Tweeting the Bible
When did you start the project and when do you expect to finish?
My first Twible post went out on Sunday, October 4, 2009. After I announced what I was doing on Facebook, I belatedly thought to look up how long this project was going to take. It turns out there are 1,189 chapters in the Bible, which will take about three years and three months. Who knew? I am so screwed.
#Twible Ex 20: G's Top 10. No gods, idols, blasphemy. Keep Sabbath holy & love Mom. Don't kill, cheat, steal, lie, or look @ Xmas catalogs.
Describe your process for converting ancient writing into 140-character tweets? Do you read different Biblical translations?
In my first couple of months I was incredibly earnest and bought spanking new commentaries. I work part-time for Westminster John Knox Press, which has a world-class line in biblical studies. Plus I get a sweet employee discount. So I purchased new commentaries on Genesis and Exodus. During Leviticus I started to backslide (which is kind of ironic since practically the whole book is about the many ways people who backslide are going to be roasted and toasted by God and neighbor), and began going with the flow a little more. My first priority is to entertain; my secondary agenda, if there is one, is to get people thinking about and actually reading the more bizarre parts of the Bible. One of the best compliments I've gotten recently is from a reader who said, "When I read your Twible the other day I was just sure that couldn't possibly be in the Bible, and then I looked it up and . . . yep, it was there! The Bible is full of really weird stuff!"
As for the process, I typically do them in batches of about ten to twenty chapters at a time, then come back to them later to sharpen the humor and tighten the character count.
I've been fascinated by the response to the Twible. Some people really get into it, and one woman told me she collects them all from Facebook to put in a document. A couple of people have been offended by the flippant approach, especially when I talked about some OT patriarchs "pimping out" their wives. There are several instances in Genesis when Abraham and Isaac pretend their wives aren't really their wives so that they can prostitute them to kings and make money. I don't know about you, but I find that a wee bit disturbing, so the Twible entries had a bit of an edge to them:
#Twible Genesis 12: Hello, Abram. G promises land & descendants. Father Ab responds by lying to Pharaoh & pimping out wife Sarai.
#Twible Genesis 20: Ab pulls the "she's my sister" thing again; successfully pimps out Sarah for more sheep, oxen & slaves. Yay Father Ab!
#Twible Genesis 26: Like father, like son. Isaac mimics "she's my sister" trick to pimp out wife Reb. Again results in riches. We never learn.
For some people, seeing the Bible's characters as flawed people first and foremost, rather than paragons of virtue, can be troubling.
How is tweeting the Bible affecting your understanding of who God is, and what God's relationship is with humans? Who is the God of the Twible?
Let's just say that this is not a God you want to meet in a dark alley. Although I went to seminary and grad school in religion, there are parts of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible that I'm sure I never read until now. The God of the Torah can be loving and protective, but also dangerous and capricious. He's as likely to strike you down as not. He's a perfectionist, a carnivore, and way-over-the-top-OCD about the precise way to do certain rituals. Just ask Aaron's two oldest sons about how much God cares about the details. Oh wait, you can't, because God killed them. They had not laid his altar fire correctly. Off with their heads!
Deborah Arca joined the Patheos team after more than ten years managing programs for the Program in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of Christian Education and music/theatre programs for young people and has served as a music director for worship and special retreats.