At last I’ve finished the Bible on CD. There were several pauses along the way, some lengthy, as I had new CD’s to listen to, or I had trouble with my CD player, or I just wasn’t focused enough to spend an hour to Darth Vader variably chastise and encourage the Colossians.

I’ve read through the Bible twice before, and read most of it a dozen other times in bits and pieces during bible studies, but there is a lot to be said for doing it this way. First, it’s much faster, which is a actually a benefit and not just a desire to be done with it. Reading through the Bible, before, I found the task so onerous at times that I would get stuck reading the same passage several times, and have to come back to it when I was a little more focused. When it’s being read to you and moves along quickly, the really difficult parts just slip by without you noticing (though it was hard not to notice just how particular God was telling the Israelites how to build a tabernacle), and if you drift off, you’re still moving on and don’t get bogged down. Also, when it goes faster, it’s a lot easier to remember what just happened in the last book, and how it all ties together.

Hearing someone read it to you almost feels like you’re going through it with someone else, as well, and that makes it a bit better.

I came away from the experience with several new (to me) conclusions, some of which I’ve mentioned before:

The Old and New Testament are very different. This is perhaps self-evident, but I’d slipped into the belief that the one is simply a continuation of the other, but this is not true. The Old Testament’s primary concern is history and religion – here I mean religion in the terms of the Latin religio, which is more to do with a practice or rituals than a relationship with the divine. The New Testament is more about morals and ethics – the concern is not so much about what to do, buy why to do it. As the gospels become more and more distant and the Church becomes more entrenched, the morality begins to be lost in religion again, but it’s hard to expect otherwise. I’m not saying that the Old and New Testament are in contradiction – for the most part, they are not – the difference is more akin to a toddler not allowed in the street without holding an adult’s hand, and teenager playing stickball in the street because they’re wise enough not to run the wheels of a car to save a ball (most of the time).

The history portion of the Old Testament really feels like the other Classical Histories – the further back you go from the writing, the more fantastic and supernatural the heroes and their circumstances become. As you draw closer to the time of writing, you see more natural men and women who reflect back on the lost “Golden Age”.

Prophets are not necessarily godly men or women – they are not pastors. They have the same temptations and failings of the people around them (I’m thinking in particular of Balaam, Miriam, Aaron, and Elijah, but there are other examples), and though they are a mouthpiece for God, it’s more a matter of do what I say, not what I do. I guess the positive take on that is that we don’t need to be perfect to do God’s work; a more sinister view might be either that even the greatest were corrupted by power or worldly needs, or that some real scoundrels got into the Bible just because they pulled the wool down over everyone’s head and got lucky a few times.

Paul’s not as bad a guy as I thought. Yes, he did supercede the gospels in importance, which is blasphemy, but what else would we expect as Jesus’s charisma faded and less energized folk needed to settle back into a routine, a religion, instead of a morality and a faith? Paul, I think, did the best he could to adapt the Spirit into a practice – to make ethics a routine. I think he made many mistakes, but from the tone of epistles, I doubt he would say otherwise. I think he would be very sad to see people using his epistles as if they were the eleven, no ten, commandments written in stone from God. I think he would have a lot of letters to write to the churches around the world.

I still prefer John to Paul, and Jesus to both. Peter sounds like the “head of the church” because of his strong will, not any divine proclamation. It’s intriguing how most of the other apostles just disappeared off the face of the earth, though they were specifically chosen by Jesus for his ministry. Perhaps two-hundred years down the road, their legacies didn’t gel with the Petrine/Pauline stranglehold on the central Mediterranean? I don’t think there was foul play in the Early Church, or not any that directly led to the current church, but I do think that inspired men, filled with energy, but no unequal portion of the spirit, made poor, myopic judgements that let us all down. But life is change, we cannot expect anything, good or bad, to endure.

This was the first time I read the Bible that I was able to think of it as a book. This came more during the course of the reading than it was a vantage I started from. My graduate studies and more recent studies really, more than I’d thought, familiarized me with the literature and sentiments of the time, and it’s much easier to see how the various books of the Bible fit into the genres of their age. They are perhaps among the cream of their crop, and while they seem a bit more salient than other examples, perhaps their relevance and clarity are more a result of millenia of study and mediation than any inherant quality.

I left off reading the Urantia Book some time ago do to lack of time and focus, but I think I’d like to get back into it. That book’s take on the life of Jesus actually taught me more about the Christianity I want to practice than anything I’ve received from the Bible in the last ten years.