I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.
He closed his Bible at the end of 2 Thessalonians 3:17 and pondered. Did Paul know that his letters, those that survived to be canonized anyway, would become binding instructions for all Christianity nearly two-thousand years into the future? Could his letters really be compared to the writing of the Prophets in the Old Testament, and especially the words of Jesus in the Gospels?
“It’s in the Bible and Pastor says that’s good enough, but is it really? It’s not like Jesus was dictating the letters to Paul. There are some parts of the epistles he said were his own judgment and not of the Spirit.”
He knew both the Jews and the Church believed Paul invented a new religion called Christianity that totally broke from everything that had been written in the first two-thirds of the Bible. If God wanted to write a “love letter” to humanity, why was it a letter that’s so hard to understand, and with so many contradictions?
If God wrote a “love letter” like so many mushy, feely people at his church keep telling him, why were there so many different interpretations?
“I know. Pastor said it was because of sin, but all of the questions I ask him, he has pat, one word or one sentence answers to. Isn’t God more complicated than that?”
“Wait. That’s the answer. That’s why the Bible seems so difficult. God is complicated, infinitely complicated. How can you compress that into any sort of book, especially if you want people to understand?”
“God used people to communicate with the rest of us. Every author of the Bible was a human being, and almost all of them were Jewish. The Bible has to be a combination of God’s inspiration, and human understanding of a relationship between man and the Divine. I’ll never figure it out. I’m not a theologian or Bible scholar, and I could take all the Bible classes in the world and still get just the teacher’s or the denomination’s interpretation and bias. There’s no way to cut through two-thousand years of crap to get at what God was really trying to say, especially in an English translation.”
Mark put his Bible back on his desk, went into the kitchen, and set his chair by the window. It was late and everything was dark and quiet. He looked up over the other apartment buildings and at the few stars he could see in the night sky over the city. “What are you trying to tell me, or is that too arrogant a question? If you really had the Bible written to talk to all people, what does it mean to a single, tiny person like me?
He waited for an answer and it didn’t come. Mark didn’t really expect God to say anything to him. He never had before, not like all those other people who always said that “Jesus said this,” or “God revealed such and thus to me.” Maybe they were making it up. Who could tell?
“I guess I’ll try tomorrow. I’ve got to get some rest or I’ll be a mess in class.”
He stripped down to his t-shirt and shorts, and then crawled into bed. Sleep was a long time coming, but he needed the rest.
He had “Bible Study Methods and Hermeneutics,” “The Church in the Modern Era,” and “Elements of Greek” starting in a few hours. It was his first semester in his Master’s program. Mark wondered if all of the other would be ministers and pastors had the same doubts?
I wrote this for Sunday Writing Prompt “Letters to Humanity” hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. Today, the idea is to write a letter to humanity in some fashion, presenting it as a poem, short story, or other creative work.
I’m not as “schmaltzy” as some believers, and I don’t think of the Bible as “God’s love letter to the human race.” So I thought I’d start with the end of one of the Apostle Paul’s letters and work my way outward. It bothers me that in considering God, so many Christians seem to require a bunch of pat answers, and allow no doubts or questions.
What if you were in a theology program with an eye on becoming a Pastor, and those questions kept plaguing your mind? Does it mean doubt and a crisis of faith, or is becoming an explorer of the Bible on a life-long quest what God had in mind all along?