Tweeting the Bible

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!

So, at six months into the project you are only partially through the Old Testament ... and you'll be in the OT for quite a while still.  As a Christian whose faith is grounded in the life and death of Jesus Christ, do you ever want to jump ahead and tweet some New Testament?

Oh, yes, it's very tempting. This month, we'll be finishing off Deuteronomy and the Torah, but we're still not quite a quarter of the way through the entire OT, which is 929 chapters long. As I indicated, the God we've met so far in the OT is neither trustworthy nor particularly likeable. So, yeah, I'd love to skip ahead to the New Testament and the remarkable love of Jesus. But one point of the Twible is that for whatever it's worth, God is in the whole canon, not just the warm and fuzzy parts. We may not like the fact that the OT God is annihilating whole populations or seems so very anxious about bodily discharge, but it's in the Bible, and we have to figure out what to do with that stuff theologically.

Do you ever get completely blocked on a verse?  What do you do when that happens?  Does anyone ever help you with your tweets?

I do the whole Twible myself, but if I ever got writer's block I would certainly ask for help. So far, that hasn't happened. If anything, I have far too much to say.

What have you found most challenging about this project so far?

One-hundred-forty characters is not a lot of space! My number-one goal for the Twible is to entertain, with education as a secondary goal. Every tweet about every chapter tries to score on both counts, but that's sometimes hard to do in what amounts to a single sentence. But that's precisely what I love about it -- the distilling, and the humorous or unexpected interpretations that emerge.

What has been most rewarding?

I love it when people tell me what they've learned from the Twible. Some of my Twitter followers and Facebook friends are already very familiar with the Bible, but others aren't, and it's been fun to romp through it with them. And I'm finding a number of things that I never knew were in the Bible -- like that Noah wasn't in the ark for just 40 days like the Sunday School song says. Man, have we ever sanitized the Noah story.

#Twible Genesis 9: They've de-arked. G sends rainbow to promise he'll never again off us by flood. Keeps earthquakes, tsunamis in reserve.

How has tweeting the Bible in community with others through Twitter and Facebook affected your own reading of the Bible?

I don't think we're doing ourselves any favors when we uphold solitary Bible reading as the quintessential spiritual practice. The Bible was intended to be read out aloud, in community -- not at home alone in a "quiet time." The Twible is in no way a substitute for that liturgical community, but it does get people out of their silos to think and talk and wrestle. The tweets have been good conversation starters, and that's really what it's all about.

4/9/2010 4:00:00 AM
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  • Deborah Arca
    About Deborah Arca
    Deborah Arca is the former Director of Content at Patheos. Prior to joining Patheos, Deborah managed the Programs in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, including the Program's renowned spiritual direction program and the nationally-renowned Lilly-funded Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of music and theatre programs for children and teens, and a music minister. Deborah belongs to a progressive United Church of Christ church in Englewood, CO.