Monday, 9 September 2013

What is your favourite Book of the Bible?


If the Bible is fractal or holographic - such that each unit contains the whole - then it should not matter much which part is the focus (so long as the spirit is right).

But my favourite book of the Bible is and I think always has been the Gospel of St John (in the Authorized/ King James Version, of course) - a profoundly un-original preference, and indeed exactly what would be expected for the kind of person I am.

(Behind this would come the first Epistle and the last section of the other book by John: the Revelation or Apocalypse; and the Psalms.)

Why? It is, I think, a matter of connection - these are the parts of the Bible when I most often feel a connection flash across 2000 years; and then the feeling of warmth and yearning slow-burning in the heart.

And this, in turn, seems to be a matter of personal identification with John himself - to me the most love-able of the persons in the Bible; the one I would most wish to have known.



dearieme said...

Anything with lots of begetting. Also the David-Goliath one. I was middle aged before I realised that it was about the sheep-herding Semitic hill folk being shorter and slighter than the coastal Indo-European-speaking farmers.

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - I think there may be a religious meaning as well...?

Matthew C. said...

Tough for me to pick a particular book.

My favorite passage in the Bible is this one from 1 Corinthians 1:

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

Bruce Charlton said...

@MattC - Yes, it is an amazing passage. And so typically (essentially) Christian in focusing on 'outrageous' statements that provoke an bimodal response (faith or rejection - nothing lukewarm), and stating the nature of these extreme responses.

Matthew C. said...

I was first introduced to that passage by Madeline L'Engle, a Christian writer of science fiction / fantasy which, along with the Narnia stories, first instilled in me the burning love for a life of purpose and meaning serving the Good.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

I clearly have a favourite passage of the Bible: the quotation of Isaiah 8:23-9:1 in Matthew 4:14-16 about the mission of Christ beginning in Galilee, that nearly pagan region. A good example of the “fractal” quality of the Bible, I believe.

It is not so clear which book I prefer, but whenever I want to read a random passage in the Bible, I usually go to the book of Psalms (eminently “fractal,” too). That should make it my favourite. Maybe this is a reason why I am not drawn to other poetry in general, having been raised with the Psalms and other hymns of biblical inspiration read or sung in Latin at first.

Samson J. said...

"Favourite book" has fluctuated with the years and seasons of life. Currently I might say it's Daniel, with its exemplary heroes defying their own versions of totalitarian Godlessness.

Never could get into Psalms. Don't know why; I guess I'd have to think about it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SJ - I know the earlier part of Daniel quite well, and also like it very much; but have never really got to grips with the later - although I fully intend to.

wrt Psalms - the breakthrough for me was 1. Using the KJ Bible versions, and 2. Regarding them as if they were (almost) part of the New Testament - i.e. most about Christ, or spoken by Christ, or prophecies of Christ etc. (Obviously, this does not apply to all of them.) This is apparently the Orthodox way of reading them, and makes sense of the extremely prominent use of Psalms in monastic liturgies (and indeed the Book of Common Prayer - which goes through all the Psalms every month). I bought a book called Christ in the Psalms by Fr Patrick Henry Reardon which was reasonably helpful in this interpretation (a bit hit and miss, but enough to get me started).

Commodore said...

The Gospels all, naturally; no Person is more delightful to read about. I suppose Mark is my favorite, coming largely secondhand from Peter's refreshingly direct point of view.

Favorite individual passage? Hard to say; none have shaped my picture of God's relationship with us more than Zephaniah 3:17:
"The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."

For the day-to-day practical church life, Titus has my vote.

Samson J. said...

but have never really got to grips with the later

Oh yes, I forgot - I also really enjoy the depiction of Nebuchadnezzar's terrible insanity: the insanity that grips a person who rejects God and His law.

Regarding them as if they were (almost) part of the New Testament

I'll have to give it a try this way someday!

Matthew C. said...

I also absolutely have to agree with you about the Authorized / KJV Bible translation. I find it difficult to abide any others.

Adam G. said...

Matthew and the Psalms. The parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 means everything to me, while the psalms are by turns fierce, unrelenting, and tender.

In the Book of Mormon it would be the war chapters in Alma, because Captain Moroni is a man's man and a Christian's Christian. Or else the 3 Nephi ch. 9 onward. The contrast between the voice of Jehovah announcing his destruction city by city of the habitations of the wicked followed by the infinite tenderness of Christ's appearance to the shattered people at the temple moves me to awe, fear, joy, and devotion. This is a God that it is worth everything for a man to serve.

Wm Jas said...

Speaking of "fractal" books, there's a tradition of interpreting the 66 chapters of Isaiah as corresponding to the 66 books of the (Protestant) Bible. Proto-Isaiah (1-39) corresponds to the 39 books of the OT, and Deutero-Isaiah (40-66) to the 27 books of the NT. There are many impressive chapter-to-book parallels: Isaiah 2 (Exodus) talks about the law going forth from the mountain of the Lord; Isaiah 44 (Acts) refers to God pouring out his Spirit, as at Pentecost; Isaiah 66 (Revelation) is apocalyptic; etc.

The Crow said...

What is my favourite book?
Why, Genesis, of course.
It tells you all you really need to know, and it keeps it (relatively) simple.

God created everything. Do as He tells you. Leave that apple alone. Don't get too smart. Tend the garden. Guide the creatures. Be grateful.


Samson J. said...

Why, Genesis, of course. It tells you all you really need to know, and it keeps it (relatively) simple.

I also agree with this. I've said before that all you really need is the first three chapters of Genesis, the last few of Matthew and the last few of Revelation. Seriously, try reading them that way sometime.