Where do you start with the word?
Some time ago, a friend of ours – newly received into the Church and full of enthusiasm – went to his local priest and asked, “I want to read the Bible. Where do I begin?” The priest, may the Lord bless and inspire him, replied, “Well…. I really don't know”.
Now our friend had a good question.
Open your Bible at page one and you will get a superb poem on the creation of life. It is a magnificent literary masterpiece and probably more than 4000 years old. Whether you happen to support the idea of God working through evolution, or intelligent design or any other realistic theory, this poem is not going to argue with you. It is not a scientific thesis, it is a majestic truth. As St Augustine said:
God made it;
How did he make it? He said Let it be!
Why? Because he saw that it was very good!
You and I are part of this created world. On the deepest level God said of my life and yours: Let her be, let him be. And, in the mystery of his love – whatever we may feel about ourselves – he saw that in our making we were good.
Genesis 1:1-31 is a meditation that you could get yourself up with, new every morning. If you read on the plot will thicken. Some of it will be familiar, some of it will be thrilling and a lot of it will be mysterious. If you plunge on regardless, even before you get to Leviticus the plot may well have thickened so chunkily that you might close the pages in dismay.
If you know the Gospels and the whole pattern of Scripture has become familiar, you will be able to understand why the Council of Carthage in 397 left Leviticus in its rightful place.
There is of course, a minority that always start on the last page. At the back of the Bible is the book of Revelation. Some of this, too, may feel familiar or exciting, but on its own it won’t reveal so much.
The Bible is meant to be read as a whole, each part illuminates the other. This way of looking at it is called the Analogy of Faith, Analogy is a Greek word meaning a proportionate correspondence, a likeness, a reflection. There is an analogy between the structure of the atom and the structure of the solar system, though they are two very different things. There is an analogy between the Manna, the bread from heaven given to the people of the Exodus, and the Bread of Life given to the twelve at the Last Supper; though they, also, are two very different things. In the Old and the New Testament, God speaks by events to reveal his word. But in the New Testament the word has become the Word and the teaching has become the Teacher and they are both his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Taken as a whole, the Bible is a gigantic, five dimentional, theme park game; but the reflection you begin to catch at each turn is the face of Christ, and – startlingly – your own face! The Bible is not merely an intellectual game, it is prayer, it is a plan of life, it is love; it is a whole new way of being and living…….
But wait a moment! You have not yet started!