Sunday, October 18, 2009

Biblical Poetry

I am so excited! I think that, after all these years, I've figured out a portion of what God wants me to do with my life. For those of you who know me well, this has been an issue that has plagued me on and off for the past twenty years. I've felt the tug of God upon my heart, but I've never really known what the tug meant. Now, it's somewhat coming together for me in the clear and concise way that I've wanted.

I could write a book about this journey of mine, but I don't think that's appropriate right now. After all, we've all got things that we need to do tomorrow, and I wouldn't want anyone riveted down in their seats for too long! But to say the least, I've always wondered why I was led to go to bible college for three years, only to leave there and then go to a public university. I've questioned why God led me away from protestantism and into the Catholic Church. I've been curious as to why I've loved ancient poetry and writing enough to get a Master's in Rhetoric along with an almost MFA in Creative Writing.

To the outsider, all this looks like a bad case of Attention Deficit Disorder. To me, I knew that it was part of some greater plan. Well, I'm back at it again. Back into my Bible, back into trying to find out my purpose in life. This time, though, my journeys and readings have opened a few doors that were never revealed to me in the past. I've hit on some wonderful truths in the Old Testament that have forever changed how I view the Bible, the authors of the books of the Bible, God's place in writing the Bible, and the message being delivered.

Today, I'm not going to go in depth on anything. I'll break this all apart and will focus on each little section as I go forward with my posts. Needless to say, though, it's all going to be very interesting for those who are interested in the Bible and God's message to us.

If you look at it all like I do, it all fits together reasonably well, and I am in a unique position to interpret the Bible in a way that many theologians cannot because of my background in rhetoric and creative writing.

Where am I going with all of this? Read the book of Lamentations. It's a short book of four or five pages, and it won't take you long. Twenty years ago, I read it and came away with a totally different interpretation. In fact, we really didn't spend much time on it in Church and bible college because it didn't really make sense as to its purpose in the Bible.

Now, however, read it as if it were written by a poet. Read each chapter as an individual poem. It's a shame that all English translations can't do it much justice, but I'll explain the book in my next posts. I'll explain what makes this book so special in the ancient Hebrew that it was written in. I'll talk about why this is both a work of art and a theological treatise. I'll talk about what message God is sending us about how we should deal with tragedy in our own lives.

What I want to leave you with today, though, are a couple of things. Hebrew poets were some of the greatest poets of their day. They were better than the Greeks and all other poets of other kingdoms. Secondly, the ancient Hebrews believed that God's language was a language of poetry, so they prayed in poetry, and that's what made them develop this art form to its highest potential.

Finally, however, I also want you to understand that God inspired poets to write part of the Bible. He gave them the gift of writing poetry, He laid a message on their hearts, and He let them write. These books of the Bible are the poets' words as inspired by God, so they must be interpreted as poetry first and the rhetorical message secondly. If you don't do this, you'll miss much of the meaning of the Old Testament.

Monday, October 12, 2009


There are a number of points that I'm going to bring up in this post that can and will be elaborated upon as separate posts in the near future. They all revolve around the difference between the "Catholic" Bible and the "Protestant" Bible.

The first thing that I would like to discuss is the concept of "The Word of God." Is the Bible the Inerrant Word of God or is it the Inspired Word of God? Believe it or not, there is a huge difference between these two phrases, and the implications are endless when it comes down to how you view and read the Bible.

The Inerrant Word of God philosophy basically assesses that the Bible is, word for word, written by God through man. This Bible is to be understood as flawless, it is to be quite literal in its translation to our everyday lives, and it is unwavering in application and definition.

People who assert the Inspired Word of God believe that God wrote the Bible through man. Man was inspired to write the Bible but interpretation of what was written should take into account the times in which it was written, the audience it was written for, the type of literature (whether it was a history or a literary book) the book was meant to be, and the skill of the author in crafting stories with allusions, allegories, etc.

The two views of the Bible aren't new. They've been around for a long time -- since the beginning of the church. They were especially brought to light when the Church was trying to establish the Holy Canon, or the collection of books that would comprise the Bible. Seven books were the seat of controversy. They are called the Deuterocanonicals. You won't find these books in a Protestant Bible anymore, but you will find them in a Catholic Bible. In fact, they were in all Bibles for about 1800 years until many Protestant Bible makers in the 1800s took them out altogether because they wanted to make a bigger split away from the Catholic Church.

But, before then, though, understand that these books were part of every Bible in the world. Even Protestant Bibles since Luther. However, Luther and Protestants did not believe these books were inspired by God. They just believed that they told a good moral and did not want to remove them.

The question about these books was, are they the Word of God? Certainly, Church tradition made it so, but these books weren't part of the final Hebrew Bible, they contained errors that many people knew about, and the New Testament never quoted from them.

However, if you look at the Bible as the Inspired Word of God, much of the issue can be explained away in favor for these books.

To begin with, they were part of the Hebrew Bible but were later rejected after Christ's death. The fact that the Hebrews originally had them is found in the fact that they were included in the Hebrew Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of their Bible.

Yes, there are a few errors in a couple of books in regards to people and places. However, those were not history books. The message wasn't one in which the facts were dependent upon. In fact, when Jesus stated that the mustard seed was the smallest of seeds, he wasn't giving a lecture about Botany, he was using it as an example for a greater truth. The fact that the mustard seed isn't the smallest seed doesn't take away from His purpose. The same is true in these books.

Finally, the New Testament didn't quote from them, but the Apostles did allude to them several times. In addition, there were several Old Testament books that the New Testament didn't quote from. Should they be taken out too? Since Matthew alluded to the Book of Tobit, it goes to show that it was considered in the early days of the Church an important book in the Old Testament.

So, as I move through these issues into detailed points later on, just remember some of the generic principles I've brought out today.