…about the Bible…

I’ve been thinking about the Bible. The one I’ve been reading lately, I’d imagine isn’t too different from your own, assuming you have one. (Most people in America, incidentally, do have one. Several in fact. They are often gifts that go unopened or family heirlooms that get trotted out only during funerals if someone takes the time to write all the family births and deaths in it…but I digress.) My Bible is 1141 pages long (small print, by the way). It has little notes in the footer of the text, explaining cultural things you might be interested in, giving some possible options for meanings of particularly arguable texts, and referencing other places in the Bible that contain similar themes, ideas, or wordings. It’s fairly easy to understand. It’s in a more-or-less modern version of English. The stories, even at their longest, are shorter than most novels you’ve probably read. It’s a pretty straightforward, simple, everyday Bible.


I’d imagine most Bibles look comparable to this. There are some variations, of course. Some don’t have all those little (irrelevant) footnotes. Some are worded in different (but similar) wordings of English from my own. Some have different coloured passages of text to indicate words spoken by Jesus. Some aren’t leather-bound. Some are thinner (largely because they saved page-space without the footers). Some are thicker (largely as marketing devices). But in all, I’d imagine the stories are basically the same. The point is consistent from Bible to Bible, I’d think. The words are basically easy to read—or at worst no more taxing than reading a “classic” by Dickens or Austen, or even a dreadful fluff piece by Nick Sparks or anything from Oprah’s Book Club. The point is, that I’d wager good money the Bibles we both have are pretty similar, with only inconsequential differences.


So…here’s the thing. There are thousands—literally THOUSANDS—of books that have been written attempting to explain the Bible. Go to Amazon.com (or, my preferred, BarnesandNoble.com) and type the words “Bible commentary” into the search field. Barnes and Noble gave me over 5000 hits. And these are only a slim margin of the available resources out there. Whereas there are commentaries that discuss the Bible as a whole, most of the commentaries considered to be “good” in Biblical Academia are the ones that deal with only one book of the Bible per volume of the commentary series. (A lot like a standard encyclopedia…except where Vol. 5 of a standard encyclopedia might be for the letter “E,” Vol. 5 of a Bible Commentary might deal with the Bible book of Deuteronomy. You get the idea.) In the case of the Word Biblical Commentary, there are two full books dedicated to just the Biblical book of Genesis. In my bible, Genesis is 50 pages long. The Word Biblical Commentary books on the subject reach a total of 962 pages—about 90% as long as my WHOLE Bible. That seems strangely weighted to me.


Christians, for the most part believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Of course, there are some who debate the degree of inspiration vs. human interpretation blahblahblah…but let’s keep this kind of general and just allow that MOST Christians believe the Bible to be God’s word. God’s perfect, flawless Word. So…why does God’s word—perfect in its simplicity and brevity—need a series of books that dwarf it in page number alone to explain it? Doesn’t that seem kind of stupid? If God didn’t think that what was in the Bible was easy enough to understand, don’t you think he might have just added a bit more within the pages of the actual text rather than wait for some publishing company to fund a new commentary set? Doesn’t it seem just a little bit like these people are wasting their time?


…but maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one left who’s actually interested in studying the actual words IN the Bible, rather than the words written about those words by people who, frankly, are altogether too wordy in the first place. Myself included.


So there you go.


Stuff I Bought from Barnes & Noble:

  • Harvey Pekar – “American Splendor — Another Dollar”
  • Nick Hornby – “Not a Star”
  • Nick Hornby – “Shakespeare Wrote for Money”
  • Nick Hornby – “Housekeeping vs. the Dirt”

…so basically, I’m catching up on my balding dudes who write about day-to-day stuff…


Side note…if the Windows guy and the Mac guy from those commercials both applied for the same job, who do you think they’d be more likely to hire?  The guy in the suit, right?  Makes ya’ think…

4 thoughts on “…about the Bible…”

  1. Consider me as that guy. As in That Guy who does his best to translate a text from Greek or Hebrew. Then spends a couple days digesting it in multiple easy-to-understand English translation, pondering the use of a “with” over a “to” or an “in” as in the case of Mark 1’s John the Baptist baptizing either with, to, or in water. Then I break out the commentaries, and break them out hardcore. Find a couple articles on ATLA if possible.

    To me, no matter how the text may sound when I read it, there’s someone out there who reads it differently. I don’t just go for the same ones (Word/Anchor/NIV App) every time–I purposely go for a good fundy one or a complete libby one just to check how I’m reading it.

    Then I start to put something down for a paper or a sermon. I’m That Guy, who likes to do exegesis. And we could get into some good conversations, probably, about inspiration.

  2. I get the thing of reading the text in the original language. That I basically support (though I don’t really have the head for it personally). Beyond that, though…I just think that the commentaries to books of the Bible ratio is a little bit skewed, is all.

  3. Anytime you set out to explain anything, your explanation will always be lengthier than the idea your explaining. Otherwise, it they would call it a summary.

    This is especially true when it comes to differing languages. When you have to translate what someone says, but then also remind them to view what was said in the speakers culture and also explain any idioms that may not make sense…the explanation is bound to be longer.

    I think that’s the beauty of God’s word too. That it never gets so simple that we can completely wrap our minds around it. I don’t think God’s intent for the Bible was to soley be a simple guide to life and systematic theology, so much as it was to be inspiring and provoking. There’s always another, deeper level of understanding that can be attained. We’re never going to be able to say, “I’ve finally got it all figured out!”

    That’s my 3 cents.

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