So one of my goals for 2010 is to read that bible, cover to cover. I’m doing it mostly to find out why exactly people insist on killing one another or denying rights or inciting hatred over the words in one book. And you know, academics insist on going to the primary source.
So yes, it is as boring as you’d imagine. And more depressing than I thought. For example, the breezy justification for genocide (see Joshua) is a little disturbing. Judges only gets worse. Honestly, making sense of David’s downfall is tricky (a census= bad news), and even more confusing in light of the things he did that resulted in relatively light punishment.
But then I got to Ecclesiastes. For one, it’s fun reading through to find the verses that folk songs and modern philosophers allude to. But more importantly, it had a message that I could get behind. The world doesn’t make sense, and as humans, we will never be able to understand anything. It is tempting to view existence as futile, but as “The Teacher” says, “Anyone who is among the living has hope– even a live dog is better than a dead lion!” (9:4) And so we should celebrate life, continue on with that hope, seek wisdom where we can, and just generally do what is right.
Surprisingly, (or not?) the inclusion of this book in the canon was heavily debated by Jewish scholars for its inconsistencies with other books.
Fortunately it was included, and I highly recommend it. I only wish there were more of this, and less of the, you know, senseless killing in the Old Testament.