By Alan Bean
Peter Enns wants to work with the Bible God gave us instead of the Bible we think God should have given us. He wants a messy Bible that refuses to behave because that’s the only Bible we have. The Bible isn’t history–in the modern sense of the word–it’s a book of stories written by ordinary people trying to make sense of God and the world.
And the stories in the Bible kept changing over the one thousand or so years during which the book was being compiled.
Narratives that worked for people during the reign of Old King David didn’t work after that kingdom split in two. Stories that worked during the divided kingdom proved inadequate when the Assyrians “disappeared” the ten northern tribes. Stories told when the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin were keeping the dynastic dream of David alive failed to deliver the goods when the Babylonians carried God’s people into exile.
We shouldn’t be surprised that this diverse assemblage of stories produced contradictory portraits of God, dueling theologies and inconsistent moral codes.
Like most biblical scholars, Enns thinks the biblical writers were free to re-craft traditional texts to meet their own needs. Sometimes these stories give us valuable historical information; sometimes they are pure inventions, usually they are literary inventions rooted in a smattering of historical knowledge. For the storytellers who gave us the Bible, the issue was never what happened back then; it was always about what’s happening now. (more…)