My wife is the most beautiful person that I know. I have observed her for many years. Since I am pretty crazy about her, my attention is definitely focused on her most of the time.
She has been a Christian since she was 8, wandering though the various denominations in America. Presently, she is nominally a Baptist, as she was when she first got “saved” 47 years ago.
My wife’s relationship to the scriptures is fascinating to me. I once described to her what I perceived to be her approach to the scriptures in an analogy that I call “clouds”. Since then, I have used this analogy with other Christians with varying results. In the case of my wife, when I told her the analogy, she replied “Yes! You finally got it!”
So here goes. With respect to the scriptures, my wife reads maybe 15% of the bible, max. The ugly, depressing, crushingly dull, and appallingly violent parts she simply ignores. Most recently she has found a devotional (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) which she effectively uses as a filter: She simply reads the verses in this book rather than reading her bible itself. In the process she neatly skips the uncomfortable parts of the bible. She also sees amazing insights in these verses. They “jump off the page” for her, and she finds all kinds of satisfying enlightenment and transformation through this process.
I have repeatedly told my wife that I envy her: She is like the person who, gazing at the clouds, sees in them all manner of beautiful things: People, animals, trees, and so forth, all bathed in this amazing golden light.
My relationship with the scriptures has been very different from this: I became a Christian in 1983, having been evangelized by a man who read the entire bible cover to cover four times a year. I absorbed the bookish quality of his faith and proceeded to study the bible exhaustively. First I simply read the bible cover to cover more times than I can count (certainly more than 20 or so). Once I became dissatisfied with simply reading the scriptures, I began to study more deeply. I learned Hebrew. (Interestingly, I did not pursue Greek as most bookish Christians do; I was far more interested in the Old Testament than in the New Testament, and this has had a profound impact on my journey: More on this later.)
In this respect, I moved down the path of being less of a cloud-gazer (similar to my wife), and more of a cloud-studier. Similar to the relationship that a meteorologist has with clouds, for example. In the process, much of the magic of the bible was lost to me. Instead, I gained a deeper and more realistic understanding of what this collection of ancient documents really is.
Eventually, I learned enough Hebrew to read the book of Ruth. In the process, I became immersed in the Jewish culture, and this lead to exploring works of ancient Jewish literature. I became at least familiar with the Talmud, the Midrash, and ancient Jewish authors like Josephus. This lead eventually to the worst question that you can ask as a Christian which is:
Where does the bible come from?
Stop!!!! OK, I have your attention, hopefully. Huge disclaimer: If you value your faith, do not read on. I am absolutely not responsible for the consequences of you reading this material at this point? Got it? Let’s move on.
Here is the First Proposition: The collection of ancient documents commonly referred to as the bible (actually a combination of ancient Jewish documents commonly referred to among Christians as the Old Testament plus early Christian documents referred to as the New Testament) is merely a work of human culture, and not the “Word of God” in any sense.