What Is the Bible?
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What Is the Bible?

Rob Bell

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  1. 336 Seiten
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

What Is the Bible?

Rob Bell

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Instant New York Times Bestseller

Rob Bell, the beloved author of Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God, goes deep into the Bible to show how it is more revelatory, revolutionary, and relevant than we ever imagined—and offers a cogent argument for why we need to look at it in a fresh, new way.

In Love Wins, Rob Bell confronted the troubling questions that many people of faith were afraid to ask about heaven, hell, fate, and faith. Using the same inspired, inquisitive approach, he now turns to our most sacred book, the Bible. What Is the Bible? provides insights and answers that make clear why the Bible is so revered and what makes it truly inspiring and essential to our lives.

Rob takes us deep into actual passages to reveal the humanity behind the Scriptures. You cannot get to the holy without going through the human, Rob tells us. When considering a passage, we shouldn't ask "Why did God say...?" To get to the heart of the Bible's meaning, we should be asking: "What's the story that's unfolding here and why did people find it important to tell it? What was it that moved them to record these words? What was happening in the world at that time? What does this passage/story/poem/verse/book tell us about how people understood who they were and who God was at that time?" In asking these questions, Rob goes beyond the one-dimensional question of "is it true?" to reveal the Bible's authentic transformative power.

Rob addresses the concerns of all those who see the Bible as God's Word but are troubled by the ethical dilemmas, errors, and inconsistencies in Scripture. With What Is the Bible?, he recaptures the Good Book's magic and reaffirms its power and inspiration to shape and inspire our lives today.

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Part 1

There’s Something More Going On Here


Moses and His Moisture

In the book of Deuteronomy chapter 34, we read that Moses
was a hundred and twenty years old when he died,
yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.
A fairly straightforward verse, correct? Moses was old . . . and then he died.
What else is there to say? Actually, quite a bit. Read the last half of that sentence again:
yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.
Notice anything unusual? How about that phrase nor his strength gone?
Moses has just died, correct?
Dying, as a general rule, is what happens when your strength has gone. So why does the writer want us to know that Moses died but his strength hadn’t gone?
A bit about the word strength here. The Hebrew scriptures were originally written in Hebrew, and in Hebrew the word translated strength here is the word leho.
Leho literally means moisture or freshness.
He died, but his moisture hadn’t left him?
He passed on but still had his freshness?
One translation reads
nor had his natural force abated
while another reads
he still had his vigor
while the JPS Torah Commentary notes that Ibn Ezra understood the verse to mean that Moses
had not become wrinkled.
(Please tell me you’re smiling by this point.)
Natural force hadn’t abated?
He hadn’t become wrinkled?
What does the writer want us to know about Moses?
This phrase with the word leho here, just to make sure we’re all clear, is a euphemism for sexual potency. That’s what the storyteller here wants us to know about Moses at the time of his death.
That’s right, friends, Moses, the great leader of the Hebrews, the liberator who led his people out of slavery, the hero who defied Pharaoh, the one who climbed Mount Sinai to meet with God, the towering figure of the Hebrew scriptures, when he died,
he could still get it up.
Just so you know.
Which of course raises the question, Why?
Why does the writer want the reader to know this?
To answer that question, you have to go back, much earlier in the history of Moses’s people, to a man named Abraham. Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham, and Moses was one of them.
Abraham, we learn in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, left his father’s household and everything familiar and set out on a journey to a new land. People didn’t do that at that time in history because they had a cyclical view of history in which everything that has happened will happen again. They believed that you’re born into a cycle of events and you’ll die somewhere in that same cycle of events as the cycle endlessly repeats itself.
In other words, there’s nothing new.
What happened to your ancestors will eventually happen to you, and then it will happen to your children as your family goes round and round the cycle.
But then Abraham leaves. He steps out of the cycle. He walks into a new future, one that hasn’t happened before. No one had ever done that before because no one had ever conceived of the world and life and the future like that before.
This was a new idea in human history—that you weren’t stuck, that you didn’t have to repeat everything that had already happened.
But we’re just getting started, because to understand the significance of that story about Abraham, you need to back up just a bit more to see that the writers of Genesis told that story about Abraham within a larger story.
There’s actually a progression of violence in the early chapters of Genesis, a progression that starts with a man named Cain killing his brother Abel, and then it continues to escalate as all of humanity spirals downward into greater and greater conflict and destruction. By the end of chapter 11—the chapter before we meet Abraham—people are setting up empires to oppress the masses, entire systems perpetuating injustice.
How much worse can it get?
That’s the question hanging in the air when the storyteller introduces us to this man Abraham who decides to leave and start something new. He’s leaving his home, but he’s also leaving an entire way of life.
The storyteller wants you the reader to know that Abraham has a destiny to fulfill in which he becomes the father of a new kind of people to usher in a new era for humanity—one based in love, not violence. As Abraham is told in chapter 12, all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
This was a new idea. They won’t conquer other people but bless them?
How do you form a new kind of people that will take the world in a new direction?
You have kids.
And how do you have kids?
You have sex.
And sex involves—that’s right—moisture and freshness.
So when the writer tells you that Moses wasn’t wrinkled and his strength hadn’t abated and he still had his force, the writer is telling you that Moses was still able to participate in the creation of this new kind of tribe that would take the world in a new direction, away from all that violence and destruction.
Can the world head in a new direction, or are we trapped, doomed to repeat that same old, tired cycle of conflict?
That’s the question at the heart of this Abraham-and-Moses story.
But we’re just scratching the surface. Because Abraham’s tribe eventually found themselves in slavery in Egypt, owned by the ruler of Egypt, Pharaoh. And that’s where we meet Moses, who rises up in defiance of Pharaoh and eventually leads the Hebrews out of slavery and into the wilderness, reminding them over and over again of their destiny to be a new kind of people for the world.
Why is this a big deal?
Because if you’re a slave, you have one burning question: Will we always be slaves?
Or to put it another way: Will Pharaoh always have the power?
Or to put it another way: Whose side are the gods on—ours or Pharaoh’s?
Or to put it another way: Are the deepest forces of life for us or against us?
Or to put it another way: Are we here to suffer, or are we here to do something else, something bigger and better?
Or to put it another way: Does oppression or liberation have the last word? Does injustice or freedom win in the end?
So when Moses led his people out of Egypt, this wasn’t just the liberation of a specific tribe—it was the answer to a question people have been asking for thousands of years:
Are our lives set in stone and unable to change, or can we be set free from whatever it is that enslaves us?
But it wasn’t just an answer to a question. This story about Moses and the Exodus was also a warning to anyone who has ever bullied another person, anyone who has ever held their boot on the neck of someone they were dominating, anyone who has ever used their power and strength to dehumanize and exploit the weakness of another:
Your days in power are numbered because the deepest forces of the universe are on the side of the oppressed, the underdog, and the powerless.
For this Hebrew tribe, then, passing this liberating and intoxicating idea along to the next generation was really, really important. That’s how you change the world, by entering into your own liberation and then passing that freedom and joy and liberation along to your kids.
And how do you get kids?
You have sex.
And how do you have sex?
Well, as we all know, that involves moisture and freshness.
You with me here?
Do you see what we just did?
We started with a few obscure English words in the thirty-fourth chapter of the fifth book of the Bible about a man named Moses. But then we dipped just a bit below the surface, and in no time we found a subtle, slightly crude, quite funny, sly, unexpected sexual euphemism that took us earlier in the story that then circled back...