[The following popped up in my Facebook Memories today. I originally wrote it on October 23, 2009, on what used to be called Facebook Notes (which has since been discontinued). I thought it was worth sharing here on my personal blog.]
With all the recent news about the Conservative Bible Project, and reports of people burning Bibles other than the King James Version, I got thinking about how we read the Bible. All Christians seem to agree that reading the Bible is a good and useful thing to do. But so many Christians read the Bible and come to completely different conclusions about life. Conservatives often complain about liberals "twisting Scripture" to support their agenda; liberals accuse conservatives of the very same thing. I have talked to many Christians who say something like, "Well, I don't know about liberal or conservative...I just base my life on what the Bible says." What does the Bible say, and why do so many people disagree about what it means?
As I pondered this, something occurred to me. We should be suspicious any time we read the Bible, and find that it says exactly what we thought it would say. In other words, way too often, we go to the Bible with our position on a subject firmly in mind, and find Biblical proof to bolster than position. This is the old "proof-texting" that fundamentalists have honed to a fine skill. If the Bible makes us feel comfortable, then I think something is wrong. I'll point out a biblical example to illustrate. When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, I think his audience was already absolutely firm in their belief of what "neighbor" meant: "someone who lives where I live, and shares my values." Then Jesus told his parable, and used an example that his audience would have found shocking--a Samaritan as the hero of the story? Outrageous!
I think we all make this mistake; I know I do it all the time. I have in my head an idea that I'm starting to feel comfortable with, I go to the Bible, and there it is! God is in complete agreement with me! DANGER! I don't think there's a problem with turning to the Bible for comfort, but if we begin to feel comfortable, rather than comforted, something is wrong. The Bible should challenge us, the Bible should make us reexamine our previously held notions, the Bible should make us feel uncomfortable. In short, the Bible should convict us.
The biggest problem I see with the conservative/liberal debates about the Bible is that both sides have already made up their minds, to a certain extent. They hold up the Bible as proof, they beat their opponents over the heads with it, they use it as a weapon. But they rarely listen to the Bible, they are rarely humbled by the Bible, they rarely submit to the God who speaks in the Bible. So, the next time you go to read the Bible, and you're feeling pretty comfy with what you read there, ask yourself, "Am I really listening to what God is saying to me here, or am I listening to myself?"
I recently acquired a copy of Webster's International Dictionary: Second Edition, printed in 1942. I've been reading about the differences between Webster's 2nd and Webster's 3rd, and I stumbled on this excellent article from the National Endowment for the Humanities website. I think it's really well written and absolutely fascinating. The author is David Skinner, and he really nails this one. Here's a little taste of the article...
In 1961 a new edition of an old and esteemed dictionary was released. The publisher courted publicity, noting the great expense ($3.5 million) and amount of work (757 editor years) that went into its making. But the book was ill-received. It was judged “subversive” and denounced in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, Life, and dozens of other newspapers, magazines, and professional journals. Not every publication condemned the volume, but the various exceptions did little to change the widespread impression of a well-known reference work being cast out from the better precincts of American culture.
Read the rest of the article HERE.
I LOVE print dictionaries. Of course, I use online dictionaries all the time, and I have a couple dictionary apps on my phone (American Heritage and Merriam-Webster). But the experience of browsing through a print dictionary, turning the pages and discovering a new word in the middle of all that small type, is hard to replicate on a screen. But I was wondering this morning, are print dictionaries a thing of the past? After all, dictionaries are BIG books, they must cost a bundle to print. Meanwhile, the retail price of the average dictionary is quite low, considering the size of the book. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary only costs about twenty bucks, for a fairly large book of over 1600 pages!
And so I stumbled on an article from the National Endowment for the Humanities website (neh.gov) that I found very enjoyable. It's entitled "If Printed Dictionaries Are History, What Will Children Sit on to Reach the Table?" written by Michael Adams. He doesn't really answer my question, but he does reflect on the history of print dictionaries, and he offers some insight on the transition from print to online form, and what that means for consumers. Here's a brief excerpt:
When Aunt Sophie wanted to reward a niece or nephew for graduating from high school with college in view, she would present the up-and-coming student with a dictionary, but not just any dictionary. It might be linen-covered; it might be printed on India paper; it might have speckled edges; it might be thumb-indexed; it might be all four. It all depended on how Aunt Sophie wanted to be seen by the rest of her family, how much she wanted to spend, and how much she liked her young relative.
(adj.) wild and frenzied; from Greek κορυβαντες (Korybantes)