Monday, May 08, 2006

61 will do

OK, here's a question you're welcome to either have fun with, or, if you prefer, take seriously. Earlier this year my housemate asked: If God had only revealed five books of the Bible, which ones would we want them to be? (A variant on this would be to name which five books you would take to a desert island for the rest of your life.) It's quite an interesting exercise, and I recommend trying it sometime, but here I want to put a twist on it and pose another question instead:

Given the opportunity, which five books of the Bible would you cut, and why? The idea here is that God would not have revealed (or however you interpret inspiration) these five books at all, and we would have no notion of their content, unless it is material also found elsewhere. You have to pick exactly five (no more, no less), and you can't just drop parts of a book either (e.g., 1 Timothy 2, or that psalm about bashing babies' heads).

I could see this going two different directions. The first is if you really like all the books of Scripture, and would have to concede which ones to give up. The other, of course, is if you have a canonical bone to pick and really want something gone. Or you could do some of each.

And just to keep things interesting for those taking the first option, the books that are really short, largely redundant, or no one ever reads (let's say 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Obadiah, Nahum, 2-3 John, and Jude) are already out, so you have to pick something else.

As your resident stalwart defender of Scripture, I will of course do my best to challenge everyone's picks.


Scott Slaughter said...

oh boy fun time. i will have to noodle on this one.

Darius said...

Not being able to drop parts of books?

Unfair! One of my favorites is the Book of Job. But ya know that "happy ending," where Job gets back his house, a new wife, and a Lincoln Towne Car (they used the "e" at the end in those days), completely undermining one of the major points of the preceding narrative - basically, that God is inscrutable, and bad things can and do happen to good people?

Scholars have figured out that it was tacked on by a different author a few centuries later...

Matthew said...

Finally! I can post a comment! Darn blogspot.

Here are my picks, although I reserve the right to recant, retreat and otherwise change my mind when Scott unleashes his canonical fury.

Joshua - too diabolical

John - too theological

1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy - too gynaecological

Revelation - too eschatological

(Darius - let's drop the Hollywood ending to Mark, too.)

jeremy said...

How many books did Paul write? Alas, more than 5.

Ephesians (keeping women in their place for almost 2000 years)

Joshua (God orders genocide)

connor said...

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Genesis

That should smooth things over.

Matthew said...

jeremy said:
Ephesians (keeping women in their place for almost 2000 years)

At least in the western world. Other men managed to find other excuses.

scoots said...

Job: I think a stronger case can be made that Elihu's speech (chs. 34-37) was added later, but it seems to me the epilogue and the prologue are likely to have been written together.

Gotta keep the whole book though.

Joshua: It's clear enough why the book is offensive, but it seems to me it just gives us a relatively pure example of a theme of divine violence that permeates Scripture. See, e.g., Num 21:2-3; Deut 7:2; 1Sam 15:2-3; 2Kgs 10:20-27. I'll make it a point to post on divine violence in the near future.

John: Too theological. Hmm, hard to know what to say here. If you mean that it's too theological for a book that purports to present straight-up history, then I'm with you. But that would mean the church should read the book differently, not that we should get rid of it, right? Surely Paul (esp. Romans, Galatians, Philippians) is just as theological as John? Perhaps Matt could explain what he meant...

1Cor and 1Tim: Too gynaecological. Getting rid of these would certainly be a nice 1-2 punch for women leaders in the church.

However, I'd argue that 1Cor 1, and the foolishness of God versus the wisdom of humans, is worth the price of submission -- er, admission -- all by itself. Then there's Paul's brilliant plea for acceptance of one another in the church in chapters 8-12, leading to 13 where prophecies, tongues, and knowledge (the highly valued spiritual gifts the Corinthians cling to) are subjugated to the command to love.

I just can't give it up.

I'll give 1 Timothy some more thought and post on it later.

Ephesians: It seems to me that of the ways of asking women to submit to their husbands, a passage that also insists, "Husband, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies," is as palatable as you can get.

Revelation: This gets us to divine violence again, I believe. That'll have to wait until later.

OK Connor - your assignment: 500 words on what Christianity would be like without the Gospels. Go.

connor said...

A written assignment? I'm a freakin engineer! Okay, well without the gospels we still have Acts, Paul and the rest of the New Testament so most churches of Christ should do just fine.

A. Lo said...

Wow, you guys are nerds.

I say that instead of throwing out books of the bible, we add some more stuff in that modern Christians will appreciate and perhaps actually take to heart.

I’m envisioning a sequel to the bible with books such as “James Dobson and Jesus are one and the same” (Hey, they were probably born about the same time, right?); “Women: Sit down, shut up. . .and bring me a beer”; “God wanted to give Jabez all of his desires (so he must want to increase my bank account, too)”; “Why Jesus only cared about abortion and homosexual marriage”; and “You can’t get into heaven unless you’ve seen ‘The Passion,’ but if you’ve seen ‘The DaVinci Code, you’re in big trouble.”

Feel free to add your own.

Matthew said...

scoots said:
Hmm, hard to know what to say here. If you mean that it's too theological for a book that purports to present straight-up history, then I'm with you. But that would mean the church should read the book differently, not that we should get rid of it, right?

Actually, that's why I dropped most of those books: because they're difficult to interpret, and people often interpret them in ways that justify their hurting other people.

homo escapeons said...

GENESIS: But how will kids in Kansas learn anything about our 6000 year old planet?
JOB: I didn't care for his first family either.
REVELATIONS: Anything to get Jack Van Skimpy off of the air!
PSSSSSALMS:You shall break them with a rod of iron lalala You shall smash them in pieces like a potter's vessel lalala.
Hey JUDE: America needs ungodly libertines and corrupting believers within the church to drag it kicking and screaming into the 14th Century.
NUMBERS; Begats schmegats..

Just ECCLESIASTES; apparently you have to be Solomonic in the discernment gifting department to figure out that it's all VANITY.

Jason Knott said...


Howdy from Chicago. I hope you're doing well. Three points here:

1) This whole exercise is stupid if you're not willing to put your own choices forward.

2) In any case, it is only calculated to bring out the copious stupidity that infects contemporary "intellectuals." Sure, I would not shed a tear if 1 Timothy were to disappear from the canon. But let's face it, given the situation in the first-century Mediterranean, if the Pastorals did not exist, it would be necessary for us to invent them. The assumption that without certain words of Paul, what we currently know as "feminism" would have existed in ancient times is laughable. Before modern technology, most importantly birth control, such ideas were impossible.

3) Go Mavs!!!!!!