B is for Bible

Young Readers Bible
My first Bible.

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.

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8 thoughts on “B is for Bible

  1. I’ll have to admit to Bible envy as well. Not just because of all the Bible study groups and people memorizing verses together and all that. But also for the sheer attractiveness of the package itself. You can get leather or wood or any cover you want, in black or purple or green with pink flowers. The edges can be gilded or silver. The cover can be hard or lusciously soft. There are even waterproof Bibles.

    Bibles look nice, they feel nice. They are how I want my religious books bound.

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    1. Yes, I was thinking of the waterproof Bibles as I wrote this; I saw some at Half Price Books last month, and was torn between “Well, these will never biodegrade in my lifetime” and “They’re waterproof! That’s so cool!”.

      There are just So. Many. Options. All those different bindings and formats you’ve mentioned. All the translations: King James, modern colloquial English, NRSV trying to be gender-neutral, and heck, Klingon, if you’re so inclined. And the availability: almost any bookstore will have some Bibles in stock—just walk in and pick one. Yes, your religious books should be that nicely bound and that easily available. So should mine. So should everyone’s.

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  2. As someone who was (possibly regrettably) very good at school but really crappy at self-guided learning, I’d really appreciate more pagan “study guides,” like that “read the Bible in a year” you mentioned. I’m afraid I just do better with structure, more’s the pity.

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    1. I hear you. I vaguely regret not going to Kepler University while it existed, not because I’m desperate for a master’s degree in astrology, but because it would’ve been an organized program of study, which means I’d’ve actually done it.

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  3. Cool.

    I was raised Catholic in the days when we didn’t read the bible. In college I was jealous of the people who understood all the biblical undertones and references in literature classes. Then, when raising kids, I tried doing my duty by reading a children’s bible to Girl-child, who was terrified by the stories…so I guess I/we never got it either.

    Ironically, I have the “family bible” that was probably a wedding gift to my parents in the 1950s. I’m sure no one has ever read it, although a couple of us have tried.

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    1. I did try to read my Bible—I’ll at least attempt to read any book that stays around me long enough. I managed a few books, the ones that were stories like Ruth and Esther. I made it through the first few pages of Genesis, because they were the first few pages (I was well-trained to begin books at the beginning), and I skipped ahead to the New Testament and read about Christ’s birth because that was Christmas, so it was fun. So unlike Girl-child, I wasn’t terrified of the Bible stories, but that was because I gave up before I found the scary ones.

      Aw, you have the family Bible. Well, those things do make great heirlooms, especially if your family was the kind to record births, deaths, and stuff like that in it. I can see that someone would want to have read that copy, but if no one really wants to read any Bible, the attempt may be doomed.

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