The book most loved, most hated

Published 6:22 am Monday, March 22, 2010

Sometimes I wonder why does not everyone believe the Bible, and at other times I wonder why anyone does believe the Bible. Should not everyone believe the Bible, or how could anyone believe it? The Bible is at once the most believed and the most disbelieved book in history. In short, the Bible is an enigma.

For a book to be widely and strongly criticized is an automatic commendation of the book and a compliment to its author. This, even when the criticism is condemnation of the book and damnation of the  author. The best books inevitably receive this attention. There are some books no intelligent and responsible person can ignore. This does not mean these unique books will be loved, because the same books will also be hated. You can love them or hate them, but you cannot remain indifferent. All this is because these books matter.

People will believe and disbelieve the Bible precisely because the Bible matters. In the busy and noisy academic industry of literary criticism, no book is more criticized. It is, in fact, the most enigmatic book ever written. This, not because it is esoteric, mysterious, or obscure, but precisely because it is clear and compelling. Readers and scholars both love and hate its contents, triumph in or fear its influence.

Resolving this enigma depends upon which set of evidence I examine.

When I consider the plethora and seriousness of attacks on the Bible, I wonder why anyone could believe it. On the other hand, when I consider all the satisfaction and confidence in the Bible and all the good that has come for centuries from putting the Bible into practice, I wonder why anyone would not believe the Bible.

The critical question is not why so many people do not believe the Bible but why so many do consequent to two facts:

No other book has been written incrementally over as long a period of time, within so many cultures, in so many languages, by so many authors—and yet is perfectly consistent internally with neither contradictions nor obsolescence.

No book has been as negatively criticized and hostilely attacked as long or by as many people of as many cultures and traditions, opposed by the most uneducated to the most highly educated or intelligent—and yet not only has survived the attacks, but thrives despite them and even triumphed over them.

The decisive question is, resultant of several factors, why does not everyone believe the Bible? No book has had as much influence on languages, other literatures, thinking, and behavior. No book is at once as richly rewarding and as profoundly threatening, or is loved by more and hated by more. No book has had as many books written about it or from it or because of it or even against it—and are still being written.

It is the only book that is both immediately appealing and infinitely engaging, at once easily understood by the most simple-minded and inexhaustible by the most profound thinker.

The Bible is the only book whose value is not that we can understand it, but that it understands us.