Before anyone finds out about this, I must clarify a few things. My friends (if I still have any) may jump to the conclusion that I have suddenly discovered religion, had a spiritual awakening, or worse yet, fallen under the influence of television preachers.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not like the Bible schools and discussion groups that churches conduct for children and converts. When I began this effort, my motivation was not religious in nature. I am a skeptic in these matters, as readers of this blog (if there are any) are aware. My motivation was threefold.
First, I was simply curious to see what is contained in this book that so many people live their lives by and accept as absolute truth -- even though I do not. Having survived for so many centuries, I reasoned, there must be something meaningful here. Now that I am retired, I have the time to explore this.
Second, I wanted to read certain things in their original context. I wanted to track down the source of various church doctrines, as well as the anti-Semitism of the New Testament as outlined in the book Constantine's Sword.
Finally, during my university days I learned that the Bible contains passages of great depth and beauty that are worth reading even by those who lack faith. That was one of the things I took from Dr. Russell Peck's course in classical and scriptural backgrounds of English literature. I took that course, which was required of all English majors, as a college freshman in 1972. I wish I'd been mature enough to fully appreciate it at the time.
My page-a-day Bible reading project has already had an unexpected benefit. I keep coming across phrases I recognize from literature and everyday life. I had no idea they originated in the Bible. Here are a few examples.
The place name "Bethel" is found all over the United States. Bethel, or Beth-El, was an ancient city in Palestine described in Genesis 12:8 and 13:3.
"Born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards" is a phrase I remember from a Herman Wouk novel. The source seems to be Job 5:7.
On a lighter note, Genesis 45:19 states: "You may live on the fat of the land." I clearly recall that phrase from an episode of the Dennis The Menace TV show (1959 - 1963). Dennis' long-suffering neighbor Mr. Wilson decides to go camping. Clutching a hatchet, he declares that he will live on the fat of the land. Dennis wants to go with him. Trouble ensues.
- New Oxford Annotated Bible With The Apocrypha - New Revised Standard Version, College Edition. The one to read if you decide to follow my example. Annotations clarify the sometimes hard-to-understand phrasing in the original material. Extensive commentary and background with an ecumenical attitude, including the supposed authorship of each book - the scholarly position, not church dogma.
- Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews - by James Carroll
- Dr. Russell Peck
- Bethel - Wikipedia
- Dennis the Menace - Internet Movie Database