I completely believe that the Bible can become an idol for us. I’ve heard someone define an idol as anything you have to check with before saying yes to God. I think that’s a pretty decent definition. And yet the first thing we’re taught to do when we have an experience with God or hear God speak to us is to run it through the filter of scripture. Wouldn’t that make scripture an idol?
— The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book by Timothy Beal
— Willis Barnstone, Restored New Testament
According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 78 percent of all Americans say that the Bible is the “word of God,” and almost half of those believe that, as such, “it is to be taken literally, word for word.”
Polling data from the Barna Group indicate that nearly half of all Americans agree that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings” (88 percent of all “born-again” Christians believe the same), and the Gallup Poll finds that 65 percent of all Americans believe that the Bible “answers all or most of the basic questions of life.”
Less than half of all adult Americans can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis, in Hebrew Bereshit) or the four Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). More than 80 percent of born-again or evangelical Christians believe that “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse. (It is not.)
Biblical scholar and author Timothy Beal suspects that many would also say that “The Serenity Prayer” and the “Footprints in the Sand” parable are in there somewhere.
More than half of graduating high school seniors guess that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife, and one in ten adults believes that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. (Those two must’ve been multiple-choice questions.)
Almost two-thirds of Americans can’t name at least five of the Ten Commandments. Some of these people, moreover, are outspoken promoters of them. Georgia representative Lynn Westmoreland, cosponsor of a bill to display the Ten Commandments in the chambers of the House of Representatives and Senate, could remember only three when Stephen Colbert asked him to recite them on The Colbert Report."
— Source: Timothy Beal. The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (quoted by Peter Rollins in Insurrection: To Believe Is Human, To Doubt, Divine)
I have been reading the letters of Paul myself recently and I have come to a similar conclusion. Paul seems to make a rather strong case in Galatians against religious authority, and the letter of the law over the spirit of the faith which he sums up with “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
— Dale B. Martin, Sex and the Single Savior
neighbour.” Texts that accord with Christian doctrine and an ethic of love are literal; those that do not are figurative: “If scripture seems to advocate love, it is literal; if it seems to advocate malice, it is figurative.” So Augustine interprets the first part of Romans 12:20 (“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink”) as literal, but the following phrase (“For by doing this you will pile coals of fire on his head”) as figurative. For Augustine, the interpreter may indeed take the human author’s intention into account, but that is certainly not what establishes the literal sense of the text. The literal sense is established by ethical and doctrinal criteria. This is not what modern scholars mean by the “historical sense” or the “author’s intention."
— Dale B. Martin, professor of Religious Studies, Yale University