Nine Reasons to Read the Bible (even if you don’t believe it)

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  1. It’s unique. The Bible Creation story is not like any other creation story. TheBible Reading Bible God is not like any other God.  He’s the only ancient deity to link worship (temples, sacrifices, etc.) to a moral code.  He is absolutely central; a person beyond personality, not a representative of window or fire, not an idea, not a philosophy.  He escapes easy generalities, and so does his book.
  2. It’s eerily familiar. We’re always hearing echoes of it, not only in everyday conversation (broken heart, labor of love, thorn in the flesh, eye for an eye), but in values we take for granted. Whatever our political persuasion, we agree that the hungry should be fed, the injured cared for, the helpless attended to.  None of these principles were widely accepted in the ancient world.  We believe—or at least we say—that love is the greatest power in the world.  Rameses, Nebuchadnezzar, and Julius Caesar would have laughed at that.  We like Jesus, even if we don’t understand him.  All these things originate in the Bible’s thousand-odd pages.
  3. It’s historically relevant. Even if you’re skeptical about archaeology finds that support what it says about ancient times, the Bible’s influence on history is well documented. Those who are certain it inspired oppression, crusades, and pogroms should turn over a few more rocks.  Though it has been misused as a weapon, the Bible is also (and much more logically) the inspiration for revivals, reforms, and rethinking. It directly inspired the greatest surge in literacy, enterprise, and empowerment the world has ever seen (i.e. the Protestant Reformation).  The Enlightenment usually takes credit for those achievements, but without the Reformation there would be no Enlightenment (and after the Enlightenment gleefully kicked away the Scriptural platform it was built on, it collapsed in something called the Reign of Terror).
  4. It’s a treasury of ancient literary forms. Poetry, Historical Narrative, Allegory, Practical Instruction, Romance, Apocalyptic Imagery—every style and genre known to the ancient world is easily accessible between these covers, and in a multitude of translations, too.
  5. It explains the origins of two of the most consequential people groups in the history of the world: Jews and Christians. You may not like them. Often enough, they haven’t liked each other. One was a relatively small group bound by blood and tradition, which had a wildly outsized influence on world history and a proportionate amount of suffering (the honor of being a chosen people cuts both ways).  The second group is, by design, much more numerous and diverse, bound by faith and a conviction that God loves the world enough to die for it.
  6. It tells one Story. A rambling tale, to be sure. But any tale would ramble if it takes about 1500 years and at least 39 authors to tell it.  But the general outline of the story is the model for all stories in all cultures.  There’s a setting, a protagonist, an antagonist, a problem, a development of the problem, a climax, and a resolution.  Why do we tell stories this way?  Whether or not the Bible is the origin for the model, it’s a classic example of the model.  And the type of story it tells, of desolation and redemption, still haunts us.
  7. It provides the only objective reason for treating human beings as anything other than random accidents, disposable trash, or interchangeable parts to be manipulated. The reason is this: the Bible is very clear that human beings are shaped by God to bear his image.  For that very reason, they are not to be willfully murdered (Genesis 9:6) or even carelessly insulted (James 3:9-10).  If the value of humans is set by other humans it can shift at any time.  If that value is set by God, no one can change it.
  8. It’s the most banned book in history. It’s too reactionary, too subversive, too authoritarian, too libertarian.  Tyrants fear its revelation of a rival power; anarchists, modernists, post-modernists, communists, utopians, and well-intentioned progressives hate it for the same reason. The book is a scandal and a trouble—aren’t you curious as to why?
  9. It’s still around. And still a best-seller. What explains its remarkable staying power? Unless you are willing to at least become familiar with it, you’ll never know.

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