A chapter in my book “A Sensible Theology for Thinking People” is devoted to “Holy” books because it is very important that those people who call themselves Christians be worshipers of God–not worshipers of the Bible!
“Holy” means to be distinguished by transcendence, mandating absolute devotion and veneration. Unquestionably the Bible qualifies regarding respect, possibly even devotion, but it must never be considered an object of perfection.
People of various religious persuasions consider their special books to be every bit as holy or holier than the Bible. The Muslims revere the Qu’ran.
Buddhists have The Dhammapada and The Sayings of Buddha. The Mormons believe The Book of Mormon is a holy book. Its introduction states that “[Joseph Smith] sought the Lord in fervent prayer, having previously received a Divine manifestation of transcendent import.”
Many, perhaps most, Christians believe the Bible is the revealed Word of God written by saintly men of old as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. (II Peter 1:21) Some Christians believe every word in the Bible was actually written by God. Just as the Bible never refers to God as a “trinity,” the Bible never refers to itself as inerrant, sacred, or holy.
The Bible is a magnificent library which consists of history, biography, drama, poetry, instruction and many other forms of literature. It is a magnificent collection of wisdom from the Near East. The Hebrews, or Jews, were a God-centered people, and their religious system has had a greater impact on history than that of any other civilization.
Interestingly, the word “Bible” comes from the Greek biblia, the plural form of biblion or book. But the earliest etymology of the word traces to the Phoenician port city of Bublos; then later to biblos, the Greek word for papyrus, and the word from which we ultimately get our English word “paper.” It has been duly noted that the Phoenicians gave us an alphabet, but the Jews gave us a library, a religion and a faith.
Some people foolishly claim the Bible is authoritative in all areas of knowledge, but the Bible itself claims only to be authoritative in spiritual matters. (II Timothy 3:16-17) Unfortunately, preachers and Bible students often omit the last portion of these important verses from the writings of St. Paul. We must remember that the Bible as we know it did not exist during the lifetime either of Jesus or St. Paul!
One scripture (Psalm 19:7) refers to the law of the Lord as “perfect,” but only in that context, never relative to all sixty-six books of the Bible. The central focus of the Bible is the righteousness of a just and good God.
If anyone wishes to start a new religion, they must remember that their instruction manual must be considered “Holy.” Frankly, I say “Beware of Holy Books!” The greatest disservice to the search for truth today is deifying the Bible. The greatest sin of the church is failing to worship their God while idolizing an ancient library of books!
[This essay on the dangers of worshiping a “Holy Book,” first appeared in the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch. It is an adaptation of material from “A Sensible Theology for Thinking People.”]