In honor of World Book Day yesterday, I thought we could tackle the "big book" today. The Bible, divided into two larger books and many smaller, is a staple of any denomination of the Christian faith. Despite what many are told or believe, it is a critical piece of the Catholic faith as well. The first half of our Mass is centered around the Liturgy of the Word and readings from the Old and New Testaments as well as the Book of Psalms.
The Bible is a tricky one; interpreting it too literally creates difficulties in how we are supposed to dress and act despite not being members of the Jewish faith. The Mosaic Laws (not the Ten Commandments) and traditions are not a part of our faith, but a part of our faith's history. Similarly, the importance of the Old Testament is not found in proving how old the Earth is or if the first man and woman were actually named Adam and Eve. The Old Testament a collection of oral tradition and faith which means there are going to be pieces that are not going to be belong in our own faith tradition. But the core of it, the message and belief in our one, true God is essential to today's faith.
The New Testament bears it's own set of challenges, offering us the account of a man who would die and return, as well as the accounts of the miracles Jesus and his followers would work during their ministry. The important thing to remember here is that New Testament was written by eye-witnesses and passed along tradition to tradition. Thus, our four Gospels have slightly different accounts and interpretations. They also have different stories that they thought were important. Again, the important thing here is the core of it all. Not each word individually, but the great stories of faith and redemption it offers us. It isn't important what the name of person X Jesus healed was; it is important that Jesus' ministry was focused on love.
It is also important to keep in mind while reading that the Bible has been interpreted, reinterpreted, and translated many times. It is difficult to say what all the Bible has been filtered through between language, culture, censorship, and other human acts. The New American Version vs. the King James version. We have versions of the Bible that have been rewritten for our more modern language usage. And that affects how we read and understand it. Historical context, original languages and writers, it all matters. Because even thought it is the Word of God, humans have had their hands on it for many years and we have to bear that in mind as we read.
As we continue on our faith journey, remember that is the core of the reading, the big picture that we need to bear in mind most closely.