My friend and college classmate, Dr. Don Polaski (PdD in Old Testament from Duke University) just posted this on Facebook:
“I draw your attention to the Tennessee Senate, which wants to make the ‘Holy Bible’ the state book. Ah, but which Bible you may ask?
The original legislation just said ‘Holy Bible’ but after a couple of amendments, it now includes the Catholic and Orthodox Apocrypha (listed separately, which duplicates books) and ‘the Torah, the twenty-four (24) books of the Tanach, as well as the additional writings that are central to the Jewish faith’ after which they include the table of contents of the Mishnah. The Torah, is part of the Tanach, which is the same group of books (differently ordered) as the Protestant Old Testament.
They have managed – in their attempt to define the Holy Bible – to create a collection that no one person would ever recognize as the Holy Bible.”
OMG – and I’m not taking the Lord’s name in vain here. I am praying a sincere prayer: “Oh, my God.” What are we doing?
There is so much wrong here, as with so much that’s in the news these days, it’s hard to know where to begin. But, a good start is with Dr. Polaski’s observation: the “good book,” as currently defined by the grand wisdom of the Tennessee Senate is now… nobody’s sacred text!
My Bible contains 66 books, 39 in what Christians call the “Old Testament” and 27 in the “New Testament.” The Oxford annotated version of the NRSV, my go-to for sermon preparation, also contains the Apocrypha – but I do wonder how many Tennessee senators have actually read the book of Tobit or 2 Maccabees?
And how many fewer of them would have accorded these books “biblical” status before the senate got into the business of legislating religion? Will they actually regard Tobit as “the inspired Word of God” if the senate manages to pass this bill? It would, by virtue of civic law, become “The Holy Bible”!
That “Holy Bible” also now contains the Mishnah, so I’m sure Baptists all over Tennessee are shouting “Amen!”
And then asking, “What’s the Mishnah?”
IRONIC aside: The 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial,” that put the teaching of evolution in public schools on trial, was held in Dayton, Tennessee. That trial, perhaps single-handedly, inspired the inerrantist movement of biblical interpretation – a movement which insists on a literal interpretation of the Bible, based on the “plenary verbal inspiration” of the original texts of the Bible. You can rest assured that the loudest proponents of inerrancy do NOT affirm the inerrant inspiration of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Apocrypha, or the Jewish Mishnah!
So, if I need to spell out the irony for you: the state which began insisting on the literal inspiration of 66 books of the Bible is now broadening the canon - now including in the “Holy Bible” texts that no “inerrantist” worth his salt would dare have called “holy.” Until, as it turns out, there was a political motivation to do so!
Do you understand how foolish this is? And how fraught with danger?
Whose sacred text is this so-called “Holy Bible” the politicians are making? And how good could a “Good Book” be after legislators, motivated by fear and fanaticism, finish tossing it around as a political football? This “Bible,” is clearly based on pandering to and accommodating all relevant constituencies in the Volunteer State. After all, there is an election this fall.
If you think I am over-reacting here, read the conclusion to Amendment 3 to HB0615:
“BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE:
The Holy Bible is hereby designated as the official state book because of its cultural and historical significance.”
Did you hear it? Did you hear what is missing – I mean, blatantly, obviously, ironically, but all-tellingly and most-importantly missing?
There is not one word about the Bible’s significance as a spiritual book, a book regarded as divine wisdom for adherents of the Christian or Jewish religions. It’s just a book of “cultural” and “historical” significance!
And that’s what happens when politicians decide what “The Holy Bible” is.
And there’s nothing holy about it.