I've just completed my SIXTH cover-to-cover reading of this book.
This time it's been read over 14 months, a couple of pages (sometimes more) per day - with my making, or rather, adding to, notes from previous readings.
My first time of reading was when I was around 20 and, being then a still-practising and seriously devout Catholic, read the 'Church approved' version - the Douay-Rheims translation. The exercise was more of a 'duty' on my part then, though there was no outright instruction, as such, that one ought to read it through. At that stage of my life the reading would have been unquestioning and blinkeredly uncritical .
My next two forays were into the more modern Church of England 'New English Bible' published in the 1960s with translations claimed as being not only up-to-date but also more accurate. (Even the Lord's Prayer was revised! - And why not?)
I suppose after then, at around the age of 50, I was having serious doubts about the veracity of the Bible. (I'd kept my Catholic faith up to my mid-20s, but even after discarding it, still considered myself a Christian for about a further 25 years, being quite an active member of the Gay Christian Movement for some of that period).
Then it must have been on my fourth read-through (now it was the turn of the authorised King James version) that I felt that my disbelief was starting to outweigh any residual faith I was still clinging onto. Some of the narrated incidents, claimed as historical fact, were striking me as not just implausible but practically inconceivable, even preposterous. Furthermore my notes started throwing up inconsistencies and contradictions (just within the four gospels alone, for example) as well as, frankly speaking, obvious injustices being held out as being manifestations of 'God's wisdom' - and therefore not to be challenged.
Now after the sixth read my notes have expanded even more. Each time I see a lot of things not noticed before. It would be easy to say that I'm now only looking for things to criticise (which was certainly not the case for at least the first three readings) but I do make a conscious effort to stand back and observe the subject-matter dispassionately.
I'd be willing to bet that most people in the U.K. who define themselves as 'Christian', even Church-going Christians, have never read the entire Bible through even once. So why do I do it? Simple. Intellectual curiosity! I can't stop wondering why it is that so many people find this book so appealing. There's a compulsion about this inquisitiveness.
At the beginning my own readings started as a self-challenge. Then it became a desire to share what others were experiencing, as though I am the one missing out on something. (I still get this feeling of exclusion when there's a piece of music, or even a type of music - in my case, jazz - which I can see gives enormous pleasure to many, yet I myself cannot appreciate it.) But the result of my Bible-study has been that every time that I notch up another reading I become even more convinced that it's largely fantasy (not completely - I do believe that Jesus actually existed, - and was almost certainly crucified) but masquerading as fact. It's hardly the reaction which might be hoped for by those hard-line Christian zealots who exhort us all to read the Bible every day!
Well, who's to say that my views won't change sometime in the future? But time is running out for me - and fast. Anyway, I don't particularly want to undergo a re-conversion, feeling perfectly comfortable (in fact, more comfortable) in my current highly sceptical state of mind.
I was actually going to make this blog into a listing of some specific examples of things I've found in the 'Holy Book' which are inconsistent, unjust and contradictory. I may indeed do that in a future blog, but I know it's bound to raise hackles in some quarters and I don't particularly want to offend any of the score or so of the band of kind followers to my blog, each of whom honours me with their time, something which really causes me to feel humble. But we'll see......
Okay, then. Now that this particular task is over, tomorrow I'll start on my eighth through-reading of the Koran. So, let's think - which of the six translations I possess shall I read this time round?