If not in its entirety, which books?

I wish I had an easy answer. And, yes, it’s important. Reading itself — deep reading — is important, and the Bible is the biggest single influence on the English language itself and English literature. It also shapes our political and social values much more than we’re aware. If it’s important to read Shakespeare, the Bible is even more worthy.

Other reasons to read the Bible?

To counter bad theology and bad politics, for one thing. (Starting with right-wingers and fundamentalists, but then, as Jesus says about that mote in the eye, the spotlight soon swings to my own side of the table.)

To be more aware of the foundations of Western culture, including science — it’s one God, one Truth, an orderly creation rather than chaos or jealous deities. This universe is ruled by a Law or a Design. I’d say Plan, except I don’t want to invoke parties that want to limit the understanding.

To encourage spiritual experience. Meditating on a single verse can be a powerful mantra. Voicing one in Quaker Meeting deepens the worship.

To prompt some lively discussion. Focus on personal experience or insight, rather than creedal speculation. Take nothing at face value while looking for the big sweep of the action. As literature or factual? think of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, at times.

What would you add to this list?


Traversing the entire collection front to back — and it is a collection, an anthology, of many authors and visions — leaves me with a far less conventional interpretation of the text, yet far more admiration for its inventiveness, too. I’m more aware of its weaknesses and the places where our contemporary issues and learning can come to bear, too.

For me, this work is far from done. That’s not a bad reason for reading this magnum opus, is it?

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