Voices in the Bible

canstockphoto1806178The Bible is different than the Koran or the Book of Mormon. Just not in the way you are probably supposing.

According to Muhammad, God spoke to him through the angel Gabriel over the course of 23 years, dictating the various parts of the Koran. Muhammad isn’t the author, nor Gabriel; God is the author.

Gabriel was the mouthpiece, Muhammad the recorder. If God had waited a couple of thousand years Muhammad wouldn’t have been needed at all. Gabriel could have hooked a headset to a computer and used voice-recognition software to turn the spoken word into the written word.

That technology didn’t exist in the seventh century, so someone like Muhammad was necessary.

But the words are not Muhammad’s. They’re God’s.

According to Muhammad.

Who was the only one around when Gabriel appeared.

You see the problem.

According to Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon was written by God through many different prophets. Rather, they did the writing, God did the verbally inspiring.

He spoke, they wrote.

On golden plates. In a foreign language using strange characters. “Reformed Egyptian,” claimed Smith.

The tablets were buried in western New York state for a couple of thousand years until one of those prophets, Moroni, appeared as an angel to Joseph Smith in 1827 and showed him where to dig.

Moroni then let Smith copy the writings, translating them from the original Reformed Egyptian into English

Smith said he used two “seer stones” which he would place in his hat which he then held over his face to get the translation.

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Wait…

But Smith wasn’t the author, neither was Moroni or any of the other prophets. The author was God, the translator was Moroni, and Smith was just the grunt doing the writing.

When he was done he gave the plates back to Moroni, who took them back to heaven, where, if you think about it, they aren’t doing anyone any good.

It’d be nice to have them around, if only to make sure that there aren’t any typos in Smith’s copy.

All of this is according to Joseph Smith, and, again, you see the problem.

Growing up I was taught that the Bible was given to us in much the same way that Muhammad and Smith claim their books were given to them — verbally-inspired by God, who moved human writers to write God’s thoughts on original manuscripts that are no longer around to be checked.

The human writers weren’t really necessary except as a very primitive form of voice-recognition software.

These claims made about how the Bible came about aren’t really any different than Muhammad’s claims about the Koran or Smith’s about the Book of Mormon.

The only difference is that Christians claim we’re right and they’re wrong. Of course, they say the same thing — they’re right and we’re wrong.

So, really, there’s no difference at all.

We all claim the same thing; only one can be right, and we are all sure it’s us.

But that’s not, in my opinion, where the difference lies.

The Koran and the Book of Mormon both bear the marks of a work written by one mind, whether that mind be that of a god or of a human.

They speak with one consistent voice.

But the Bible is this big, messy yet glorious amalgamation of all kinds of voices, some yelling to be heard above the din, some yelling at each other, and some engaged in quiet conversation.

Some of the voices are encouraging, some are scolding, and some are, truth be told, a bit tawdry.

It’s much like a crowded sports restaurant on a college football Saturday afternoon, a cacophony of voices, some rooting for the same team, some rooting for a rival team, rival team members in heated argument, some people ordering food, and a husband and wife in the corner who aren’t football fans at all but just want to share some hot wings and talk about the previous week.

That’s how the Bible is.

Kings telling the history of Israel one way, Chronicles telling it a different way.

Proverbs giving tidbits of wisdom, and Ecclesiastes saying, “Not so fast.”

Isaiah and Micah envisioning swords beaten into plowshares, and Joel envisioning plowshares beaten into swords.

Isaiah and Jonah envisioning Gentiles as part of the covenant, Daniel and Ezra declaring the covenant off-limits to the Gentiles and Gentiles off-limits to the Covenant People.

None of which bears the marks of anything that we would call sacred or holy, except, if you read (and listen) closely, you recognize in one of those long-ago voices your own story — your hopes, your dreams, your loves, your hates, your fears, your disappointments, your reconciliations and your redemptions.

And then, when you listen really closely, you hear also the voice of God speaking to those hopes, dreams, loves, hates, fears, and disappointments.

Your reconciliations and redemptions too.

In that moment you realize that in the midst of this cacophony is something very sacred, very holy, and very, very God.

Photo Credit: © Can Stock Photo / photostocker

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