Monday, June 9, 2008

Remembering Where We Got the Bible

Recently, I completed the first year of studies for the EFM (Education for Ministry) program sponsored by The Seminary at the University of the South. One may find this program in many Episcopal Churches throughout the US. To date, the EFM program has enrolled over 100, 000 students. It follows a four year cycle, with each year taking up a different theme (Old Testament, New Testament, Church History, and Theology/Philosophy). I just completed the Old Testament component. To say the least, it was (re)eye-opening.

I attended seminary many years ago, and like a whole lot of other ministers, I had forgotten much of what I learned regarding the history of Israel and the composition of the scriptures. Although fundamentalists, as well as the casual Bible reader, might be lead to believe that the whole of the Bible and Israel's religion sprang from the hand of God in one piece, t'ain't so!

Israel, it seems, borrowed pretty heavily from her neighbors. The Biblical writers and, before them, the story tellers, borrowed from many sources, many Canaanite, and recast the stories from a Yahwehist perspective. The twist is always interesting. Many of the trappings of the older cultus of Israel's neighbors stayed pretty well intact, but Yahweh somehow comes out the star of the show. In fact, there is considerable evidence that, at least a good portion of what would become Israel, did not come "out of Egypt" but, rather, "out of Canaan."

During the course of study, I re-learned many things I had forgotten. Was my faith diminished thereby? Hardly! Seeing the religion of Israel and the Christianity as progressive serves to make me more hopeful concerning my own belief system. My belief system is always growing and becoming. When I think of how Israel grew as well, it only serves to give me hope. After all, "practice makes perfect," and practicing my religion gives me clearer insights every day.

It seems we always arriving, but never quite arrive. As the old song says, "It was good enough for Moses, and it's good enough for me!

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