Cursing, Smiting and Carrying On

I’ve always wanted to take an in-depth Bible class.  Not a topical, “What would the Bible say about (fill in the blank)?…” but one that reads the Bible all the way through.  This is helpful when pious people decide to quote scripture to you and you’d like to answer back intelligently (and, yes, that’s happened to me more than once in my lifetime).  I also think that it’s interesting just to know about the Bible and to be able to understand it better. 

So, my church was offering a two year Bible course starting with Genesis and ending with Revelations.  Perfect.  I signed up both my husband and myself.

It’s been a month now and I’m sorry to report that I’m not having a good time.  In fact, I don’t like reading the Old Testament and I know that Jesus isn’t scheduled to show up for another year.  I’m still typing so I guess that God isn’t going to strike me dead.  Here is why I’m not liking this class.

First, my husband bagged on me.  It wasn’t his fault – Youngest Son’s hockey practices are just about every Monday night.  So much for taking the class as a couple. 

Then, there’s an awful lot of memory work and homework involved.  I’m just not that interested in memorizing exact passages; a working knowledge of the Bible is fine by me. 

Our first test was a disaster.  I sat next to someone who I’ll call Edna.  Edna is, apparently, an overachiever with a doctorate in education.  How nice for me.  I didn’t study at all for said test and just stuck it in my folder without filling it out.  Edna gave me a very judgmental look and I was thinking some very un-Christian things about Edna too. 

Finally, there’s the subject matter.  Quite frankly, life in the O.T. Biblical times was rather brutal and there was an awful lot of smiting going on.  Pissing off God meant certain death.  Actually, ticking off anyone could be pretty ugly.  I’m guessing you all know the story of Cain and Abel. 

As another example, Noah got mad at his son, Ham, for finding Noah drunk on the tent floor in his birthday suit and thinking that the whole thing was funny.  So, Noah cursed Ham’s son, Canaan.  Not just a little curse either – the kind that makes you lower than a slave.  Bummer for Canaan – he didn’t even do anything.  Guess Noah hadn’t heard of love and logic.  This doesn’t make for uplifting reading.

I’ve taken many classes before that I haven’t enjoyed so maybe this will improve over time.  We’re on Leviticus, so there’s only a mere 62 books after this.  And, if I end up really not liking this class, it’s okay.  I can always ask for forgiveness.

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6 thoughts on “Cursing, Smiting and Carrying On

  1. I agree that it’s important to understand the bible at least in a historical context, even for heathens like me. I took a class in undergrad called The Bible As Literature and we theoretically looked at it purely from a writing and historical aspect, as a work of lit rather than in a religious way. My classmates had a lot of trouble with that and it ended up being somewhat frustrating for all of us. As I think about it now, I’m not actually sure what I took away from that class other than a memory of the frustrating-ness.

    I also have a lot of memories of reading and learning about the bible as a kid and teen (my fam is heavily involved in their church – it just didn’t take for me) and there are definitely some F’ed up stories in there. We role played the David and Bathsheba story at my confirmation retreat – that story is pretty racy and I’m not sure what that says about the pastor who chose it for us. Maybe he thought we’d be able to identify with David’s horniness? (P.S. that pastor later got asked to leave the church for, among other things, committing adultery! Maybe he was asking to get caught.)

    Anyway, I don’t know what my point really is, other than that I admire your endeavor to learn more. 🙂

  2. Huh. There’s a scene in West Wing where Martin Sheen quotes the Bible when he’s attacked by some ultra-conservatives. I was like, holy crap (can crap be holy?) I barely can get through the Commandments!

    You go woman! I think it’s pretty cool. Can you just give me the digest version when you’re done? I really don’t think I’d make it through the homework either.

  3. I have the same desire to have a working knowledge of the bible. I’m starting a devotional blog as one way to try to accomplish that.

    I tried reading The One Year Bible, but I couldn’t handle jumping around so much, (you read a passage from the old testament, new testament, psalms & proverbs.)

    Now I’ve found a schedule online where you read the bible chronologically. I’m gonna try that.

    As for you, enjoy the quality time with Edna & try to look at it as a practice in patience! lol

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  5. I admire your devotion to read the entire Bible. When I attended Concordia College, we had to read the entire text (there were two courses on Old Testament and one on the New) and I remember how scary those stories were; one step out of line and the earth swallowed you up and all of your family! The Lord was busy teaching the fear of Him early on just so the Israelites got the point, I guess. The lesson was their inability to live under God’s law, forgiveness would come later on with Jesus and by the time Jesus came things were so fricked up there was nothing else left to do! (And they’re still that way, but we’re trying.)

    As far as David and Bathsheba, God forgives adulterers too and David was sorry! After all, God took his son’s life (the one he had with Bathsheba) and David understood that as a punishment because God didn’t approve of his disposing of her husband so he could hump Bath the Babe whenever he pleased! I guess there is a moral lesson in all of the stories as well as part of the Israelite’s history with all its warts and blemishes.

    I stopped being scared of the wrath of God and started trying to understand it as a Father’s attempts to teach His wayward children how to behave so it became a win-win situation for everyone. I enjoyed the stories for their sheer drama and tried to see them as teaching a moral and not something that literally happened because those tongues of fire coming down to consume the sinners gave me nightmares in my youth! I have to say it did seem like a real dog-eat-dog world in the time of the Israelites and that bothered me some, and I saw God dealing in the same “eye for an eye” rhetoric. They either did what God commanded or were struck dead for one mistake. The priests who performed the temple sacrifices had to have ropes tied to their ankles in case they made a mistake officiating the burnt offering, in which instance they would drop dead and need to be dragged out of the Holy of Holies since no one less than the High Priest dare enter God’s presence there. By the time I got done reading the Old Testament, I couldn’t wait for Jesus to show up so they could all start allowing some mistakes and forgiving each other’s mistakes without paying for it with their lives!

    At any rate, reading the Bible is an adventure in understanding and it hits everybody differently. I think it definitely enriched my life but I focused on trying to be a better person, forgive, (however bitter) sacrifice for others (however hard), and the example of Jesus more than the OT and that was worthwhile for me.

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