Monday, December 11, 2006

The Road to Salvation

More on having just read the Christian Bible.

So, what's my goal? Oddly enough, it isn't salvation. For me, chasing after personal salvation is too self centered. It's all, "I WANT", or mindless personal comfort, and seems to miss the point entirely. (Many of my close personal Jewish friends seem to understand this. And it's a good thing to get a glimpse at that understanding.) If i achieve salvation, it will be as a side effect of the life i lead. That's assuming salvation is achievable. And this is by no means certain.

So, what's next in my road to spiritual growth? Well, i may go back and read the other bits using the WEB version. Or, i may start again, but use biblical commentaries, compiled by biblical scholars. It's very likely that these people have historical context information to add that i don't. Why not leverage their hard work?

For example, i once heard an interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke. In the story, a priest walks by the hurt person, who was presumed dead. Without context, it sounds like this person is a hypocrite. But under Levitican law, such a priest is not allowed to touch the body of a dead person except that of a very close relative. So, this person acted properly in context. My reading of Leviticus didn't make this obvious to me. But someone who really studied it would know. Does this dramatically change the story? Maybe not. But it does make the story believable to the original audience. But another thing the Biblical scholars would tell me is who, exactly, are the Samaritans? Well, these people were Jews who set up a new city on another hill. Now, cities need serious support. So, these people called their city a holy city. But, to the Jews, Jerusalem was The Holy City. So, those who supported Jerusalem considered the Jews who supported this other city as the lowest kind of creature on Earth. They despised them even more than any non-Jew. This changes the story entirely. It means that the person who clearly acted selflessly and honorably was a member of the worst scum of the Earth. And, this clearly reflected poorly on those who considered themselves the most righteous. So, the story was carefully crafted to make people take ownership of these issues, in no uncertain terms. Yet, due to the ravages of time, there is much that is uncertain or missleading.

Perhaps it is time for modern parables. For example, on an airplane, the steward(ess) says, "In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop down from the ceiling. Place your own mask on your face before assisting others.". This little statement is the same as "before you remove the speck in your brother's eye, remove the log that is in your own eye." Perhaps the modern version will resonate with people in modern culture better.

I'm not quite sure when i started this Bible reading project. And there was a year or two where i paused because my Palm Pilot was nearly unusable. I fixed it, and continued. Probably three years total time. But, i've read more than a hundred other books in the mean time. I've also watched movies, and was otherwise properly entertained. The years go by quickly. So, my advise, start reading. In this, the end goal of finishing is not the important part. Don't worry about it. It's what you get out of the process of going through it that matters.


Anonymous said...
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Stephen said...

I saw this elsewhere:

One of my degrees is in Biblical Studies. I’d say this about the Bible:

It is mostly incoherent plagiarism, assembled by people with agendas, and never intended to be relevant 20 centuries later.

-- Greg Peterson