One year in the Bible

October 1, 2007

bible / theology

There are lots of devotional Bibles that take the reader through the Bible in one year. Usually, they’ll assign a daily reading that contains something from the Old Testament, something from a Psalm or Proverb, and something from the New Testament. The faithful reader will have read all sixty-six books after 365 days. Typically, the selections are not particularly related to each other, or in context with each other, so they are not a good way to learn to study the Bible.

The other day, Newsweek posted an article about a man who took this a lot further, and decided to live according to every rule in the Bible for one year. In teaching, I’ve often used the figure of 613 laws in the Torah, or the first five books of the Old Testament. Some argue that there are 615, and there are probably other opinions, but regardless, there are a lot (and people think it’s a good idea to put 10 of them up in courthouses?). And, of course, the New Testament has some rules of its own. So basically, this man attempted to structure his life around more than 700 laws, for an entire year.

There is a book about the experience called “The Year of Living Biblically,” that will be released in a few days. It will talk about the issues, good and bad, that an agnostic experienced trying to live according to a literal reading of the Bible. All of it. Everything from no shaving, to throwing little rocks at adulterers. Interestingly, there are almost no Christians, even fundamentalists, who attempt to do this. When people like this guy look at some vocal members of Christianity who ask for a literal reading and literal interpretation of scripture, we all look like idiots and hypocrites.

When I teach, I try to make it clear that the Bible isn’t being taken seriously when it is treated this way. Context is not taken seriously, genre is not taken seriously, and the understanding and knowledge possessed by the writer is not taken seriously. It’s not necessary to pick and choose what parts of the Bible are worth taking seriously; it’s necessary to take it seriously enough to evaluate what is being said and why it is being said and to whom it is being said. When I start my little series, I plan to go further into this, with regard to specific things in scripture.