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Our readers asked:

How Can Anyone Really Take the Bible Seriously?

Ann Naffziger Answers:

Question: How can anyone really take the bible seriously? It was written soooooo long ago and has gone through one translation after another. If someone sat down today and pounded out a bunch of stories because “God spoke to them” and said we should obey everything within them, would we believe it?  

Copies of the New American Bible, a Catholic Bible in English first published in 1970. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Copies of the New American Bible, a Catholic Bible in English first published in 1970. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

The Bible was written long ago, between two and three millennia past. It has been translated many times, but the content of our best current translations are remarkably consistent with the oldest manuscripts we have of the ancient texts. The reason we can still take the Bible seriously, while being frank about the cultural and societal shifts humans have undergone since its writing, is that we believe that moral and spiritual truths remain true for all time. We may not take seriously anymore the laws about the proper ways to sacrifice a sheep at the Temple, or the prohibition of sitting in a chair where a menstruating woman recently sat. But we can still take seriously the fundamental thrust of the Bible that we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), that God asks us to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8), that our life can’t be reduced to material possessions (Luke 12:15), and that we should love one another as God loves us (John 13:34). These are all enduring lessons that the Bible attempts to convey. In the same way, other world religions communicate similar spiritual truths, even though their writings are as old as our sacred scripture (if not older).

Ultimately, we search for the spiritual truths of our Bible. We aren’t asked to “obey everything” within it. We must study it, be in conversation with it and about it, and discern the truth that is to be had. We should do the same with modern writings, not swallowing them unreflectively because the author claims God spoke to him/her. But we give the books of the Bible more weight as sacred texts because for thousands of years Jews and Christians have found wisdom and truth in its pages. In that manner, we say the Bible is inspired. The wisdom contained within does not expire, although it may be more challenging to uncover it from the distance of 2,000 years.

The Author : Ann Naffziger
Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Rev. Dr. Michael Spain, PhD

    The entire Bible can be easily understand by simply inserting the four words that were left out at the very beginning of Genesis 1:1. Those would be “Once upon a time”…now you know the rest of the story (thanks, Paul Harvey). The entire heart and lessons of the Bible are completely lost in aspirations of ‘Literal Translation’…notably it is “the goal of literal translation” that is the greatest ‘myth’, as much as the mule thinks it will eventually get to eat the carrot at the end of the stick stuck on his head. Literal translation is merely “the carrot’ that drives jackasses.

  • gooder1

    It is just a tad bit humorous to read the comments here. Let’s read a few sample passages from Sacred Scripture:

    Luke 18:8 “…when the Son of man comes [returns], will he find faith on earth?”.
    1Tim 4:1 “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will
    turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.
    2Tim 4:3″ For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but
    having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit
    their own passions…”

    There are many more passages that effectively say the same thing. So, the Bible is clear that prior to the return of Jesus, many will depart from the faith, ignore biblical teaching, take nothing of the Faith seriously anymore. If anything, then, I would be asking how the Bible got things so right, and not dismissing it; in dissing Sacred Scripture, we are fulfilling a prophecy made 2000 years ago.

    • Geo

      it is amazing how someone wrote some garbage millennia ago and then predicted that there might be some people who will actually call it garbage!

  • Lorraine CyrLongmire

    I don`t take the bible seriously anymore. I was taught when I was younger that there was a loving god. But as I got older all I have seen in the world is hate, murder, famine, poverty, sickness after sickness etc. Then I began to look around my world and ask where is this loving god? Then came to the conclusion that it was all a lie told to us by other humans just to control us somehow. All this hate, famine, poverty and sickness is caused by humans. Yet there is no jesus around healing the sick, feeding the hungry etc. The bible is full of blasphemy.

  • Mike

    if you read the bible then look at man and his ways you will see that man has not changed over all of them years. if you read the bible and look at God you will see that God has changed. in the way he spoke to people. but his ways ahve not changed, all God did was add a few more commandments to his first ten then told man if you love me obey all of my commandments. they do not change.
    mans laws on what he can and connot do always change.

    if you read the bible you will see then that through out off of the years that have pasted it has not changed, because man has not changed, and God too has not changed. making it as true today as when it was written.

    it is all about man with and without God, what happens to them, and how they are.

  • George

    If a guy today wrote a book that he states was inspired by God, and he is performing miracle healings, casting out demons, able to control the weather, able to come back from the dead, etc… Then I would definitely read that book and see how it fits in with the known prophecies and teachings of the Bible. If it does fit in with these things, I’d sell everything I have and follow this guy to the end of the world.

    • Geo

      What if that guy wrote that book about something that happened 100 years or more prior and never knew the proclaimed son of god and then there were hundreds of other guys who also wrote all kinds of books and then there was a political person who chose only 4 of those books (the ones that suited his political agenda) and tossed all the hundreds of other ones and called that the new bible? Would you follow that guy still?

  • danny4572


  • Horapollo Aesymnetes

    The reason you take it seriously is because you’re emotionally attached to it, the same reason the morons around the world obey their government, listen to their parents, etc. Despite the fact that these are schemes perpetuated by idiocy the common pleb (this means you) would rather act like a fucking moron than face rejecting the socially-spawned spooks that inhabit their head.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevhurls Kevin Hurley

    “Laws”? 1) Love God 2) Love each other. Straight from JC’s mouth.
    “Take the Bible seriously”? I studied Communications at Northeastern U. The Bible is language. Language is A form of communication. Language is an array of symbols with shared meaning, be they text (Bible) or inference or sign language or interpersonal skills. What we westerners know as “The Bible” is a translation of scrolls written in Aramaic. Coordinating the scrolls & stories & different accounts (there are +7 versions of the 4-Gospels we read) was done by English people. “Taking the bible seriously” means understanding the complexity of communication and languages (patterns of energy expressed sand interpreted) and, well, too much stuff to be “taken seriously.” I recommend going with the gists of the messages in a post-Vatican II discipline.

    • Horapollo Aesymnetes

      Too bad you ignore that the Bible is utterly inconsistent, obviously not written by its ostensible authors, and often so vague as to be useless – if it’s not outright irrelevant to our lives, which it often is.

      Hector Avalos is right: apologists are liars and ‘Bible studies’ is a scam.

  • Gregory Dye

    I would disagree that we still should take seriously all the laws of the First Covenant, but interpreted through the lens that Jesus allows us. We do not any longer see them as purely physical dictations about timeframes and habits, but they should still seriously and fully affect our considerations of actions and attitudes. We no longer need the procedure of how to sacrifice a sheep at the Altar, but we do seek the reverence of that sacrifice everytime we share in the Blood of the New Covenant, for example.

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