While my wife and I were out and about this weekend, we decided to stop in at a few antique stores. On the bargain table ($1 table) outside one of them, I found a nifty little gem of a religious book.
(By clicking the link above, you can find a free online version of the book)
My wife looked at me like I was a nut when I picked it up, but I shrugged and she’s used to me doing weird things so she left me alone. I opened the front cover and looked for the date.
I’m always being told that the bible is supposed to be taken in context; that most of it isn’t supposed to be read literally. I was interested in seeing whether people in the era that this book was published thought the same thing. Personally, I think the idea that the bible is steeped in metaphor and allegory is a modern phenomenon, which is handily used to try and explain away its less savory or magical bits.
So let’s take a peek at what some people believed in a religious sense back when this book was published.
On page 45 you can find this:
Question: “Is a member of the church not at all allowed to enter into matrimony with a person who is not agreed with him in faith and doctrine?”
Answer: “No. For this is contrary to the marriage institution; and he who thus enters into matrimony, acts contrary to the law of God, and the doctrine of the apostles. Deut. 7:3, 4; Judges 3:6, 7; 1 Cor. 1:10; 7:39; Phil. 2:1, 3.
And then this one:
Question: “Can also a lawful marriage, for any cause be divorced?”
Answer: “No. For the persons united by such marriage are so closely bound to each other, that they can in no wise separate, except in case of “fornication.” Matt. 19:9
Seems to me like they took what the bible says pretty seriously. You weren’t allowed to marry someone who didn’t share the same faith or no faith at all. They even use some pretty strong words, such as ‘contrary to God’s law’, that leave little doubt in the readers mind what they thought of marrying outside the faith.
The second question and answer is pretty straight forward – you don’t divorce unless your spouse fornicates on you. Period.
What if you’re husband liked to beat you?
Guess you just stay married.
You’d think the lord of the universe would be able to give better advice than this.
On page 47, you can find advice on how best to shun people who disagree with the church or faith. Basically, according to this book, unless someone is dying from hunger or dehydration, you’re to shun them in public.
But what about the magic bits, such as the Garden of Eden story, with the talking snake, magic fruit and a woman made from a rib? Surely they thought this was a metaphor or allegory for something else, right?
For centuries the bible was taught as the literal or inspired word of God. Today, many think they somehow know how to interpret this stuff better than people back then. How do people distinguish between what is supposed to be literal and what is not?
If you’re a believer, do you agree with this book? If not, what makes your interpretation better or more correct than theirs?
If you say the Holy Spirit is what guides you, you can find in this book the author saying pretty much the same thing. In fact, there are over 30,000 Christian sects, each one differs slightly from its brethren, and most of them claim that this Holy Spirit helps them understand the bible best.
Either this Holy Spirit is unreliable, doesn’t exist or it just likes to fool humans.