It's night. Outside my puddle of light, the wind is whining. Leaves swish and tree limbs dance in the dark. And I've just finished Reading the Bible with the Dead. Now I'm just sitting, contemplating. Satisfied. The dead have told me many things. Secrets. Long hidden passions. Conflicting emotions. Uncertainty. Faith in the Unseen. They whisper now. And the echo of their voices makes me feel that I am not alone, that it's all been said and done before. And that I'm not crazy to be thinking what I am.
Reading the Bible with the Dead is not hanging out at the cemetery with my Bible, nor invoking the spirits of my ancestors during devotional time. Rather, it's a book with the coolest name ever. I suppose that it would be less confusing if I used proper english and italicized the title: Reading the Bible with the Dead. But no matter how I frame it, it's not a light read. Not the kind of novel you take to the beach. It's a conversation with the Church Fathers, Medievals and Reformers about some of the difficult texts and topics in Scripture. The subjects we don't talk much about in Church. The texts evaded in the lectionaries of Anglicans, Catholics and Orthodox services. After all, who wants to talk about the rape of Dinah and Tamar? Or the seduction (or seducing) of Bathsheba, the expulsion of Hagar into the wilderness, the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter? And what about patriarchs behaving badly? And let's not get started on the topic of Eve being deceived. (That rhymes by the way.) And speaking of deceived, what about Adam? Does it really matter that he was built first?
In the reading, I am amazed, appalled and undone by the frailty and grace of some of the most brilliant, faithful, thinkers of the ages. Their humanness. How they wrestled with the Biblical texts, their cultures and pastoral concerns. And sometimes falling down spectacularly. (Like when Luther advised the Prince to take a second wife because it was better than committing adultery.) The voices of the past expose how my ignorance robs of me of the perspectives which could help me deal with troubling issues and texts. These conversations with the dead unearth the truth that some of these items are indeed more complex than I know. That there are serious questions that can and should be asked. It's made me appreciate that I am part of a Church with a long history of reflection and struggle with the issues of life. It's made me appreciate that sometimes I can't really figure it all out on my own. Sometimes I need to read the Bible with the dead.