Several months ago, I listened to an inspirational talk on YouTube. It happened to be in German, and I was surprised and pleased at how much of it I could understand. The speaker pointed out the human tendency to acknowledge the truth of some inspiring affirmation from the Scriptures and then talk ourselves out of it with a “yes, but…” Instead, she said, we need to follow it with a “punkt!”
“Punkt” (the vowel is pronounced like the “oo” in “good”) is the German word for “period,” but with its single syllable and crisp consonants it has much more of a ring of finality. So I find it helpful–and perhaps you will, too– to remember when I read or think of a statement such as “God saw everything that he had made and, behold, it was very good,” to make sure I’m following it mentally if not verbally with a clear and definitive “Punkt”!
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Punkt!
“With God all things are possible.” Punkt!
“We are the children of God.” Punkt!
End of story!
Well, I have spent about 6 weeks working with Professor Horner’s Bible-reading system, and the results have been mixed. I very much like his idea of reading from different books of the Bible on the same day. It enables me to see how amazingly their ideas coincide in spite of the many intervening years and also how they developed over the centuries.
However, ten chapters a day has been difficult to keep up, and the skipping around between the Old and New Testaments has proved rather confusing. in addition, his plan requires reading some books much more frequently than others.
So I have come up with a simpler plan which I think will work better for me: a chapter each from Genesis-Deuteronomy, Joshua-Esther, Job-Solomon’s Song, Isaiah-Malachi, Matthew-Acts, and Romans-Revelation, in that order. I’ve already started making the transition, but I am still grateful to Professor Horner for launching me on this inspiring journey.
In setting out on my Bible adventure, I had to be certain I was choosing a translation that would encourage me to stay with it. I grew up with the King James, and its beautifully wrought language speaks to me as no other translation does. But it includes words that are either obsolete or now have a meaning quite different from what they did in 1611. How could I continue to enjoy the beauty of the KJV, yet not miss the meaning? My solution was The 21st Century King James Version. Unlike the New King James Version, it keeps “ye” and “thou” and “thee” (which I like because I can tell if the second person is singular or plural) and other words that have dropped out of use but which we still understand. In fact, it reads just like my old familiar friend except when a word like “conversation” (which then referred to one’s conduct or way of life) or “prevent” (which then meant “precede”) comes up. And it helps me out with words like “gins” (traps) or “reins” (literally “kidneys,” which were once considered the seat of the emotions as the heart is today.) It’s also helpful to have the poetry printed in verse form and the prose in paragraphs. So with The 21st Century King James, I am off to a successful start on my adventure, happily balanced between linguistic beauty and clear meaning.
Though I do in-depth study of portions of the Bible daily, I have been feeling the need of a better acquaintance with the Scriptures as a coherent whole. My read-throughs in different translations have been helpful, but extended over too long a period to really give the coherence I was looking for. Recently, though, I discovered Professor Grant Horner’s Bible-reading system online. It divides the Bible into ten sections ranging in length from 28 to 250 chapters. The idea is to read one chapter from each of these sections every day. This meant I’d be starting in the gospels, then moving on to the Pentateuch, the epistles, wisdom literature, psalms, proverbs, history, the prophets, and finally the Acts. Wouldn’t that be somewhat dizzying for my tidy little mind? Well, I have been at it for four days, and so far I’m happy to report that I’m really enjoying it and making connections between the Old and New Testaments that I’ve never made before. Plus I’ll have read the whole Bible in 250 days and some parts of it multiple times. I’ll admit to jotting a few notes, which is not part of the system, but even so it takes me only about 35-40 minutes. A great time investment, as I see it, as well as an adventure!
Picking up on last week’s observations re biblical fiction, I can think of no more challenging or more thrilling subject for an author to build a story on than the life of Jesus. The challenge, of course, is in doing him justice–catching even a glimpse of what made him who he was and presenting it in a way that rings true for today’s readers. In attempting this, I had to see Jesus through the eyes of my fictional characters, especially Mara. I found myself asking: What sort of scriptural teaching has she heard up to this point, and how would Jesus’ teaching have been different? What would draw her to him? How would her one-on-one encounter with him be initiated in an age when women’s interactions with men were so restricted? The answer that came to that third question was straight from the Jesus I knew from Scripture: he’d have known she wanted to speak with him. And the moment of this realization was nothing short of soul-stirring. It was insights like this one that made “Daughter of Jerusalem” the most thrilling writing project I’ve ever undertaken.
Why would someone who loves the Bible want to use it as a springboard for a novel? Wouldn’t that tend to trivialize it? I asked myself this question years ago after reading a fine biography of Paul. Why, after writing this factual history of his life, did Henrietta Buckmaster want to rewrite his story in her novel “And Walk in Love”?
After reading it, however, I began to understand. Her research and scriptural study had given her intriguing insights into Paul’s life and character. I think she wanted to take them even further–to envision what it would have meant to actually walk his walk. For this she needed to extend herself beyond the boundaries of historical scholarship and plunge into the deeper waters of the creative imagination. But this plunge of hers has value for Bible readers primarily because she was already well acquainted with the world Paul inhabited and the ideas that shaped his interaction with it. Far from trivializing the Bible, fiction–when rooted in fact–can bring it to life for its readers and allow them vivid glimpses into the Bible’s inhabitants and their world.