August 19, 2022
Some may be wondering why I’m researching for, writing, and planning to defend and publish a dissertation with the title, What’s God Got to Do with It? Theological Implications of the Persistent Pluriformity and Polyphony of Τὰ Βιβλία. Well, quite simply, it comes down to the fact that I have an intense passion for understanding and talking about how our Bibles came to be what they are today, in both form and content. I am convinced, based on my own faith experience, and that of those I shepherded over more than 35 years of ministry, that what we understand/believe how our Bibles came to be, has a direct impact on how we read, study and strive to apply it contents to our day-to-day lives.
It is NOT my goal to deter people from believing that God was involved, whether directly or indirectly, in the processes that ultimately produced the anthologies of texts we call “Bible.” That is a faith choice that individuals are free to accept or reject, in part or in whole. To choose to believe God was directly involved means that God somehow intervened in the processes of initially creating, copying, collecting, and canonizing the texts which are included in their Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant Bible. This would have involved divine intervention in the complex and diverse efforts of countless numbers of humans, across a vast array of circumstances, cultures, and languages. Does what we see in the manuscripts, and even in the product we read today, bear the marks of divine intervention and, if so, how and to what degree?
What we see over time, and presently, are biblical texts that exist in multiple forms (pluriform) and contain multiple and diverse voices (polyphony). This is the evidence in ink on parchment, papyrus, and paper. Whatever one chooses to believe, to ignore the evidence is to live by a blind faith not an informed faith. In the spirit of Socrates (via Plato)1: “An unexamined faith is not worth having.” Or to put it in the words of one of my favourite biblical scholars, Amy-Jill Levine,
The goal of an academic course in biblical studies should not be to undermine religious faith. Rather, it should provide members of faith communities with richer insights into the literature that forms their bedrock. Even were one to argue that the text is divinely inspired or dictated by God, one might still want to know as much as possible about the particulars: Why these words? Why this order? Why this social context? Why this translation?2
This is my other passion – to ask and try to find answers, if possible, to the tough questions. This passion led me to study Classics (Greek and Latin) and earn my B.A. at the University of British Columbia. This passion further led me to earn my M.A. in Religious Studies with a focus on Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism (also at the University of British Columbia). From there, this passion led me to do further graduate studies at Trinity Western University with a focus on Old Testament exegesis and the Dead Sea Scrolls. And now it has led me to work through a doctoral program in Open and Relational Theology through Northwind Theological Seminary.
I think that the reality that the texts that make up our modern Bibles have been, and still are, persistently pluriform and polyphonic in nature has implications for what hermeneutical lens we use when we read our Bibles as a whole and in their parts. And for those who choose to believe that “all scriptures are God-breathed,” this reality might help you refine or redefine your understanding of divine inspiration and its scope…or not; it’s your choice.
1 Plato’s Apology, section 38a, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
2 Amy-Jill Levine, “The Old Testament” (audio recording, 2013) by The Great Courses.