And, judging from my on-line reading, I need to get. This is one to set alongside my RSV and KJV. Psalm 23 is rendered beautifully and memorably, even though it is not the tremendous KJV. I shall continue to read on-line until my hardcopy gets here. My wife will be so pleased--(this will make Bible # 58--but that includes a good many heirloom, inherited, and "free copies" obtained from any number of sources. Guess it doesn't matter, cause they take up a shelf and more all by themselves. And I'm not even counting the Anchor Bibles and the New Catena Aurea which is still being produced. That's a lot of Bibles! But more is not better and if they just sit on the shelves. . . )
Bible and Bible Study: February 2006 Archives
The Gospel according to Mark is breathless, relentless, starting at a run and never letting up. Not for Mark the leisurely winding beginnings of Matthew and Luke, nor the theological ruminations of John. No, instead at breakneck pace we get--
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way;
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight—"
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
An entire sentence of introduction before a prophecy, before a prophet. And this is followed by the introduction of St. John the Baptist, the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the forty days fast and temptation, the Arrest of St. John the Baptist, the choosing of Simon and Andrew and James and John, teaching in the synagogue, the exorcism of the first victim of demons, the healing of Peter's mother, the healing of an entire city, the first retreat, the beginning of the preaching mission, and the first healing of a leper. And THAT'S chapter 1!
Doesn't this suggest something about the urgency of the Gospel message. This charged Gospel is all about getting us moving. It is short, to the point, punchy, like life itself. In an opinion poll it would probably rank fairly low in popularity among the four gospels because it is so direct, pithy, to the point. Its directness demands a response, an immediate response. The reader is sucked into the narrative, into the immediacy of the life of Christ. You can't take a breath without breathing in an action of Jesus. It's a whirlwind, a roller coaster ride, an invitation to adventure, and a passionate romance all in one. The Gospel according to Mark is the swiftest and sleekest way into the heart of the story of Jesus. A half hour, perhaps an hour, and you've grasped the essentials of a story you can meditate upon for a life, for an eternity.
In an interesting series of posts at Disputations, Tom discusses the importance of reading the Bible. In the comments there are a variety of reasons given for not doing so. Among the most curious to me was that reading the Bible was hard.
Tom seemed to understand immediately what was meant by this. To me it was nearly a foreign language. Reading the Bible has never been difficult for me. But I also think I know the reason why.
Pardon me if I spend a few moments sharing too much information about my family. My Grandpa Riddle (I can't really speak to Grandma's case so well) never graduated High School. I think he got an eighth grade education before he had to start working to help support the family. (I remember how proud he was when he got his GED at the age of 80, as though somehow a life of building houses and churches was not enough.) I don't know about the educational level of my grandparents on my Mother's side of the family, but I suspect they graduated high school.
The translations of the Bible available to my grandparents were limited in number and even more limited by tradition. Limited, in fact, to one--the KJV. Now, people who complain about the difficulty of reading the Bible should try the KJV or other close approximations of foreign languages. The USCCB has done its level best to produce the most cacophonous, least coherent and lovely translation ever to assault the eyes and eardrums of humanity, but there are translations out there even more tone-deaf and less euphonious. The point is, my 8th grade educated grandfather and my high-school educated grandparents not only had these bibles, but they read them--every day of their lives.
I had occasion to go and stay with my grandmother to help her around the house and get her to appointments while my grandfather was in the hospital recovering from surgery. During times in the hospital waiting room, when she wasn't lifting the spirits of other visitors, she was rapt in her Bible.
One time my Grandpa S was saying something about the Blessed Virgin (this upon learning that I had wholeheartedly joined the Catholic Church) and my grandmother quoted chapter and verse.
Grandpa, "There's nothing so great about Mary."
Grandma, "Now, Oscar (her pet name for him, you know it says right there in the Good Book itself, 'Hail thou that art highly favored, Blessed art thou among women. . .'Cain't see any way around that making her special. The good book says so."
For any occasion their first recourse was the rich treasury of scripture that they had read, memorized, internalized, and to some degree lived. Both of my grandfathers could give long, and I pleased to say that subsequent research revealed, largely correct talks about the historical background of the books of the Bible, and understood clearly what is often unclear to me in Paul's letters. I remember an old Riddle (pardon the pun) that Grandpa Riddle posed me--"Who was the oldest man who ever lived that died before his father did?"
Admittedly, they had a very literal understanding of the Bible which was not open to discussion or probing. But understand, they did. More importantly, they read, and they didn't just parrot back the words.
What I want to reemphasize is that this was the KJV, Jacobean English, nearly a foreign language to us today. It was not "too hard" for them to do. They found no problem at all in reading it daily.
My purpose is not to make anyone feel bad about saying, "It's hard to read the Bible." There are so many ways that is true. But if it is a priority, what is hard becomes easy, "My yoke is easy, my burden light."
My point in recording this is to remind me, when I'm busy making excuses for why I don't get around to it as often as I would like that it isn't particularly difficult as a task, only as an obligation. The trick is to ask for the grace to turn an obligation into an invitation and to accept as frequently as possible that invitation.
My grandparents wouldn't have thought of facing the day without "being in the word." In a similar way, I would do well to make it the number one priority, rather than number six, seven, ten, fourteen, or dead last. My grandparents leaned upon it as a staff of life and I can still recall my Grandpa saying, "man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD." Perhaps I would do well to have a little less bread and a bit more WORD.