THESE SUNDAYS OF THE YEAR GIVE US INTRODUCTIONS TO THE PERSON AND LIFE OF JESUS BY THE DIFFERENT GOSPEL WRITERS.  SO FAR THIS YEAR IT IS MATTHEW, LUKE, AND JOHN.  BUT THEY INTRODUCE MORE THAN JESUS.  THEY INTRODUCE THEMSELVES, AND THE DIFFERENT APPROACHES AND VIEWS THEY HAVE, ONE FROM THE OTHER.

THESE REAL DIFFERENCES REALLY GET COVERED UP BECAUSE FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED YEARS WE HAVE BEEN IMPOSING A SENSE O SAMENESS, OR UNITY OF STYLE AND ON THE SCRIPTURES THAT DOES NOT BELING THERE . IT IS AS THOUGH THERE IS JUST ONE REAL STORY ABOUT JESUS, AND THESE WRITERS JUST  GIVE A PERSON PEEK INTO WHAT IS ONE UNVARIED STORY.

THIS IS NOT TRUE.  EVEN MORE IT IS A VERY BAD DISTORTION.  AND IT IS THAT DISTORTION I WANT TO TALK ABOUT. WHAT IS THE DISTORTION?  TO ANSWER THAT WE HAVE TO LOOK AT WHAT WE REFER TO AS THE BIBLE. WHAT IS THE BIBLE?  A BOOK.  ONE BOOK. A SACRED, SINGLE IKON THAT YOU AN HOLD IN ONE HAND.  THAT UNITARY IKON.  THAT IS ITS SOCIAL VALUE.  ABSOLUTE TRUTH AND CERTAINTY YOU CAN HOLD IN YOUR HAND.

THIS IS NEW.  AND IT IS THAT NEWNESS THAT I WANT TO DESCRIBE.  WE TALK ABOUT THE BIBLE AS ONE THING.  JUST ONE THING.  BUT THE WORD ITSELF, IN ITS ORIGINS IS A PLURAL.  THE WORD BIBLE BEGAN AS BIBLION, A GK WORD FOR A SINGLE BOOK. BUT THE SCRIPTURES WEREN’T ONE BOOK, THEY WERE A LOT OF BOOKS.  SO THEY USED THE WORD BIBLIA, THE BOOKS.  THE GREEK PLURAL FOR BOOKS.  OUR WORD BIBLE MEANS BOOKS, NOT A BOOK.  AND THE BOOKS REFERRED TO WERE THE ANCIENT, VERY DIFFERENT TEXTS AND MANUSCRIPTS, BY DIFFERENT PEOPLES, AND FROM VERY DIFFERENT TIMES. THE HEBREW  SACRED TEXTS COVERED A PERIOD OF 7 TO 8  HUNDRED YEARS.  THEY WERE A COLLECTION OF TEXTS THAT AT ONE POINT THE ANCIENT HEBREW TEACHERS S AGREED ON AS THEIR OWN, AUTHENTICALLY SACRED TEXTS.  AND THAN LATER ON THE EARLY CHURCH DID THE SAME.  SELECTING SOME TEXTS AS RELIGIOUSLY AUTHENTIC.  THERE WERE ALWAYS A LOT OF STORIES ABOUT JESUS, THE CHURCH.  BUT LIKE THE HEBREW LEADERS  THE CHRISTIAN TEACHERS EVENTUALLY HAD TO DECIDE WHICH, OF THE MANY STORIES, WERE RELIGIOUSLY AND HISTORICALLY AUTHENTIC, AND WHICH WERE JUST PIOUS STORIES.

SO HOW DID WE GO FROM THE PLURALITY OF STORIES AND TEXTS AD BOOKS TO ONE BOOK.  ONE BOOK THA TREATS THEM AS ALL THE SAME?  THREE MODERN ADDITIONS.

  • THREE THINGS: PAPER –  PRINTING  –  BOOK-BINDING

WHEN I WAS  THINKING ABOUT THESE EARLIER THIS WEEK I REALIZED THAT I KNEW ABOUT PAPER AND PRINTING AND BOOK-BINDING CLOSE UP.  I WORKED IN A PAPER MILL, DURING MY COLLEGE SUMMERS.  AND DURING MY STUDENT YEARS  I ALSO WORKED IN THE PRINT SHOP SETTING TYPE  AND USING A HAND PRESS, AND I WORKED N A BOOK-BINDERY.

EACH OF THESE IS A RELATIVELY MODERN SKILL.  BEFORE THEY ARRIVED THE DIFFERENT BOOKS WERE JUST THAT.  NAMED AND DIFFERENT.  AND THE GOSPELS WERE SINGLE, DIFFERENT  STORIES BY WRITERS WE KNOW AS MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE AND JOHN. BUT THEN, THEY ALL BECAME BOOKS. PRINTED ON PAPER; ALL IN THE SAME TYPE; AND THEN BOUND.

OK, SO WHY DO I MENTION THIS?  BECAUSE MY OWN INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPELS WAS AS INDIVIDUAL STORIES.  I KNEW NEXT TO NOTHING ABOUT OLD OR NEW TESTAMENTS.   BUT THEN WANDER-ING AROUND IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE AFTER COLLEGE AND SETLING INTO A MONASTERY FOR A WHILE I STUDIED THE GOSPELS USING A TEXT WHERE THE SINGLE STORIES WERE TAKEN APART, EVENT BY EVENT AND THEN PUT BACK TOGETHER ON A SINGLE PAGE IN COLUMNS IN THE ORDER IN WHICH THEY HAD HAPPENED.  MT, MK, LK SIDE BY SIDE.  ST JOHN, WHO WAS DIFFERENT,  SET IN SNALL FULL PAGE SECTIONS IN BETWEEM WHERE HE BELONGED. FIRST BOOK I BOUGHT.

SO I GOT TO KNOW THE FOUR GOSPELS AS FOUR SINGLE STORIES,  FOUR SEPARATE STORIES. BY FOUR DIFFERENT WRITERS, EACH WRITTEN FROM THE WRITER’S OWN SOCIAL AND EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS.  AND, EVENTUALLY WITH A LOT OF BORROWING BACK AND FORTH.  BUT EVEN THE BORROWING CAME FROM THEIR OWN INTERSTS AS STORY-TELLERS.  WHAT A GREAT THING IT WAS FOR SOMEONE LIKE ME TO LEARN AT THE START THAT THE GOSPELS WERE INTELLIGIBLE.  FIGURING OUT YOUR OWN LIFE, FIGURING OUT YOUR BELIEFS, THESE FOUR GOSPEL STORIES, WHERE AND WHO THEY CAME FROM, HOW YOU COULD GET INSIDE ANY OF THEM AND YOUR HUMAN REALITIES, IT WAS ALL WORTH-WHILE. ALL DIFFERENT.  ALL REAL.  LIKE LIFE ITSELF