gratefulbear asked me the other day if I’d be interested in reading the Bible next year, ideally with shared reflection/discussion (among the topics that have already come up: what’s the most “Republican” book in the Hebrew Scriptures? The answer may surprise you). This is actually something I’ve wanted to do ever since I felt called back into Christian practice: in the words of Bishop Spong, do my little bit to “rescue the Bible from fundamentalism.” It is such an amazing book, filled with glory but also patriarchy, and mysticism but also dualism, and justice but also chauvinism… the earliest Christian mystics immersed themselves in the sacred texts, and this has become a core aspect of the mystical tradition ever since. In our time, we have the unique opportunity to approach the Bible with a post-modern appreciation of its immense contribution to our culture, as well as the profound problems that have arisen in the wake of the many contested methods of interpreting this text and applying it to spiritual practice.
Here’s what we’re thinking about doing:
1. Using the New Jerusalem Bible, which neither of us have read in depth yet. The NJB has a reputation of being a beautiful, poetic translation which is based on progressive scholarship. It is a Catholic Bible, meaning it has 73 books, rather than the 66 found in Protestant Bibles. As for a specific edition, we are looking at using the Saints Devotional Bible, which supplements the Biblical text with 200 additional readings drawn from saints and mystics throughout the ages.
2. To set up a schedule for reading, we’re going to follow a daily reading format that is taken from My Daily Catholic Bible, which arranges the text into manageable daily readings, one each from the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures. Unfortunately, My Daily Catholic Bible itself uses the Revised Standard Version, which is a 50-year-old translation. So gratefulbear has graciously offered to transcribe the reading schedule from this book, and post it to his website. That way, we can use the New Jerusalem Bible, and we’ll have daily readings that should only take about 20 minutes a day, covering the entire Catholic Bible in a year.
We’ll begin on 1/1/06. I think we’re looking at setting up a Yahoogroups for anyone who’d like to read along, but I’m also thinking I’ll post at least some of my reflections here. But if you want a handy way to see what others are writing, the Yahoogroups list will be the way to go.
I cannot stress this loudly enough: this is not about “Reading the Bible so that we can more purely conform our miserable sinful hearts to the stern demands of Jesus.” Rather, I for one am interested in discerning the textual basis for Christianity as a mystery religion (which of course is the headwaters of Christian mysticism), while also looking at how to reclaim the Biblical text as a source of spiritual insight within a post-modern, post-patriarchal, post-fundamentalist context. Should make for a rather interesting adventure. Hey, how often do you get an Episcopal Sufi healer peace activist and a pagan-friendly Celtic Catholic together (both of whom love jam bands almost as much as they love centering prayer) to try to figure out how the Bible can still be relevant today? Sounds like a wild ride to me… (and of course, we welcome others’ insights, questions, debates, bad puns, and snarky comments as well).
So stay tuned, I’ll post the link to the Yahoogroups as soon as we have it set up.