The Bible as a United Whole

What is the most important part of the bible to you as a Christian? It’s an important question if you think about since it puts your focus on the faith in some paradigm (develops your belief set). Is it the OT? Is it the gospels? Is it the letters of Paul? Is it the letters of Peter, James, or John? Is it the letter of Revelations? What is of most importance to developing your belief system?

Now I know that these are all merely words in books or letters – stories in some regards – and require actual living to make some sense out of them (since they are also framed as teachings). What from our personal environment are we bringing into the texts as we frame these teachings in our life? No person is an island – we have experiences and ideas that shape these teachings to fit us in some regards. And it is hard to let go of what we think is there and what we are reading into the texts – since it shakes us to the core to think – ‘we might be wrong’ on what we have always thought.

For me the importance of the whole bible lies within the gospels – to me it is of utter importance since the disciples say ‘this is Jesus’ teachings and words’. The faith is all about Jesus so it makes logical sense to take these teachings as the highest importance. The letters for me are likely second since they expand on those ideas of the disciples and how they look in communities (whether Gentile or Jewish). Paul, James, John, and Peter all write letters and they are directed at communities of peoples (most of the time) – and they lay down some direction for the communities that might not have had a single thing as way of ‘the gospels or the OT’. It’s these two things I put the majority of my attention into – and I have some sound reasoning.

In the early days the bible (as we have it – 66 books) did not exist as a united whole entity – rather it was found in bits and pieces in certain places. If I wanted to know about the OT then I had to go to the synagogue to ‘hear it’ read aloud and discussed. No ordinary person had access to the whole OT as a single book they could read at home and then break down into doctrine. You actually see the disciples still going to the synagogue after Jesus had left – to still hear the words and discuss them (like this was the norm).

The gospels and letters were single written pieces of literature that were sent to single regions. They would be copied but not put together as a united whole book for quite some time – and no one had all 39 books and letters we have now. People actually read a single letter or gospel and built belief systems off of that. There were what we could consider ‘pastors or rabbi’s’ as overseers of the communities who were at the same whim of the disciples instruction – or another letter would help them out to build a bigger belief set. It’s no wonder that Paul records mass amount of confusion (as does each letter written) amongst the church folk and certain dissenisons and weird beliefs that crept in. Each letter (even Revelation) records problems occuring in the church and what is to be taught as part of the faith. But they started as single units sometimes with single pieces of literature.

But we have the whole book now and we don’t have to attend a single service of any sort to read it all – we just need to buy the book or call up Gideons and we have 66 books/letters nicely fitted together. Thanks printing press. However, it also gives us a greater look at the early Christian communities and some context. What if all you had was the book of Matthew or the letter to the Ephesians – could you follow Jesus fully? It’s just a question but it puts you back in the early community and makes you focus on the importance of these books. Each is a seperate witness in some way – written to some community. So which book/letter is your focus?

I like Matthew personally. If all I had was Matthew I would be more than satisifed with what I am told about Jesus and the disciples. My paradigm comes from that book. I read the rest of them also but Matthew speaks to me – those teachings as a united whole book make sense to me. It’s then I read the letters in light of this look at Jesus – and I read them in context also – as letters to communities breaking down what we need to know about our faith in God. I almost read none of the OT and revelations – although they both offer us something – I just don’t put my focus there.

Fact is, as a united whole – these 66 books being combined and taught to be absolutely cohesive is quite irresponsible or takes context out of the picture. If I teach from Matthew then I will use Matthew a whole resource – why does a letter from Paul have to line-up (I mean it usually does but to take scripture here and scripture there might not be the best way to develop doctrine). What do you think? Do we have 66 books that absolutely line-up? How do you read the bible – what book/letter mean more to you?