Occasionally, I have Bible envy.
Most of my experience with the Bible has been as a Pagan. I grew up in an agnostic-in-all-but-name household, and if the United Methodist Church hadn’t presented me with a copy of the Young Reader’s Bible in third or fourth grade, I doubt my parents ever would have gotten me one. While I never read that copy—it isn’t nearly as child-friendly as the title suggests—I did read the entire Bible a few years after turning Pagan. I chose the most liberal translation I knew of (New Revised Standard Version, only a few years old at the time and trendy) in a study edition (I was going to need all the helpful footnotes I could get), and plowed through it mostly on sheer determination, rather like reading an assigned textbook in college. Given my attitude, it probably isn’t surprising that most of the spiritual aspects escaped me entirely.
So with that history, what am I envious of? Not so much the Bible itself and what it actually says as the idea of the Bible. When you saw the title of this post, you may have wondered why a Pagan was writing about the Bible for Pagan Blog Project, you may even have wondered if you had somehow clicked through to a Christian blog, but you didn’t need me to tell you which spiritual text I was referring to.
I’m betting I don’t have to go into any detail about how many translations of the Bible are available. Heck, I’ve referred to two of them just to sum up my past experience with the Bible. But along those lines, consider the quality of what’s available. Not only are there dillions of translations, there are also study guides available to help would-be readers. Concordances, comparative translations, suggestions for reading schedules (“The Bible in a Year!”), discussion questions for study groups, and academic studies galore: a wealth of aids that I have trouble imagining for most Pagan texts. Oh, certainly many Pagan texts have been translated into English, some of them multiple times. But I’m guessing that many of them have only inspired articles published in academic journals. People who develop supplements for Bible study know that some of their audience will be looking for spiritual meaning in the Bible; I doubt professors publishing papers about Greek literature in academic journals are thinking of the 21st-century people who worship the Greek gods.
That said, the situation is improving even as I type this. Self-publishing is much easier nowadays, and Amazon has started recommending all sorts of books to me that I would never have seen on a bookstore’s shelves, such as devotionals to Greek gods, material meant to be actively used in your spiritual practice. Pagan books are starting to be classified as religious texts by both libraries and booksellers. I just need to be patient (not necessarily one of my strong points) and vigilant.