By Bob Flynn
When my parents asked what I wanted for my 9th birthday, I said I wanted a Bible. My mother said I would have a Bible someday but she thought I was too young to be reading the Bible by myself. My father believed too much Bible-reading made people crazy. I don’t know that boy either. But I was there and I still have the Bible. I began with Genesis and read it all the way through. And I proved that my father’s opinion was correct. My Bible-reading drove him crazy. Why can’t snakes still talk? Is that why their tongues are split? What does begat mean? Why did a rabbi cut his concubine into 12 pieces? Head and two shoulders are three. Upper legs and lower legs make seven. How did he cut her into 12 pieces?
When I was 13 or 14, I took a free Bible class by mail. I bought a Scofield Reference Bible as a resource. Every week I received a new lesson and a test over the last lesson. I made an A on each lesson, even the dispensations. I knew more about the Bible but I didn’t believe it could be reduced to numbers and equations. One year in high school the Bible was taught as an elective. The first semester was taught by my Baptist pastor and I loved it. The second semester was taught by the Church of Christ pastor who was still tangled up in Ham, who saw his father Noah naked. Noah pronounced a curse on Canaan, Ham’s son, that he and his children would be servants. Noah’s curse still applied to black people anywhere in the world, but especially in Chillicothe. That seemed unfair then and it does now.
I majored in Religion at Baylor and minored in Greek. We translated the Gospel of John. I learned a lot about the Bible at Baylor, less so in the seminary where I studied Old Testament history while translating Ephesians. But the best teacher I had for reading and understanding the Bible is the writing process.
Writing allowed me to see a bit of the insight, the intent, the methods of those whose writing is in the Biblical canon. The first thing writing taught me was the shortcomings of language. There are not enough words.
Recently there was a story about scientists who had discovered an object in space that they couldn’t describe because they didn’t have anything to compare it with. “These warm, red planets are unlike any other known object in our universe. All four planets have different spectra, and all four are peculiar. The theorists have a lot of work to do now.” I liked the story because it reminded me of the task of the Gospel writers. If you can’t describe a strange object in space, how do you describe God?