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What exactly is the Bible?
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    I will assume that most everyone who calls himself Christian has a Bible and reads it occasionally. I also believe that most have a certain idea of how their Bible should be read: liberal, conservative, fundamental, traditional, scholarly, etc. Most of us would call our Bible the Authority or the Word of God, but how it is understood — depending upon the reader — can and has been problematic at best. Where do I begin?
    The Old Testament — as Christians identify it — was written over a period of a thousand years and the New Testament was written over a period of about 300 years. The Old Testament was not accepted in its present form until 90 A.D. in a little town in Israel called Jamnia and the New Testament was not canonized — and that does not mean shot out of a gun — until the middle of the fourth century. The first English translation of the Bible, which was written in Hebrew and Greek, was done by William Tyndale in 1526 and he was burned at the stake for his efforts. Another version was circulated in 1560 and we got the biggie, the King James Version, in 1611. In 1881, because language changes, an updated Bible was published with some 30,000 changes to the early KJV. The next truly sweeping change in language happened in 1952, when we received the Revised Standard Version, the one I have used for the past 60 years. I remember the pastor of old Fifth Avenue Baptist church in Huntington who stood in the pulpit, red-faced and almost having a conniption, saying, "If anyone in my congregation is caught with this book, he will be asked to leave the church. It is the work of the devil!" I couldn't wait to read it!
    Problem: this Bible, regardless of the translation you prefer, has been used as a doorstop, decoration and even a club depending upon the user's need at the moment. It has been used and abused, misunderstood and purposely twisted around to fit many positions, some good and some bad.
    Creationists call the evolutionists overly intelligent atheists. And the evolutionists call the creationists backyard idiots with not enough brains to make a rattle in a tin can. Both sides might agree that Dr. John Lightfoot of Cambridge was wrong when, after years of exhaustive biblical research, announced that the world was created in 4004 B.C. Astronomers were persecuted and put to death because they believed the sun and not the earth was the center of our galaxy as the Bible stated. I almost hesitated to write that there is still a flat earth society in existence, and Hollywood loves pictures of vampires being stopped by someone holding a Bible for protection. I think we know what the Bible is not.
    The Bible is not just a collection of writings of early religious ancestors. The Bible is the written account of God's mighty acts throughout history filled with heroes and villains, prophets and kings, the mighty and the humble, and God's working with and through these ancients for His purpose. Folks, it's not easy reading this book full of sacred history, genealogies, wars, faith, letters, court chronicles and apocalyptic stuff that leaves us baffled.
    We read this fantastic authority to find out what God is saying to us and it is up to every Christian to read and understand His Words and act accordingly.
    Finally, we must read the Bible together as a faithful church, openly and without fear of questions and conflicts that will arise. Gather together with prayer, take a deep breath, have a thick notebook, a cross reference, a dictionary, an Atlas and a knowledgeable leader and see what happens!
    God has a lifetime of learning and plenty of patience. You'll never guess what you can find!
    Thanks, God!

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