What is the Bible?

What is the Bible?
Jesus and AIDS
Women Disciples

The Bible is not the fourth member of the Trinity!  YOU ARE! Jesus said "I am the light of the world" and "YOU are the light of the world." Jesus intended that the world would see the truth of God's love and acceptance for all people in the people who followed Jesus, not in a book.  See John 17: 20-23.

The Bible is a book (a collection of books).  To make the Bible absolute is idolatry and opens the way for the Bible to be manipulated like any other idolatrous religion for the benefit of the religious leaders and experts.  The Bible can be translated wrong, distorted, twisted, taken out of context, manipulated by "ignorant, evil and unstable people" ( 2 Peter 3:16), and made to say things that deny the good news of God's love in Christ for all people.

Jesus said in John 5:39, "Search the scriptures, for in them you think that you have eternal life, but they bear witness of me."  Read Luke 24:27, 44-45 to see how Jesus saw his relationship to the Bible.

When Paul spoke of "living letters", he was not talking about what he had written but about people whose lives expressed the presence of Jesus in their hearts:  2 Corinthians 3:2-3, "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all people; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for and served by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts."  To call Paul's epistles "Living Letters" is to ignore Paul's own opinion about his work.  To call a very inaccurate and badly translated version of the Bible "The Living Bible" is just as mistaken and spiritually ignorant.

"FROM JESUS TO CHRIST" is a recent 4 hour documentary that was shown on Public Broadcasting during Easter Week in 1998.  Visit this PBS web site for an overview of the documentary and for information on obtaining a video copy of the program.  This program was well researched, demonstrated excellent scholarship, and was shown with explanations and pictures that made it the best material that I know to give you an honest and objective look at Jesus, the Bible, and the beginnings of early Christianity.

See August 14, 2001, related update on

This update added on March 19, 2002:

This Sunday, March 17, 2002, was St. Patrick's Day, and my pastor, Rev. Barry Wichman, asked me to tell of my personal encounter with Jesus in the worship service today.  In preparation for my brief remarks, I spent some time meditating and thinking through where and how I really have encountered Jesus and met God along the way in my life.

How would you describe your own personal encounter with God?

As I thought about what I could say about my encounter with Jesus, I realized that my own view of Jesus and understanding of Jesus are changing constantly.  Nothing in the past is adequate to express the way I perceive Jesus today.

We often are tempted to try to remember some unusual or extraordinary event when we met God, like Moses at the burning bush or Paul on the road to Damascus.  Most of us, however, cannot recall anything nearly that spectacular to tell about meeting Jesus.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives us a lot of clues about meeting God, as when he said, "If you have seen me, you have seen God."  Jesus also gave unexpected clues to meeting him when he said that: "Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me." (Matthew 25:40)  How would you describe the Jesus you have met in other people?

Encountering Jesus in other people reminds me that I can also encounter Jesus within myself.  What kind of Jesus do you encounter within yourself?


Ancient images associated with Jesus such as shepherds, priests, kings, prophets, angels, illnesses caused by demons and evil spirits, physical miracles in nature and in people and many others create problems for us in developing an image of Jesus that is relevant to us in the modern world.  You probably have never met anybody who looks remotely like the pictures of Jesus in Bible storybooks or in church art.  But you have met Jesus in other people and in yourself.

People, including yourself, are your window to God and your portal on the road to Jesus.

Trying to find Jesus in the ever-growing mountain of biblical studies, debates, controversies, confusions, contradictions and exhaustive exhausting research has seemed futile to many people today.  Too much material is piled around us to tempt us, and we give up before we really get started in searching for Jesus in the theological pile.

No two biblical experts agree on biblical research, translations, or any of the details of the traditional Jesus story.  Marcus Borg viewed this scene, and in 1994 he wrote a very influential new approach about "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time."

See the vast work of Joseph Campbell on "The Power of Myth" in videos and books and in extensive interviews with Bill Moyers on television.


If Jesus is real at all to you, Jesus is present with and within you now.  Religion always seems to direct our thinking to the past instead of the living present.  Past experiences can become enshrined in "holy" vaguely remembered compartments that give little help in our daily living and relating to others.  Whatever your first or latest encounter with Jesus was like, what matters now is today and what's happening now in your heart and mind.  Is Jesus real to you today?

How has your experience with Jesus changed the way you see yourself, other people, God, and your present purpose and goals in life?  What has your experience with Jesus produced in your life and in the people your life touches?

These are highly personal questions that nobody else can answer for you.  They are questions that require looking within and reflecting on what is happening now within you and around you.


In the time of Jesus, all teachers were expected to base their teachings on what had been said earlier by ancient experts in the Law and it's official interpretations.  Nobody was allowed to write down the words of the teachers (rabbis).  All instructions had to be memorized and passed on from memory.  Jesus challenged this bondage to the past by teaching frequently that what had been written or taught before was wrong and then added, "but I say unto you…"

Jesus lived and taught in the current culture and society of his time, and his challenge to all ancient assumptions was dramatic and radical.  The important issue for us today is not copying the teachings of Jesus about particular questions and actions and making those teachings into absolute doctrines and unchangeable dogma for all time.  For one thing, we cannot be absolutely sure about the wording or correct transmission, copying and translating of any of the Gospel material.  (See my web site and book material on "Hebrew and Greek" and on "Translating the Gospels.")

To follow Jesus is not to quote particular teachings as though the context of Jesus was exactly the same as today.  It was not.  To follow Jesus is to challenge the past and listen to the living voice of God within through the Spirit of Jesus who has been given to you.  This requires a leap of faith that frightens all of us who are more comfortable with the past than with the unknown present that unfolds moment by moment all around and within us.  We are threatened by the insistent religious forces all around us that demand that we live in the past as our only option to following the will of God.

Breaking the shackles of the past requires first of all a clear awareness of the deadly power of the past mistakes that we have inherited in every level of our being.  Breaking the shackles also requires a clear sense of something better that beckons us into a brave new world of trust, honesty and love that the Spirit of Jesus abundantly pours into our innermost being at every moment of our existence.


Our world is changing rapidly all around us in breathtaking complexity and in unexpected horrors and opportunities.  Floundering about in the uncertainties of ancient irrelevant prejudices and misinformation is ignorance at its most dangerous.  The living Spirit of Jesus is available and is adequate as our guide and empowerment for these incredible times of emerging new worlds.

Clinging to the old rotten vines guarantees only that you will fall into the chasm of gloom and doom that drops away into the darkening mist below.  There is a "higher ground" and that place is already within you.  Stand on and affirm who you really are: a child of God in the image of God.  Nobody can ever take that away from you unless you give it up yourself.


I am not trying to undermine or destroy anyone's faith in Jesus!

Your faith is not dead if you are willing for it to grow and expand to include your present world.  I call on you to recognize the futility and irrelevance of living in the religious past.  Misinformation and ancient ignorance, no matter how revered and time-honored, is still misinformed and ignorant.

The current misinformation about GLBT people being taught and enforced by many churches is the same kind of misinformation that has misrepresented Jesus and clouded the minds of millions of people who imagine only a dead bloody Jesus on a cross and never enter into the present reality of the living Spirit of Jesus who is already within and surrounding every one of us!


I envision an emerging new paradigm shift from dead orthodoxy and the unrealistic inhuman demands of legalistic homophobic religion to a lively person-centered spirituality that truly reflects the realities of Jesus.  Jesus demonstrated the essential attitudes for healthy growing faith.  Jesus was objective, logical, realistic and practical.

If you are following Jesus instead of following ancient misrepresentations of Jesus, you also will be objective, logical, realistic and practical.  You will never find a traditional church where you truly "fit in" unless you start your own home based small group and seek only Jesus plus nothing.

After seeing the Nazi distortions of religion to serve mass murder, Dietrich Bonhoeffer predicted that a churchless religion-less Christianity would emerge after the war.  Now is the time for the prophecy of Bonhoeffer to be fulfilled.

Update added August 14, 2001:

God speaks through everything that God does.

God speaks through all creation and all of nature (Psalm 19:1-3), through you and every person you meet (2 Corinthians 3:3-6), through Jesus who is called "the word of God made human" (John 1:1-14), and through everything that God has done and continues to do.

To limit the "word of God" to what was written in a book 2,000 to 3,000 years ago in ancient languages and concepts by people who were ignorant of all of our present accumulated knowledge of psychology, biology, astronomy, physics, and every other science is absurd at best and deadly at worst.  This does not mean that God does not speak through the Bible.  It simply means that what God says is not limited to the Bible.  Our grasp and understanding of the Bible is severely limited, however, by religious misinformation and manipulation that has clouded what we can know about God from the Bible.

God continues to speak in the still small voice within "through the Spirit of God who has been given to us."  Love is the primary word of the Spirit. (Romans 5:5)  The Spirit of God gives love for your own self, love for God, love for others, love for the truth, love for the earth, love of life, and love in an endless variety of expressions and joys.


Last week at Hunting Island Park on the beach in South Carolina with the beauty of the ocean, sky, stars, plants and animals all around and with family and friends present to celebrate my mothers ninetieth birthday, I experienced the powerful presence of God and heard the word of God in many wonderful ways that I will never forget.

"Be still and know that I am God" can also be translated "Cease striving (let go and relax) and know that I am God," as it is in the marginal reading of Psalm 46:10 in the New American Standard Bible.  Getting away from your daily routine and letting go so that you can move on opens the way for you to know God and experience God in a fresh new understanding of yourself, others, and your place in the universe.

Spending a week at the beach in South Carolina with family and friends, many of whom I had not seen in many years, was a feast of learning and sharing for me.  There was time to rest and think.  Time to look up into the incredible clear bright night sky and see the Milky Way, a zillion stars and several shooting stars as a reminder that God is far greater and more dazzling than we ever imagine.  Time to enjoy sunrises and sunsets over the ocean.  The heavens indeed "are telling the glory of God."


Over 50 relatives and friends were present for the big day of celebration on Saturday.

Seeing cousins for the first time in half a lifetime, sharing childhood adventure stories, laughing, caring about each other, being startled that all of us look so different now.  It was all a word from God to me.  People have always been my best teachers, and I learned a lot about myself, them, us, our world, what's happening, and that what really matters most is people.

I was blessed and encouraged to see my relatives and friends, because they have accepted and supported me through all of the many personal disasters and challenges that have resulted from my coming out as gay.

We took lots of pictures, and when we look back on this event, we will remember people most of all.  That's as it should be.  That's the way it is.  Life is about people.  It was the same for Jesus.


My parents went to Malawi, Africa, for a year in 1979-1980 as Southern Baptist foreign mission volunteers to help set up a printing plant.  Mother had written up her account of their ministry and had given me the copy so that I could type it up and make it into a book that she could share with others.  At my son's suggestion, I put the material into book form and had it printed with enough copies for each family at the birthday party to have a copy.  This was my birthday present for my mother.

Printing Mother's book and sharing it with the people at the party also spoke to me a word of God that I needed to hear again.  At the time, it seemed like just a lot of work, but in retrospect I realize how much God was saying to me and to others through this experience.


Whether from the world around you, from people, or from the Bible or other literature, you hear what you are conditioned and prepared to hear as the "word of God."  Who you see yourself to be and what you expect to hear has more to do with hearing what God says to you than any of your sources.  God is speaking to you all the time.  What you hear and what you do about the word of God to you is totally up to you.

Nobody else can hear God for you.  All people hear their own individual "word" from God and then filter it through their personality and experiences before passing it on to others.  When anyone claims to speak for God or claims that what they say is "the word of God," consider the real source of what they are saying.  Personal prejudices, cultural conditioning, and a thousand natural and unnatural shocks of life contribute to how we see everything that we encounter in life.

There is no objective study or teaching about the Bible or religion.  All writing and teaching are from somebody's personal point of view.  What is the real perspective of those who claim to speak for God?  What is your own perspective that colors how you hear everything?

Visiting, listening, sharing and enjoying my relatives and friends last week at the park by the ocean said many things to me that I needed to hear.  The park is filled with little wild deer, whose presence was a great joy to see.  Birds were everywhere.  Raccoons prowled at night.  God had a multitude of avenues to use to speak to me.  All I had to do was to let go and listen.  I learned a lot about God and about myself.

Click here to see article about Tommy Watkins, a gay black minister that I have come to respect and appreciate for his life and ministry.

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