc, do you really need any more than the core stories? Probably not.
Can this book be reviewed (or read) without bias?
With the countless different interpretations of scripture this is extremely difficult. Yet everyone claims that they as: an atheist, a conservative Christian, a liberal Christian, a Muslim, a Jewish person, etc. hold the keys for objective interpretation. Atheists tend to be pretty objective, yet they introduce cultural bias in their reading. Conservative Christians can (to the dismay/surprise of some of these other groups) display interdenominational unity with their interpretation, while arguing about nonessential issues like holy ghost vs holy spirit, or KJV only-ism. Liberal Christians engage in Biblical criticism while still claiming to take the work "seriously", they accept almost any interpretation (except the conservative one). Islam is basically a faith that positions itself as a "clarification" of Judeo Christianity (there are some misinterpretations). Judaism is the most complicated of all, while Judaism predates Christianity the latter is a continuation of Judaism. Here the Jewish person notes that they share the faith of the founder and most of the writers of Christianity, and therefore they can judge the scriptures the most objectively. The issue with Judaism is that this faith wasn't unified by any means when Christianity took off in the 1st century. Ergo "being Jewish" doesn't grant objectivity here. What's worse is that we can find "experts" and "scholars" to defend or interpret from these perspectives (Bart Ehrman, William Pane Craig, etc). With everyone having their own facts, objectivity can't come through information alone (unless we have a time machine). Instead of presuming our position is better than someone else's, let's look at the scripture from another perspective. In my case, I'm a Conservative Christian who subconsciously roots for the liberal side. So I give the burden of proof to them. So far, they still manage to be attractive in their beliefs, but provide nothing to win me over (substantive arguments). I would suggest this as well to anyone approaching this work. Interpret the scriptures as another person besides yourself. If you "like" or feel loyal to one side, interpret it from the opposite. You may not change what you believe, but you'll see the other perspective more clearly.
Agreed up to a point - but YYMV
My main issue with the Bible is the Christian viewpoint that it denotes a God of love. Every day, I hear Christians go on and on about their God of love. Where is he in this book? For one thing, he apparently cannot think of any way in which to express his love for his creations, except to take a teenage girl and rape her, then abandon her to a very unforgiving society which wasn't exactly known for its kindness towards unwed mothers. She was lucky she wasn't stoned to death. Yet somehow he's not a perverted paedophile. When his son is born he arranges matters so that he will die an agonising death. And, somehow, Christians figure out this means he loves us? I think a fruit basket might have sufficed to give the message. Not to mention the fact that Jesus begs God to forgive his creations for killing him - when God manipulated them into doing it, just to prove a bizarre point. Then there's his penchant for playing cruel and vicious practical jokes. Like demanding one of his followers prove his devotion by brutally slitting his son's throat. Then telling him at the last minute 'Only kidding!'. Never mind that the child - and father - were probably traumatised by that point. They were apparently expected to weep with love and devotion at this last minute reprieve. And, again, somehow, this is twisted into something moral and good on God's part. The Bible is littered with such incidents. What about the man who was told by God to hand over his daughters to a baying mob so that they could rape them and so be distracted into not attacking the men who were his guests? And what about God sending those who don't believe in him to hell? He gives us free will, then bitches when we use it to decide he doesn't exist? That's pretty Machiavellian. God of love? Sorry, not seeing it. And baffled by those who do.
Long Book, Broken Base
The first thing to do would be to choose a translation. The Broken Base can be a stickler about this, accusing others of introducing their own bias, but if you are a casual reader, the best thing to do is just pick something in Modern English. That being said, The Bible is written by around forty different guys written in time periods from ancient Egypt to the early Roman Empire in the first century CE. It is divided into two parts - Hebrew & Greek Scriptures or Old & New Testament - and then into smaller books including narratives, poetry, letters, and Mind Screw, not necessarily in that order; in fact, the books themselves are in Anachronic Order. The narratives contain anything from adventure to drama to even romance, and even a little humor, like Elijah's potty humor in 1 Kings or the demon-possessed nude streakers in Acts. It can also be a very difficult read, with certain parts hard to understand without some knowledge of ancient customs, history, and geography. While quite a few readers seem to think it's a big contradiction, it actually has a few cases of very well hidden Fridge Brilliance, not to mention a lot of Call Backs. There is also Values Dissonance, although that can apply to our time from The Bible's viewpoint as well (of course, it's a bit more complicated then that as it had Values Dissonance WHILE BEING WRITTEN). And then, during/after the reading, you can choose which side of the Broken Base you want to be on...or just have fun watching from the sidelines. Also the varying Alternate Character Interpretation and other interpretations:
- Is God a jerk who racks up a huge body count and then punishes the dead in eternal fire or does he just possess an Omniscient Morality License and just angry that his own creations don't do what he wants them to and leaves the dead in peace?
- Is Satan a Trickster Archetype who's harm pales in comparison to God's or is he a Chaotic Evil Complete Monster responsible for the fall of humankind and a lot of bad stuff afterwards?
- Is Revelation political commentary on Rome or a prophecy of things to come?
- Is The Bible a disjointed anthology that fails history, or does it not only include accurate history, but record ancient history BEFORE IT HAPPENED?
Interesting Storytelling Techniques, Schizophrenic Fanbase
The Bible is a historical goldmine, worth a read purely so one understands the myriad references present in perhaps millions of texts across the world. Being written and compiled over nine-hundred years has affected the editions one has access to, for example the "recent" King James Edition, containing perhaps the inner bigotry of the old King himself filtered in. This does not detract from the main message of the story, however, since that has already been lost in translation. The majority of the story concerns God's revelation to man. Written and serialised as part of some unknown form of distribution that is now lost to time, the effort of the author to convey a story never before seen is obvious and elegant. The other and shorter testament is about Jesus, an incarnation of God that walks the earth and maintains peace among humans for a time. This part of the Bible is far less gory than the previous one, and is of interest to the more intellectual readers. It takes place from the perspectives of several of his followers and generally is more philosophical than the earlier one. Though through this it is made obvious the story has changed hands in terms of author, the style is greatly welcomed and refreshing. Of course, the shortcoming of the Bible is one not at all it's fault, but must be talked about. Over the many hundreds of years since it's creation, it has gained a sizeable set of fans who defend it, quite literally, with the sword. Some level of inexplicable "defence" of this work and it's fans has led even to this very review becoming "blasphemous" for equating it to the normal standards of fiction. This detracts from the literary genius behind the book(s). If only those who use this fictitious design as a basis for their moral compass would realise they are ruining it for everyone else - in quite the same way fans of the Twilight series would if Twilight was well-written.
A moderately entertaining adventure story, with extremely high praise.
It's overdosed with social commentary of the time, with the ancient Hebrews chewing out all those who attacked them in the past, but the plot is actually quite entertaining, dealing with everything from drug rape to regicide; this is a book that pulls no punches! The relationships are also interesting and wide-ranging, but it gets confusing. Also a factor that tends to draw away potential fans is that the Trivia is placed right in the middle of the story. Fans do love their trivia; just look at all the extra information accompanying things like Star Trek or Lord of The Rings, but it's not a good idea to have too much detail right in the middle of the story if the detail doesn't add to the story. The main character of this story, God, is basically one of those people who acts like he's sooo hardcore and pushes people around but in reality, pretty much a gentle, sentimental scaredy-cat who wants to prove he's the scariest guy out there so people will like him. Kind of like everyone I knew at High School. His Son doesn't put on as much of a bluff, but he still acts like he's some sort of bad-ass rogue. I admire that God is basically a good character at heart... he just does mean things to get attention. Some of my favourite stories from the Bible are Jehu the Assassin, Jonah and the Whale, Joseph getting sold as a slave and then becoming a Pharaoh, Mose's adventure, Samson's superhuman strength, and many more. This book has adventure, drama, trauma, tension, suspense, and even a little humour — the author comments that a Rival God's Temple was replaced with a Jewish Toilet. However, one theme the Bible just isn't good at is Horror. Maybe I'm just desensitized by reading various creepypasta over the years, but honestly, "Who Was Phone?" is scarier than the Biblical description of Hell. I guess it's one of those things where your mind is supposed to fill in the gaps, like they do on Broadway Productions, but it's so underdetailed, and as cliched as "day of all the blood" that I'm surprised Dawkins could consider it child abuse. The Book of Revelations is much better, but it's more terrifying in a "WEIRD CREATURES HAVING AN EPIC SUPERNATURAL SHOWDOWN" way. I recommend this book to anyone who likes Elfen Lied, South Park, or Lord of The Rings.