I’m tired and bored enough to have tried to say that three times fast. And yet it feels true.
I high-tailed it from work last night in the icky fog and rain to get to the nearest bookstore (well over 20 miles away from work, about 40 from home). I kept thinking about how much I wanted to try and reacquaint myself with the Christian bible and understand it better, because the thought just keeps coming back up.
All I’ve watched on YouTube the past few weeks (other than MST3K episodes) are debates and arguments about genesis, creationism, evangelism, atheism, comparative religions, etc. The more I watched, the more I realized I really need to actually read cover-to-cover the Bible. I’ve always had the King James Version of the Holy Bible, and I still have on the shelf next to it The Bible for Children. I think I’ll drag out the kiddie version and actually read that cover-to-cover first.
Why? Because with all the pictures in it, it won’t take too long, and it’s in plain English.
But that led me to shop for a new Bible last night at a brick-and-mortar location. I was overwhelmed by the stock online (over 9000 when you count study and specific-message bibles), so I was not sure what I should get. I told myself I needed something a bit more reader friendly to read alongside my KJV and before tackling other works that discuss the Bible’s teaching’s and controversies.
Well, from now on.
So I got the shopping basket, and made a sharp left turn after visiting the cookbooks section and there they were. Four bookcases full.
And I spent more than 30 minutes there, getting really confused.
Don’t get me wrong–I’ve been in that store often enough that I knew how big the section would be. The shelves weren’t crammed full, but they didn’t need to be. They were spaced out just enough that you could see the different versions they had available.
Sheesh–I think a whole bookcase was devoted to KJV and NKJV (that made my heart sink a bit seeing the “new” on them, wondering how many flaws in translation had been crammed into my head as a child). Then there was the NIV, and the English versions. (I ended up buying a basic 12-pt font NIV Reference Bible that’s turquoise with silver, nicely different from my 30 year old maroon and gold KJV one).
But even then, it wasn’t just the print sizes that were different. No, there were some you could COLOR in, some you could doodle in the margins in or write notes (had they had one in NIV, I might’ve gone for an expanded margins one for note-taking. That was my biggest gripe with my Shakespeare collection–I had to cram notes everywhere).
I almost started laughing when I saw those and picked them up–not just at the expense (though mine was easily $40–yikes), but I wondered “sheesh, are they trying to teach or distract you?” I had a thought of someone stuck at church with the family and having their Bible open, but to stay awake they’d doodle in the margins.
I sure hope that’s not the case, but I’ve seen some churches where the preacher’s kids were snoring in the front pews and all the rest of us in the youth section could see (and hear) it.
But that’s just those Holy Bibles. Then you get to the specific ones and study bibles.
This is where I got REALLY confused.
Now, I admit for years I’ve had a copy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible on my shelf, but I haven’t had a chance to read it through yet. I wanted to re-read the KJV version first. I did read the intro, where many people were scandalized at this feminist revision of the scriptures and some probably still are. But I look forward to reading it later.
These study bibles, however, I found baffling, because while I can understand different translations to correct misprints or mis-translations of the past, I can’t understand the point of these.
Why are there so many different types of Bibles if the message is supposed to be the same? There were the devotional bibles, the new testament bibles, Hebrew/old testament bibles, bibles for recovering addicts, bibles for singles, bibles for family life, bibles for life-changing, etc.
The ones that really flabbergasted me were gender and age specific. I wanted to know why there’s a “men’s study bible” and a “women’s study bible”, different devotional bibles for the sexes. There’s even a bible specific for teenage girls (uh oh, hope it’s not going to lean on that freaking Purity Culture in print!).
I figured I’d better get out of there with my one new bible before I began a major compare and contrast session for the next several weeks, my music and study schedule be damned. And I didn’t have enough money to get ’em anyway.
It ran around in my head all night, though: Why do men and women need different bibles? Or why different study groups to discuss the Bible? I suppose it’s a holdover from Paul where he basically told women to shut up and let their husbands know of their concerns and the husbands would bring it up in church instead.
Okay, that was a paraphrase of someone’s argument I heard this morning. My head was pounding too much to find the original discussion/debate or which book was being referenced.
Perhaps there’s concern that talking about the Bible among “equals” would mean the traditional gender divide of rights, property, and labor in the Bible would spill over in conversation and “taint” the study of scriptures. This also makes me wonder how much scrutiny they can withstand once I get reading them for myself. And when I google my question, what comes up are headings that I haven’t heard since I was a kid, talking about differences in female and male brains, the Focus on the Family group, etc.
Ooh, I’m getting salty and my feminist impulse is starting to get pissed off just thinking about it, if what I am feeling is true.
Good thing I just went for an NIV version and plucked it off the shelf to take home and study. And good thing I’m deciding to read my kid’s bible first, because maybe it’ll soften the blow and not make my hackles rise too fast…though if some of the stories are like the Chick Tracts I read growing up, it won’t do much good, anyway.
I never figured that study bibles for specific genders would make me really question things and rile me up, but it also made me stop and think about when I’ve seen bible studies. Most of the time when I’ve seen bible study groups, they’re at Starbucks or the library. One thing I’ve noticed the handful of times I’ve seen them is something that just hit me today: when they’re younger, like youth group kids at the same church, both genders are usually represented. When they’re of driving age and older, the groups are gender segregated. I’ve seen study groups of up to a dozen, and they’re all single-sex.
Something must happen in between, in the late teens, early 20s that makes them self-segregate (or maybe that’s the way churches have designed it behind the scenes in some fashion).
This question has really bugged me. I suppose I’d better get started if I’m gonna get anywhere with this.
In the meantime, time to get my original bible out, the kiddie bible out, my new bible out on my coffee table to remind me to study.
And to fill the gap, I’ll play with some blasphemy and let Little Thinkers Jesus and Buddha hang out together on my bookshelf.
No, seriously. They’re plushy and cute and had interesting messages for the world as humans, so why not let their stuffed counterparts pretend to discuss and debate?