05 August 2007

The Holy Bible by Fr Albert Said, SJ (Times of Malta, August 5, 2007)

In response to Tom Davies (The Sunday Times, July 22) I believe in the Bible, that it is the word of God albeit in the words of men. God is the principal author but He makes use of human ones to write His book.

I believe, not because I see, but because I obey, that every word of it is inspired. Inspiration means that God wills each and every word to be written as it is even though He does not dictate what the human authors write. He lets the human authors write according to their own genius, knowledge, customs, conventions, etc. yet it is He who moves them to do so.

What they write may contain historical, scientific, cultural and even ethical mistakes, yet God wanted all that to be put on record in His book in the very words the human authors used. He does not dictate to them, He leaves them free to be themselves with all their human capabilities and limitations. He remains the principal author of the various books that comprise the Bible, but the human element is there also. Hence the need to interpret and sift the divine from the human in the writings. The quotations which Mr Davies uses are words which God wanted to be put on record in His book in the very words they are written, at least in the original. But that does not mean that He approves of them.

We believe that Jesus is the same God, the divine word, who inspired the words he quotes, yet declared that all food is clean. Jesus, probably referring to elements to which Mr Davies also refers, said: "It was said to those of old to love your friends and hate your enemies, but I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who harm you". When Jesus' enemies wanted to trap him they brought to him a woman caught in adultery who according to Mosaic law should have been stoned to death.

Jesus showed them that Moses had ordered many other things which they were not observing and which they should observe before thinking of putting this one into practice. Do please remember that there are many other elements in the Bible which really make it holy besides the one that struck Mr Davies (and me!)

I do share his feelings and I am glad about that. What he sensed I do also and any good Christian should. These are not divine but human elements and should be roundly condemned. It is dangerous to speculate about what makes God do what He does. We would have to have His infinite wisdom to really understand Him. But could it be that (like a good novelist!) He did not fill his holy book only with pious and holy things but also with shocking ones to make us realise what the spirit of Christ is gradually bringing us out of?

I hope that what I wrote means something to Mr Davies. I invite him to continue the debate by writing to me at albertsaid@gmail.com. I am leaving Malta for Sudan today.

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