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70 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As a religious work and as literature, 17 Mar 2004
This review is from: The Bible: Authorized King James Version (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
The Holy Bible ("Book divine! Precious treasures thou art mine!"--to recall a popular hymn) like many great works of religion can be taken on two levels. The first is as literature, the second as the revealed word of God.
As far as literature goes, the King James Version, "translated out of the original tongues" during the time of Shakespeare some four hundred years ago has been since its inception the standard by which all other versions are compared. More than that, along with the works of Shakespeare, the King James Version of the Bible is the bedrock upon which all English literature rests. The language used by those anonymous translators ranges from the mundane to ethereal poetry of the highest order. If you are reading the Bible as literature, the King James version is the one to get. More than that, one can hardly be considered educated without at least some familiarity with this great work.
As far as the Bible being the revealed word of God, there are two possible ways of looking at it.
One, literally; that is, the Bible as the absolute, denotative truth put down by scribes acting as instruments of God. This is the way Christian fundamentalists view the Bible. "God said it. I believe it. That settles it!" (To recall a bumper sticker.)
Two, symbolically; that is, the Bible as wisdom from God set forth in symbol, parable, story, myth and metaphor.
To be blunt, I don't think there is much to be said for the literal approach. In the first place, the Bible is contradictory in many places and it requires some clever babbling to reconcile the contradictions. For example it is written in many places that the Lord was moved to anger by the misbehavior of his people. Indeed in Kings 17:18 it is reported: "Therefore, the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight." A God that gets angry would seem to be not much of a God and cannot reasonably be reconciled with the all-knowing, all-powerful being seen elsewhere in the Bible. Attributing anger to God is a pathetic anthropomorphic projection. There is a lot of this silliness in all religions of course.
But more than that, the Bible itself clearly indicates in many places that a literal expression is not what is meant. Thus Jesus spoke in parables ("And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables..." Matthew 22:1) and often used metaphorical language ("Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" Matthew 7:3). Clearly a literal meaning was not intended.
Because of these considerations the Bible is not taken literally by most practicing Christians. Consequently the "seven days" of creation can be seen as a metaphor for Big Bang cosmology (if one likes), and the Garden of Eden as a metaphor for human nature before we acquired consciousness.
The Bible can also be seen as psychological truth. All great religious works that have come down to us are repositories of psychological truth. They have survived partly because people have found them valuable in their daily lives. Regardless of literal truth they are psychologically true. It is a good psychology, for example, to "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Or, "neither cast ye your pearls before swine." And it is a great psychological, as well as a moral, truth that "all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this the law and the prophets." (We are in Matthew 7 where Jesus speaks with especial eloquence.)
How does the Bible compare to the other great religious works? is a question worth considering. Certainly it is longer than the most famous works of other religions such as The Bhagavad Gita of the Hindus or the Tao Te Ching of the Taoists, although not much longer than the Koran. It is much more uneven than any of these, speaking in a multitude of voices from the begets of the Old Testament and the sublime poetry of Ecclesiastes and the Psalms to the eloquence and wisdom of Jesus in the New Testament. One would need to take all the Vedas, for example, from the hymns of the Brahmans to Krishna's expression in the Gita to find something comparable, and indeed there are many similarities.
In one sense all religious works of any antiquity are similar in that they are written in a symbolic and metaphorical language. If they were not they would not survive because the literal concerns of one age are not that of another, and furthermore, it is impossible to express many of the great psychological truths in a strictly denotative way. Even more than that, it is perhaps best to express these truths in a general way so that each of us may discover them ourselves as they relate to the challenges of our lives. Thus it is said that "Many are called but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). Called to what? Chosen for what? Jesus was referring to wedding guests, but this passage speaks to us of spiritual matters.
As does the Bible itself, properly understood.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Feb 2009 14:56:28 GMT
"Many are called but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). Well, some folk think this is simply plagiarism by who ever wrote Matthew, as in lifted from Plato four centuries earlier, with, "Many take the wand, but few become Bacchoi", referring to those being initiated into the mysteries of Bacchus/Dionysus, where the wand refers to the thyrsus (used in the mystery ritual), and becoming 'Bacchoi' refers to the aim of personal communion with the inner God, here Bacchus (or Dionysus), but many attempted it, few acheived it. Such was the notion of the Gnostics, considered by some the real original christians (The Therapeutae of Alexandria?), later persecuted by the Roman Catholic church as heretics, since the inner God notion was considered a heresy, and all mystery temples (like at Eleusis, near Athens) were subsequently destroyed by the rampaging mad monks of the 5th century after Emperor Theodosius made christianity the ONLY permissible religion in the Roman Empire. Hail Caesar; Hail Jesus!

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Apr 2009 11:44:38 BDT
John McManus says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Dec 2010 17:37:02 GMT
GlynLuke says:
Mr McManus,
Don`t be so bloody pompous. Anyway, literally speaking we`re all `spiritual`, ie. made of spirit.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2011 07:15:23 GMT
' SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED '

1 Corinthians 2 : 6 - 16.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2011 07:16:40 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 26 Feb 2011 07:17:29 GMT]
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