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Bible 'improvement'

If we had Today's Seu International Version

Issue: "Ghost busting," Aug. 24, 2002

IF I HAD WRITTEN OR EDITED THE BIBLE I WOULD have done it differently. Given roughly 4,000 years of history to cover (let's not here digress into an argument about "old earth" versus "young earth" Creationism), I definitely would not have squandered the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles on useless genealogies of plain folks you never need to know about. Isn't it a tad unseemly for a great world religion to grovel in the minutia of no-account individuals with their sheep and cattle dealings? By this we give occasion to our enemies to scorn, as in the case of a Simpsons episode in which Homer pops a Bible recording into the car tape deck, and no matter how far he fast-forwards it, it lands on "somebody begat somebody."

How much more helpful would have been a little extra space spelling out the doctrine of baptism? What about the precise times and dates (1 Thessalonians 5:1) of the Lord's return (which the Apostle Paul claims we don't need to know, but which we really want to know)? Think of the spilled ink that would have been spared, the vituperative church splits obviated, as well as the need to listen to one another in humility, as we cry out night and day to God for wisdom.

Instead what do we have? For eschatology, the book of Revelation, which seems no revelation at all but a series of visions for mulling over, and for trying to apply, as best we can, to our own particular situations. Give me a straight newspaper account of the future, for heaven's sake; then I can read it once, extract the information, and be done with it.

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The whole of "wisdom literature" is baffling. Why, the lion's share of it seems given over to writers who are either flat-out wrong about God or questioning His justice-a dangerous literary strategy, if you ask me. You plow through 42 chapters of Job only to learn at the end that everything Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar said was hogwash because their impeccable logic and insistence on orthodox theology hadn't figured on mystery-not to mention love. Nevertheless, I do concede that if we excised the book of Job I would almost certainly take to drink, never knowing the dimensions of the cosmic struggle and Satanic machinations behind the veil.

And I have to admit too that on days when the prose of Moses doesn't reach my soul, David's plaintive songs with harp and lyre do. And would I part with Ecclesiastes, which gives me permission to be honest about what I see, and then to learn vicariously through Koheleth the limitations of empirical investigation? (I dare say, if this risky book had not made canon before the Council of Rome in a.d. 382, it would never have passed muster with any church committee I know.)

But we could use better heroes in the Bible. Noah, of ark and rainbow fame, no sooner disembarks than he gets drunk. Jacob, whom we want to root for, lies to Esau to the very last exchange. Jonah prays a prayer suitable for framing in chapter 2, then pouts like a brat in chapter 4. Mary of the great Magnificat later questions her Son's sanity. John the Baptist, of whom there is "none greater among those born to women," sends two skulking messengers to Jesus with his doubts.

Moreover, Genesis doesn't satisfy all my science queries. Judges has X-rated scenes. Job answers questions with questions. The Samuels, Kings, and Chronicles sometimes repeat each other from different angles. The four Gospels have similar overlaps. James's epistle seems to argue with Paul's to the Galatians. Jesus makes relative statements in absolute terms, leaving us scrambling to clarify to proselytes.

But what can I do? "His way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30). His Father told Him "what to say and what to speak" (John 12:49). Form and content, substance and style. Sixty-six books with 40 authors: poetry, prose, proverb, and parable, "all things to all men." Something for the mind and something for the emotions-and whatever other spare parts there are to man. Variety in unity, and richness to mirror the Godhead Himself. However else would you do it? Who would ever think of doing it differently?

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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