Whose Canon Is This?

Being a Bibles editor, I suppose, is a rare kind of job these days.  The book that defined our culture now rests in the back seat under discarded fast food bags and covenants of a more modern kind.  Often it surprises me how little we really know about the Good Book.  When I was a teenager I discovered that Catholic Bibles had more books than the Protestant versions with which I’d grown up.  Had I been more attuned to historical issues at that point this surely would’ve raised a crisis.  Had we left out some sacred books?  That would seem to be a grave mistake.  As I was making my way through all the translations of the Bible you could find in a rural area in pre-internet days, I began to read the Apocrypha.

The title “Apocrypha” translates to “hidden” or “obscure.”  Martin Luther’s argument was that these books were never in the Bible recognized by the Jews (therefore, by extension, Jesus), and therefore should be left out.  My question upon reading them, as it was regarding just about any book, was “did this really happen?”  That was the acid test for a Fundamentalist youth.  If something really happened it was, by definition, true.  The implications of this for the books of the Protestant Bible only became clear later.  Scripture is more subtle than that.  So it is that I’ve been thinking about how we in Bible-land privilege the western canon.  Not only are the Deuterocanonical books called “Apocrypha,” we leave out the books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, despite its 45 million members.

The books of 1 Enoch and Jubilees are included in the Ethiopian canon, but they can be tricky to find even now in the wide world webbed together.  Western biblical scholars have begun to take strong interest in these books, but the days are long passed when scholars could determine the content of the Bible.  The Good Book has taken on a life of its own that no amount of scholarship can challenge.  Minds have already been made up and tightly closed, even as we continue to gain information on ancient contexts and the massive collection of writings that never made it into anyone’s Bible.  Fundamentalism, so very certain of itself, has defined a circumscribed Bible to which nothing may be added or taken away.  Even as John of Patmos wrote that admonition, however, the Bible recognized by early Christians was growing.  And, ironically, some even left out his book.  Such matter remain hidden indeed.

Which Bible Again?

Which Bible? That’s a fair enough question. No matter how much you want to deny it, western culture always has been and always will have been biblically based. That being the case, it’s best to know which Bible we’re talking about. The Protestant Bible is America’s Good Book. Although there were Catholics before Protestants were a gleam in Luther’s eye, the latter laid early claim to the Bible. When a Bible appears in a social or civil religion context, it’s most likely Protestant. The Catholic Bible contains extra material—that which Protestants call The Apocrypha. Satisfied that Luther was right to leave the Deuterocanonical books out, their role as fake good news has never been questioned. If the King James was good enough for Jesus and Paul, they say, only half in jest.

Some Evangelicals belong to the King James only movement. They come up with alternative facts when faced with the reality that the King James translation includes the Apocrypha. Yes, it’s right there in black and white. The Authorized Version of the Bible included the “Catholic books.” I was reminded of this the other day when I was searching for a simple factoid—how many words are in the King James Bible? The vast majority of websites give the unquestioning answer of 783,137. They may then break it down into “Old Testament” and New. Almost always they leave out the Apocrypha. The word count there is 152,185, and if my math serves, that brings the total to 935,322—not quite a million words. The Good Book is a big book.

The King James Onlyists (yes, that’s a thing) have bigger problems than the Apocrypha. What King James is the onlyist? The KJV you buy in your Christian bookstore is one of the many 18th century revisions of the 1611 King James. You see, translations are hardly stable. They change over time. Even the Revised Standard Version isn’t completely standard. I noticed while reading it as a kid that words had been changed over time. If our beloved Onlyist friends want to be purists and go back to the 1611 then they’ll have the problem of the Apocrypha to deal with. So which Bible? It’s a fair question. Catholic Bibles are bigger. Some Orthodox traditions also include such exotic books as Jubilees and 1 Enoch. And, from this we should take a lesson. Where there’s 1 Enoch, there’s always another not far away.

Faith for Sale

Materialism can be defined in a number of different ways. One of the more common is that people desire material things. We want stuff. Now, we all need things to survive. My sympathies are always with the poor for whom each decision can be a potential tragedy. Spend too much on something and you may not have enough left to purchase something you need. As people, though, we all long for nice things. So it is that places like dollar stores exist. The dollar store is not the same as the “five and dimes” with which I grew up. The latter stocked things that were, in large measure, practical. Things you might need: pencils, string, soap. A dollar store, however, may lead you down a different path. A lot can be had for a dollar. Some of it may seem to promise more than it can deliver.

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My wife sent me a photo of a dollar store where the window was lined with what appears to be religious statuary. I’d be lying if I weren’t to admit that my first impulse was to go and purchase some cheap salvation. I’m sure the statues aren’t made of stone. I’m not even Catholic, so I’m not sure a one-dollar Mary would help with much of anything. Still, it is something to buy. Something material. Something that seems to make promises beyond itself. Here is the danger of the dollar store. It’s only a dollar!

Every now and again I play with this thought-experiment: if I knew that I would only survive one more year, what would I buy? Many things seem superfluous in the face of eternity. Would material comforts, or larks, do anything more than depreciate the little I would leave to others? That game tends to show materialism in a rather crass light. What do I really need to buy? We all have our weaknesses, for sure, but it can’t hurt once in a while to think that the material is just that: material. And we might have a very different set of values if we didn’t measure worth in terms of material gain. Faux-stone Mary would likely back me up on that.

School Bible

BibleSchoolConstittnAs a very young scholarlet, I recall the horror expressed when some form of prayer was expelled from public schools. It had to have been in the late ’60’s. Maybe early ’70’s. The nation, it seemed, was headed for Hades in a hurry. Little did I know that this was part of a long, drawn-out—tired, even—battle. Steven K. Green’s The Bible, the School, and the Constitution: The Clash that Shaped Modern Church-State Doctrine gives pretty close to the full story. Bible reading in public schools was foundational, in the beginning. In the early days of public education, the Bible was ubiquitous. It was considered non-sectarian since practically everyone was a Protestant. When the religious mix of the country began to diversify in the mid-1800’s, a new dynamic emerged. People got upset. There were riots. People were killed. Legislation was proposed that would explicitly add God—Jesus even—to the Constitution. Who knew?

Green’s study takes a close look at the various cases that arose around the time of the Civil War regarding the Bible in school. Protestants, it seems, didn’t appreciate that Bible reading, in the King James Version, without comment, violated Roman Catholic policy. The first to challenge Bible reading in public schools were Christians. Secularists only joined the fray later. I’m oversimplifying, of course. Some Catholics wanted equal time, the reading of the Douay Bible instead of King James. Others wanted Catholic schools to receive state funding. Nobody was really aware of other religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism. It was a country of limited religious imagination. Various groups tried in various ways to get God—their God only—into schools as the default deity. And so the fun continued.

For me, it was eye-opening to realize that all of this isn’t new. The legislation, since long before my grandparents were born, has been heading in the direction that led to the aggrieved tears in my youth. Green points out, however, that the conflict has never been completely resolved. School vouchers and a long spate of evangelical presidents have had their impact on our children. The Hades that we feared has only come with the weaponizing of our culture, largely by those who want Bible reading back in the schools. The thing we fear finds us through the thing we love. Ironically the issue never seems to be education. God or guns—it’s the power that we want. The early debates revolved around morality. How could kids be moral without Bible reading? How the definition of morality has changed. We, as a nation, still can’t figure out religious freedom or how to let kids be kids.

Con-Ception

Sometimes you see something so often it become invisible. I pass by a local cemetery every day, and it wasn’t until a friend from out of town came to visit that I knew of the irony of its iron gates. Immaculate Conception Cemetery is one of several Catholic cemeteries in the area. In a deeply symbolic gesture, most cemeteries are designed as the ultimate gated communities. One of the great thrills for the young is to hang out in graveyards at night to test their mettle and for boys to impress the girls and each other with their bravery. But this can lead to vandalism issues. I remember how distressed I was, upon visiting a cemetery in upstate New York on a genealogical trip, to find a family marker for several of my ancestors heartlessly toppled over. I wrote to the cemetery custodian (people still used letters in those days), and the next time I visited, it was, to my utter relief, repaired. Part of my past had been restored.

None of this, however, was what my friend pointed out. When the gates to the Immaculate Conception Cemetery are opened, the left hand gate reads, “Immaculate Con.” My curiosity aroused, I walked over the next morning to look. Indeed, “Immaculate Con” standing just beneath the cross. The right hand gate, cross-less, reads “ception Cemetery.” Without treading the road to Inception, I stood before the openly inviting gates with some wonder. Is there something deeper to this Immaculate Con? Is there something the church wants to tell us? Were the iron-mongers insinuating something covert? Or is it just the giddy over-imagination of yet another overstimulated religionist?

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Surely this is just the case of pragmatic spacing and pacing. The dead lie here in faith that they are counted among the chosen. Across town is a cemetery where, I noticed some years before, one half contains headstones facing east and another half has headstones facing west. Those facing east are inscribed with Roman letters, those toward the west with Hebrew. The Jewish and Christian dead lie next to each other, facing opposite directions.

Cemeteries say, despite their silence, volumes about what we believe. We put our dead out of our midst, but our cities grow and consume our necropoli, forcing us to face our beliefs yet once again. Do our deepest hopes and fears, tied so intimately with our mortality, make us who we are? We will all face death at some time. When we face the iron gates before the pearly ones, what will we see? If the gates are open, it might be that we’ll read, with our undead eyes, “Immaculate Con.”

Tree Goddess

If you’re missing a virgin, I suggest you might try West New York. According to the local section of Friday’s New Jersey Star-Ledger an alleged image of the Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared in “an unusual tree” in West New York. The local diocese, no doubt correctly, suggests that the “image” is probably “just some discoloration that resembles Our Lady of Guadalupe.” Those inclined to accept pareidolia as fact, however, have already made up their minds. The tree has been barricaded off and flowers have been laid at its base and cell phone shutters are making their electronically fabricated snapping noises. A Google image search of “Virgin Mary West New York” brought up more than a million hits. People are desperate for a miracle.

Back when I was working on my dissertation, the tree goddess was inevitably Asherah. One of my unspoken speculations from those days was that trees are evocative plants, easily playing to the human imagination. In the right conditions a young tree can be mistaken for a person at a distance. The branches, particularly in late autumn and winter, resemble gnarled fingers reaching for the sky or any unwary passer by. And the natural knots and scars on tree trunks (such as in the current example) readily fire unlikely associations. They can be eyes, mouths, faces, or other anatomical bits—as people we project ourselves onto any likely (sometimes unlikely) avatars in the natural world. If images are to be believed, hundreds of people are devoutly weeping and praying at an entirely natural formation in the wood less than two miles from the most sophisticated city in the country.

Even with the Roman Catholic Church urging caution, blind belief is not dissuaded. What does it say about us that we so deeply desire a sign from above? This is the kind of question those who claim that a reasoned materialism will inevitably trump superstition must ask themselves in profound reflection. The fact is that people always have (and always will) assigned meaning to what they see. It is the gift and curse of evolution. “I think I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree,” Joyce Kilmer famously wrote before being killed in World War One. This New Brunswick, New Jersey native, who died at 31 in the killing fields of France, might wonder that so many stop at that first famous stanza. To those thronging in West New York, I would recommend a little Kilmer with their miracle. Let’s leave the last word to the poet: “A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray…”

Battle the Angels

Over the weekend I finally got around to watching Battle Los Angeles. Now, I’ve never been a fan of war movies, but I do have a soft spot for aliens, so I decided to tough it out and see who won. I knew the historic event upon which the premise of the film was based took place in 1942, before flying saucers captured the American imagination. The official Air Force story suggests that old nemesis to our control of the air: weather balloons. Considering that Los Angeles was blacked out and ground forces lobbed 1,400 artillery rounds at the things, I wonder why the balloons at my daughter’s birthday parties never managed to last the night. In any case, the movie runs with the premise that aliens have taken over the city of angels and the U. S. Marines are the ones to get the job done when it comes to taking out aliens. (The Air Force, one expects, is too busy chasing weather balloons.)

Gratuitous aliens and science fiction action may be merit enough to get into this blog, but there is actually a more compelling reason. Back in my teaching days, I tried to demonstrate to students how deeply the Bible pervades our culture. When I taught those long summer and winter term courses, sometimes lingering four hours into the night, I would break up the inevitability of my lectures with a few movie clips to show them just how often the Bible shows up in films. Sometimes the cameo appearance is a matter of fleeting seconds, but when directors pay attention to every detail of a scene, we can be sure that Bibles don’t just show up by accident. Battle Los Angeles is no different. As our platoon is being air-lifted into the alien hot zone, one of the soldiers (I couldn’t figure out which one, since most of them get dispatched in fairly short order) is shown reading the Bible. The camera hovers there a second before pulling back to show the pre-battle chatter.

The viewer is probably supposed to be reminded that there are no atheists in foxholes, as the saying goes. Or it is a sign of how serious this is: before the big guns come out, bring on the Bible? In our culture the Bible has that kind of role. I recently read of a Catholic astronomer who was seeking alien civilizations in order to convert them to Christianity. The premise is as intriguing as it is arrogant. Human beings can be tenacious when it comes to matters of belief. In Battle Los Angeles, however, we speak with our guns and our missiles. But first we read our Bibles. Without wishing to ascribe to much intentional subtlety to the movie, this might be the underlying paradigm. Once the battle begins in earnest, the Bible never comes back into play. It is human ingenuity that wins the day, and perhaps the aliens are being taught to pray.

Saints and Snakes

I am not now, nor have I ever been, Catholic. So why am I wearing green today? It could be that a drop or two of Irish blood courses through my veins from a stow-away great-great-grandmother, or the assurance that, as an American mutt some Irish must have gotten in somehow. Or maybe it is more than that. From my youngest days, even before I knew of my family history (and nobody had bothered to inquire), I still wore green on Saint Patrick’s Day. Getting off the bus at school and seeing so many people with otherwise so little in common coming together to wear shades of green on the same day was somehow inspiring and made me feel like part of something larger than myself. It was a day of fun, and decidely not one of doctrine or repressive decrees about women or homosexuals or even Protestants. It was a day of unity.

Can a day based on church mythology ever long remain a day of peaceful inclusion of others? In college I met militant Protestants who insisted that orange be worn on Saint Patrick’s Day to stand in solidarity with the Protestant minority. I heard news reports of gays being excluded from otherwise festive Saint Patrick’s Day parades in major cities. Maybe the snakes driven out of Ireland have lodged themselves in the souls of those who plant divisiveness—but it occurs to me that I’m being unfair to the snakes.

In a tiny time capsule of twenty-four hours, Saint Patrick’s Day is a miniature paradigm of the ambivalence that we call religion. At its best it draws people of all backgrounds together for a celebration as large as life itself. At the same time, it is the ultimate in exclusion—the statement that we are special in a way you are not. Green, the color of Ireland, is an apt symbol for the day. In the planet world, the large swaths of earth seen from high above, green is the color of life. Each spring the shooting forth of green is eagerly awaited as the plant kingdom reveals to us that a refreshing change is in the air. Among many animal species, however, green stands for illness, and perhaps impending death. So here I am wearing green—not Catholic, not plant, not wishing to make unequal divisions. It is just like a religious holiday to celebrate ambiguity.

What's love got to do with it?

Stuff and Nonsense

I don’t pretend to know much about politics. Beyond the required social studies classes through which I was channeled as a high school student and as an undergraduate I glimpsed the halls of power and they seemed pretty dirty to me. Not that studying religion was a much better choice, but then, enough Bible-dust in the eyes can obscure any vision. So I see some political pundits claiming that Santorum’s victories in the southern states demonstrate that his conservative platform resonates with the electorate. In their sense of surprise, I wonder why the elephant in the room is generally ignored. No matter how enlightened the modern political scientist may be, the fact is that Mormonism is held to be a “cult” by many evangelical churches. Religion specialists have long made the mistake of dismissing right-wing conservative Christian groups as an aberration, a mirage that will disappear when the coolness of evening settles the turbulent air over the pavement. The Republican primaries should shatter such illusions, but it won’t.

Just an ordinary guy, with his millions

While many of us have been trained to treat all religions as striving after the amorphous other, many others are raised to believe that Mormonism is a danger to society. Not that I agree, but I know from personal experience this is what they teach. I was raised on the tracts and texts that spelled it out in black-and-white claiming Mormonism to be a “cult.” The very word “cult” is eschewed by scholars of religion as a description for non-conventional theologies. As a term it is so 1980’s. Tell that to the electorate. The political pundits, it seems to me—and I may be wrong—underestimate how much people vote with their faith. Over the past twenty years, the Roman Catholic Church has demonstrated itself a champion of conservative causes. It has gone from pariah among the parishes to pontiff of the politicos. When evangelicals can’t stay in the race, it is difficult to distinguish Catholics from Pentecostals. Even scholars of religion should be scratching their heads.

The fact is we simply do not know enough about religion. Media treatment of the field is often dismissive or facile. Meanwhile, it is fueling the political engines that will lead to a showdown of worldviews in November. Maybe the Maya were correct after all. I don’t know much about politics. I’ve studied religion long enough to admit that I know little about it as well. I fear the experts with too many answers. If I turn out my pockets I find they are full of nothing but questions. (And lint.) Religion is what wins elections, yet our universities dismiss its study as juvenile and irrelevant. I read the headlines from the primaries—only a farce like this could make me miss Sarah Palin.

Three Degrees Below Zero

Rick Santorum has turned his attack on intelligence against American universities, according to a story in the Huffington Post. He claims the left uses colleges for indoctrination to keep themselves in power. Sounds like somebody’s been sipping a little too much communion wine. I know many people who might have a right to make such claims, but Santorum isn’t one of them. Santorum earned a Bachelor of Arts, with honors, from the wicked, indoctrinating Pennsylvania State University. He then succumbed again to the indoctrination when he, apparently accidentally, earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh. Somehow he stumbled onto a J.D. with honors from Dickinson School of Law. A man this indoctrinated, I say, has no business being president.

During these senior moments (not to offend any seniors who might actually make that claim) Santorum seems to have missed that universities are among the most under-funded, crisis-ridden institutions on American soil. With rare exceptions, universities are cutting programs, canceling positions, and slashing budgets. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve vented a fair amount of criticism on our universities and I know, firsthand, that they aren’t perfect. I rage because I love. It seems that some children of privilege like to rage because it’s in fashion. If you’re going to take on those smarter than you, at least try to get the facts straight. Higher education is such a small segment of the American employment force that the only reason you’d go after them is that, well, you’re in a church. Baptist Catholic Santorum made his remarks while at a church in Florida, a state which, despite insidious power-mongering, boasts some of the finest universities in the country.

Taking stabs at Obama, Santorum claims the president wants all kids to go to college, and that’s a bad thing. You don’t want an educated electorate. It is harder to get educated people to march in goose-step with everybody else. Talk about indoctrination! Vote for me, because I will keep you safe from the horrors of an education of which I couldn’t stop my self from taking advantage. Don’t send your kids to law school. There can be real danger even in sending them to grammar school, for there they learn to spell. I wonder, if in the course of earning his three degrees, Mr. Santorum ever learned to spell the word “hypocrite.”

Just an average guy, hanging with his buds.

Fecit potentiam

Yesterday at Princeton’s annual seasonal choral concert, the program consisted of Bach. The first piece was a Magnificat, a piece that, in prose form, I quickly memorized at Nashotah House. With our daily double dose of chapel services, liturgical standbys such as the Magnificat quickly became reflex recitations, made with little thought beyond getting on to the next piece. It occurred to me as I listened to it at leisure, the hopes of poor Mary haven’t really materialized after these 2000 plus years. After a couple of millennia, perhaps it is time for a state of the theology assessment.

Despite the veneration of Mary in the liturgical branches of Christianity, the collective handmaids of the Lord have made slow progress in being integrated fully into church leadership. Only with the last century, and fairly late therein, did many Protestant denominations finally recognize that Mary’s gender might have something to teach the men. Paul, for one, would have had none of it. Even today the Roman Catholic Church stalwartly refuses to consider female priesthood. Perhaps Mary’s prayer should be uttered yet again within its walls?

At the section labeled “fecit potentiam,” however, I noticed further lack of fulfillment. “God has shown strength with God’s arm,” the program translates, “God has scattered the proud.” The hopes expressed in the next several verses have been silenced beneath the greed of an economic system with no responsibility. “God has deposed the mighty from their seats.” When did that happen? Those of the Occupy movement who’ve received a face of pepper spray might beg to differ. “God has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich God has sent away empty.” Sent away to their summerhouses, their mansions, and their penthouse apartments? Away from the working class who oil the gears of their massive machines. No, it seems that the Magnificat has not fared so well at predicting the new era to be brought in by a special child.

Of course, Luke’s song of Mary is based on Hannah’s song at becoming the mother of Samuel from the Hebrew Bible. Samuel was the great judge and prophet who saw to the law and order in the land. Strangely, however, the Bible manages to confuse Samuel with his erstwhile enemy Saul, conflating their birth accounts. Isn’t it just like the Bible to confuse the oppressed with the oppressor? The strength shown with the divine arm, the wealthy inform us, is the strength they wield. After all, god and gold differ by only one letter.

Haunted Purgatory

Halloween season is a time for both pagans and evangelicals alike to tremble. Our usual local “haunted house” for charity being closed this year, my family went to the local haunted farm last night. In a nation where few of us grow up on farms, the agricultural world is already a foreign environment. And corn is a scary plant when it dries out, especially at night. The Creepy Hollow part of the farm tour was a long, rambling stumble through a corn field where costumed actors jump out at you or just as ominously shake the cornstalks as you walk by in the dark. Senses that we have long ignored leap to full attention, scanning for any possible fright. At nearly a mile long, this haunted trail was pretty intense, and I’ll admit to being glad to have seen the open field at the end. One of the props along the way was a haunted church. As I’ve noted before, religion and fear often stride hand-in-hand.

Earlier in the day, my wife had pointed out an article in the Huffington Post about the dilemma many evangelicals face when their kids want to celebrate Halloween. A holiday of Catholic and pagan origins (both feared equally by the truly staunch evangelical), Halloween is a season of dangerous influences. In response, some groups have started their own “Hell Houses” designed to show kids the horrors of Hell as they walk through a putatively non-fiction version of fear. The intention seems clear enough, although a little odd for a religion that claims to be based on love. The Hell Houses are part of an alternative holiday called “Jesus Ween” and people are encouraged to give out Bibles rather than candy. At least they got the scary book part right.

In an unrelated yet relevant story, Time projects that the seven billionth person will be born on October 31. I remember when there were just four billion of us, and my teachers began pointing out the stresses we place on our environment. Of course, those who co-opt the identity of being “pro-life” advocate for as many of our species as possible—less for God to pour out love, but better to populate Hell, apparently. The Roman Catholics share this petard with the evangelical camp, as Monty Python made famously clear in The Meaning of Life. We have overcome (largely) nature’s control on our expansion, and as Halloween, or Jesus Ween, races nearer, we have less to fear from chainsaw-wielding maniacs than we do from Bible-bearing clones who claim it is divine mandate to stress our own planet to death.

Happy Birthday King James

Four centuries ago a literary landmark was published. Today marks the birthday of the King James Version of the Bible, arguably the most influential book ever published in the English language. Those active in scholarly circles at bibliocentric institutions are popping the cork on their sparkling grape juice today, since for many the King James Bible represents the real liberation of God’s message. In some sense, the KJV also represents the origins of Protestant movement. Liberating the Bible from the clutches of scholarly Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, the King James Bible made the book accessible to the English-speaking world. As direct access to the Bible grew, the pontifical power of Rome (with apologies to besainted John Paul II) came increasingly under question. Inquiring minds wanted to know what God himself said. Of course, the Bible soon enough would evolve into a lash in the able hands of power-hungry theocrats.

Today the New International Version outsells the venerated King James. Some very conservative groups still hold to the King James Version as an “inspired translation” that no others can touch. The New International Version was hailed by evangelicals as a more up-to-date, safe translation of the Bible when it first appeared. The fact remains, however, that translations can never fully replicate the original. This is a major problem of bibliolatry. Languages are systems of thought and direct translation never fully captures the “meaning” of the original. Few who adore the Bible have the time to truly learn Hebrew and Greek, so guardianship of the truth must be passed to a reliable translation. The King James, in turn, also became the basis for some shaky theological ideas that are challenged by more accurate translations.

As the Internet rings with stories of the death of Osama bin Laden, the dangers of absolute religious adherence to any book of faith should become clear. Bibles, Qurans, Talmuds – these may be guideposts along the way, but they are often mistaken for the end of the journey. Written texts are subject to interpretation and even the KJV is read different ways by different believers. Instead of worshipping books, we would be better advised to read them. And if from that reading we learn to think then the time of the original composers of sacred writ will not have been wasted. That would be cause for celebration indeed.