"The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it," a GQ article read, in an attempt to explain why the Bible is on their list of books you shouldn't waste your time reading. Gutsy move there, GQ.
"The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned," argued Jesse Ball. He's the author of Census, which was named one of the most anticipated books of 2018 by The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Huffington Post.
Ball goes on to recommend an alternative to the Bible, saying, "If the thing you heard was good about the Bible was the nasty bits, then I propose Agota Kristof's The Notebook, a marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough. The subtlety and cruelty of this story is like that famous sword stroke (from below the boat) that plunged upward through the bowels, the lungs, and the throat and into the brain of the rower."
I'll be the first to admit that, for the first twenty-two years of my life, I didn't spend much personal time in the Bible. I had a few favorite verses (Jeremiah 29:11!) that I'd pull off the shelf and dust off every once in a while, but I had committed very little of the Bible to memory.
I was tired of hearing that Catholics don't read the Bible, but I began to realize that I couldn't complain about that stereotype if I was living it. So this year, I've began diving into Scripture and I've found that the Bible is well worth my time to read. Sorry not sorry, GQ.
Scripture is the living Word of God
There are quite a few books out there to read. Let's be honest, there are quite a few books on my growing book shelf that I need to read. So what sets the Bible apart in a stack of books? What makes the Bible any different than reading C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, or Undset? Why does Ball's recommendation of The Notebook in place of the Bible fall embarrassingly short?
Scripture is the living, inspired Word of God. "If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, 'open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures'", the Catechism of the Catholic Church says. In addition, the Word of God is Jesus. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God," John's Gospel begins. Every time we open the Bible, we encounter the Lord.
Just hearing the Bible at Mass doesn't cut it
I went to Mass on a weekly basis, and since the Catholic Church's liturgical cycle is three years long, I'd heard my fair share of scripture by the time I turned twenty-two. The Catholic Mass is chock full of Scripture. In addition to hearing the Word of God proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word, we sing Scripture in our songs, and the prayers at Mass are packed with references to the words of Christ.
Read more: A Letter to the Woman who is Bored at Mass
But just listening to Scripture at Mass isn't enough. We need to spend time in prayer with Scripture, daily letting it transform our lives. "I think every Christian should read the Bible at least once," writes Meg Hunter-Kilmer. "I really recommend the one year option above if you’ve got the dedication and the time (almost always less than 20 minutes a day). It breaks up the boring parts (and there are a lot of boring parts, especially when you’re a Bible beginner) with Psalms and Gospel passages. Plus, I’ve known very few people who manage to push through if they’re just going Genesis to Revelation."
I'm using Meg's Bible-in-a-Year plan this year and am constantly amazed by how much I didn't know was in the Bible. Details of stories I've heard since I was little, messages from Christ in the Gospel, comfort in the Psalms that I may have missed if I only relied on the Sunday morning readings to encounter the Word of God.
If we don't know Scripture, we don't know Christ
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.," Saint Jerome is famous for saying. But Jerome isn't the only one saying that Scripture is important when it comes to encountering the Lord.
In Dei Verbum, a dogmatic constitution on divine revelation promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1965, we find that Sacred theology rests in Scripture, together with sacred tradition "as its primary and perpetual foundation. By scrutinizing in the light of faith all truth stored up in the mystery of Christ, theology is most powerfully strengthened and constantly rejuvenated by that word. For the Sacred Scriptures contain the word of God and since they are inspired, really are the word of God; and so the study of the sacred page is, as it were, the soul of sacred theology.”
GQ, you may say that the Bible is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned. But I know that Scripture is inspired, living, effective, and necessary for my journey to Heaven. The Notebook just isn't going to cut it for me.