The Bible and Judeochristianity
The Bible can be very intimidating to those who approach it for the first time. It is not is not a unified work that one can easily read cover to cover. The Bible is in fact an entire library of works in many forms. It contains history, poetry, prophecy, "wisdom literature," and stories of instruction, written over the span of many years. It is not a single sustained narrative.
Nevertheless, there is a historical thread that runs through the Bible, the story of how one people found God and spread the news to the world. This story is the “main road” through the Bible that we shall be taking in order to clarify its message. The “side roads” (the poetry, the stories, the prophetic histories that do not form part of the main historical thread) invite the reader’s exploration. But here we will focus on the Bible’s core message as it emerges from tracing the central story.
It is no accident that the Bible opens with the creation of the world. The story begins with the beginning of our physical existence and proceeds very slowly toward the emergence of our spiritual awareness. The Bible does not intend to be a strictly scientific or historical summary of human events, even though many literalists take it that way. The Bible uses these events as background for the discovery of a higher, spiritual reality that provides them with meaning. The intent is not so much to inform but to instruct.
The reference to biblical literalism leads us to a note of caution. The composition of the Bible is not homogeneous and static. It is a record of the evolution of the human understanding of God through many generations. One cannot therefore isolate passages of the Bible from their context saying “This is what the Bible says about God.” One only understands the Bible by appreciating how its view of God changed and evolved, and one can only do so by considering the Bible as a whole, meaning the Hebrew Bible, with its books in their original order, and the New Testament.
What follows is a very condensed description of the Bible’s central story, as Judeochristianity would understand it. We will not summarize or even touch upon all the books of the Bible here, but only give the minimum necessary for understanding this central message. To make the main thread clear we will have to leave out a lot, but once the reader has gained a general perspective on the Bible’s message, all that we have omitted will fit into place. So if you want to know any of the details we have skipped, they are right there in the Bible, waiting for you to look them up! And you will have acquired a context enabling you to understand them better.
This summary of the Bible’s central story is meant for readers who are new to the Bible and who feel a need to get their bearings before plunging in. For more experienced readers, it provides a view of the Bible from the point of view of Judeochristianity. The entire story can be told very simply:
The Hebrew Bible (or “Old Testament”) tells the story of the discovery of the covenantal relationship with God through the experience of the Hebrew people.
The New Testament tells of the extension of this covenant to all the peoples of the earth.
The ultimate basis of the covenant is the commitment to do God’s will by practicing non-self-interested love.
That’s all there is to it. All the rest is commentary, the story of “how they got there from here.”
The Bible contains all the wisdom we need to deal with our suffering, but it does not state this message explicitly. It sets the message forth in what we might call “spiritual history.” Spiritual history is the place where human history and divine activity come together. The Bible shows us that this place exists, and tells us how to find it.
Since the word “spiritual” is used by many people to mean many different things, it is useful to have a definition. When we use the word here we will take it to mean:
Concerning a love and guidance beyond the self and greater than the self.
The message of the Bible, simply stated, is that the spiritual is real.
To continue this exploration of the Bible see: