About two weeks ago I turned 25 and on top of my birthday wishlist was, of all things, owning a Bible. As it turns out, a Bible is exactly the kind of thing the male of the species is too happy to present to a woman on their 25th; my birthday strung along with it 3 Bibles from three vastly different Kenyan men. I brought the first one home yesterday [the Bible, not the man]; a brown, incredibly well bound Good News Bible.The second, a Gideon’s version, was to be presented to me on Friday, but due to unavoidable circumstances couldn’t, and we await its arrival next week.The third is what I have been informed to be an “African” Bible, which apparently presents the good word in both historical and cultural context, separating real events from metaphorical ones. This promises to be nothing but illuminating and is also to be gifted to me in the coming week. Muchas Gracias, gentlemen.
As I have noted on various platforms, I am not a believer but neither do I have the energy nor mental capacity for [antagonistic] atheism. So why read the Bible at all?
For the last year or so, I have done quite some reading on how religion has evolved for more than two thousand years to what it is today, and its contribution to the formation of the [largely] cohesive society we now experience.It is not in contention that The Bible is one of the main tools through which religion self perpetuates, and therefore I feel that as long as I have not read a religious text in full and in context, I shall not completely understand it for myself regardless of how many second hand sources I interact with. From an intellectual perspective therefore, I will be seeking to understand for myself how the Bible has contributed to the evolution of religion, and how religious text transforms into religious practises.
Secondly, I am interested in how reliable the Bible is as a muse for today’s christian beliefs and how accurately it captures the historical events it purports to relay. This is why I am so excited about a Bible that presents the historical events in context. Religion is problematic in its intolerance to questions, and I feel that context bridges the gap between what is being availed by religion and what is still unanswered. I am the first to admit that my lack of belief is informed by very limited and selected reading of the Bible, and while it’s near impossible that reading the Bible in full will transform me into a staunch believer, I would like to be better informed about my own stance.
Thirdly and finally, I am reading the Bible for mere enjoyment just like I do most books. Due to its cultural significance, I would read it anyway even if it were boring, but it’s a plus that it is arguably one of the most interesting texts in the history of books. The diversity, the stories, the poetry, the conflicts. It is truly a novel worth its name.
PS: I could easily have read the Quran for the same reasons above, but access and relatability is more challenging, so I begun with the Bible. Also, this exercise will quite likely take the rest of the year to complete, but I will provide updates on my progress from time to time .