National Bible Week in the US is coming up–it begins this year on November 21. The goal is “to raise awareness of the Bible’s importance and relevance to our nation as a whole, as well as in the lives of individuals.” This goal was established when National Bible Week began in the midst of WWII in 1941.
I love the Bible. It has been a great help to me throughout my life. It has taught me to lean on God as a first resort and not a last one. I appreciate the stories and parables that act as a practical guide to whatever the human condition may present. Mostly, I love that it teaches me about my inseparable relationship with God.
I once shared my appreciation for the Bible with a friend while we were studying overseas. He was searching for answers and was inspired by my enthusiasm for the Scriptures. He said he would start a study of the Bible and we could talk more when he was finished. A couple of months later, I asked him how his Bible study was going, and he rolled his eyes and shook his head. He replied that he had started his study by reading the last chapter, Revelation. He said he wanted to know how the Bible ended! This chapter’s deep symbolism terrified him so much that he told me he couldn’t read any more of the book. I responded that Revelation was filled with symbolic meaning and needed to be interpreted spiritually. My comments made no difference. He had read it from a literal perspective and simply could not accept it.
In their recent book, “America’s Four Gods,” authors Froese and Bader note that those who believe the Bible’s meaning can be understood from a literal perspective often don’t agree on what that meaning is. From Froese and Bader’s extensive survey of Americans’ religious beliefs, they conclude that the evidence is undeniable: “While Christian literalists may claim to be opposed to the idea of interpreting the Bible, speaking with literalists reveal a vast array of disagreements about what the text says and means…”
I respect the deep convictions of my Christian friends who hold a literal understanding of the Scriptures, but it’s not how I read the Bible. For one thing, unless one is reading the original scriptural texts in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, one is always reading a translation or interpretation of Scripture. For another, a literal reading would be filled with contradictions as to the nature of God.
Many years after college, I found myself discussing the Bible with a friend from work who knew I was a Christian Scientist. When I mentioned the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy, he replied, “Sorry, I’m not interested in learning anything about someone’s interpretation of the Bible; I prefer to go straight to the source.” I remember that I didn’t have a quick reply to his comment before the elevator door opened and the conversation abruptly ended.
If I could speak to him today or to my friend from my college days mentioned earlier, I would explain that I had found in Science and Health an invaluable guide that helps me understand the inspired Word of the Bible and the lost principles of spiritual healing used by Jesus Christ and his disciples. The value of this unique interpretation has meant the world to me. It has provided me with the means to gain the scientific understanding to heal as Jesus commanded of all his followers, and as I have been able to demonstrate in my own life.
Regardless of how we each read the Bible, I think all Christians can appreciate the goal of National Bible Week. After all, it is the inspiration that we receive from the Bible and how we put its truth into action that really matters.
With the strength and beauty of her innocence, purity and extraordinary talent, the video below presents seven-year old Rhema Marvanne singing a few of the greatest passages of the Bible: the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9 (Our) – 13).