Sunday, 27 January 2019
What is the Bible?, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Today I’d like us to consider the importance of the Bible, and what the Bible is.
In our first reading we heard how all the people gathered around Ezra and listened as he read the Scriptures to them and explained the ScripturesProverbs Gospel text we similarly heard how the people gathered around the Lord Jesus in the synagogue to hear Him read from the Scriptures.
We are gathered following that same pattern.
But what are we reading? What is the Bible? And, can we trust it?
First, we need to note how our holy scriptures are different from those of other religions.
Our scriptures don’t contain myths, the way Greek fables of their pagan gods did.
Our scriptures don’t, for the main part, contain instructions on how to live -though they do contain a few books of proverbs and a few books of law.
Rather, our scriptures are primarily about recording certain events of HISTORY, records of certain EVENTS.
The Jewish-Christian claim is that God was active in history:
In a particular place, in a particular people, the “Chosen people” of the Jews:
He did things among them, and for them.
He revealed Himself to them, and revealed how He wanted them to live.
If you want to know ABOUT the one true God, then you need to see what He has DONE.
There is a unity of WORD and DEED in Him, as the Hebrew word “dabar” indicates.
As a consequence, if we are to know God, and know what He teaches us, then we need to know what He has DONE in those events called, “salvation history”.
This leaves us with a problem, however, because the scepticism of the modern mind has taught us to doubt everything.
In particular, it has taught us to doubt the accuracy of the history recorded in the Bible.
Now, we can note that not ALL parts of the Bible have the same historical accuracy:
The Genesis accounts often summarise hundreds of years in a few sentences.
The Creation accounts likewise summarise, and mix symbolism with fact. Was the devil a literal serpent? Was the Original Sin eating a literal fruit? There is no need to think so.
That said, the key thing about the Bible is that it is recording a narrative, recording a history of events, a CHAIN of events, recording it from the beginning to the end, from Creation to the Apocalypse.
God showed Himself in what He DID.
And so, when we gather at Mass, we READ about what He did.
The culmination of what He did and said was in Jesus Christ, when God took FLESH.
This is why the historical accuracy and specifics of the 4 Gospels is very detailed.
This is why, as we heard St Luke say at the start of His Gospel:
The Gospels record only what “eyewitnesses” (Lk 1:2) saw -witness that they knew and questioned,
About “events that have taken place among us” (Lk 1:1) -not myths far away,
And recorded in “an ordered account” (Lk 1:3).
The narrative that the Bible unfolds is the account of God’s relationship with His Chosen People, of His “love story” with His chosen people.
YOU are a part of that narrative, a part of that history.
You are called to be grafted onto the life and promises that God gave to His Chosen People.
But you can only become a part of that lifestory IF you know that story,
if you know that history.
And that is why we read the Bible, at home, and at Church
-to know the history and narrative that we are a part of.