This is the last post in our introduction to What is the Bible. Next we will start to look at specific biblical passages and deduce hypotheses concerning the biblical text’s composite nature.
Does the label “the Bible”—“the Book”—accurately represent its content, that is the once separate, numerous, and often competing, texts and traditions that were written over a thousand-year period by different authors, to different audiences, and to address the needs and concerns of different peoples, worldviews, and even beliefs? How could it? It is a label that by its very nature imposes a homogeneous interpretive framework onto what is then viewed as a canonical book, which was furthermore a product of a later generation of readers, who were themselves influenced by the needs, concerns, and beliefs of their own historical era.
In a very real sense, then, “the Bible” as a title for this collection of ancient texts and … Read more
So what does the Bible itself tell us about its compositional nature? We are now able to respond objectively to this question:
The Bible is a collection of ancient texts and traditions.
Granted, this does not yet tell us much, but it is an objective starting point and one that can readily be accepted by Jews and Christians of various persuasions, and even agnostics and atheists. Indeed, there is not much here to dispute. A glance at the Bible’s table of contents would only confirm our initial assessment: the Bible is in fact a compilation of other books, a book composed of other books. In other words, the Bible is a composite text, a text composed out of earlier texts and traditions.
This very fact presents us with a bit of an irony. The Bible, a word which literally means “Book,” is actually no book at all, but rather a … Read more
In Part 1, I suggested that there were two distinct ways one might respond to our query What is the Bible?: subjectively and objectively—the former focusing on what the Bible means from the perspective of the individual subject, and the latter on what the Bible is from the perspective of the Bible itself, the object under examination. I also suggested that when the vast majority of people think about, invoke, refer to, attempt to define or describe the Bible and what it is, this is done from a purely subjective level. In other words, ‘what the Bible is’ gets reduced to what the Bible means to an individual, to various faith-communities, or even to a culture. Thus when one invokes the Bible, they are usually invoking a subjective idea of the Bible, and not the actual biblical texts themselves. Let me enumerate by way of an example.
In her Bible: … Read more