1) It’s difficult – and it knows it
If you’ve read any ‘atheist vs Christian’ comment thread you’ve probably come across the most (in)famous example of the Bible talking about itself: 2 Timothy 3.16, ‘all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for…’ etc etc. Great: a nicely circular, biblical ‘proof’ that the Bible is good.
But there’s at least one other example of biblical self-reflexivity, one which is far less frequently mentioned. In 2 Peter 3.15-16, the author alludes to what ‘Paul also wrote to you, according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters.’ A lot of the New Testament is made up of letters from Paul (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians
etc). And what does the author of 2 Peter have to say about such Pauline epistles? [Drum roll] ‘There are some things in them that are hard to understand’.
Whoda thunk it? So, no, you’re not the only one struggling to get a handle on some of the very involved imagery of Romans or theology of Ephesians or whatever. Next time someone tells you frustratedly that ‘it’s not hard to understand’, maybe point them in the direction of 2 Peter.
2) It contains contradictions – and it knows it
‘But…but how can you call the Bible true if it contradicts itself?!’ What an excellent question, one I think we’d all do well to consider. For now, let me just quickly demonstrate that the Bible does make seemingly contradictory statements, in ways that are clearly no accident. Take Proverbs 26.4 and 5:
‘Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.’
The verses are right next to each other! How could no-one notice this glaring, flagrant inconsistency? Who’s proofreading this thing, anyway?
Or how about the first two chapters of Genesis, where ‘the earth brought forth vegetation’ on the third day in chapter one, with human beings not arriving on the scene until day six – but then, in chapter two, man is formed ‘when no bush of the field was yet in the land’. Surely an epic continuity fail?
Or maybe there’s more than meets the eye to these examples. And maybe, just maybe, it’s sometimes our epistemological expectations that are out of wack, not the Bible. Is it possible to say two things which appear
contradictory and still to be somehow telling the truth? Have you read any Samuel Beckett?
3) It seems to frequently be used for rolling joints
I have a persistent Twitter search running for the words ‘first time’ and ‘Bible’ because I love seeing people’s reactions to fresh encounters with Scripture. I have to confess, I didn’t anticipate how frequently I would see tweets along the lines of ‘First time I tried weed it was out of bible paper. #drugs’
So, yes: difficult, containing contradictions and sometimes a substitute for Rizla. I find the Bible endlessly surprising. I’m probably going to continue this list in a part two. What would you add to it?