Author Peter Enns’ book, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It, has raised a bit of a stink in Bibleland. The biblical purists have summarily denounced it as ‘garbage,’ if the Amazon ratings correctly reflect the opinions of that group. Oh well.
Enns knows that. After all, he was fired from his conservative theological institution for his bold views about the Bible. Yet he never will please that set of purists and he doesn’t hope to. Rather, he hopes that non-purists will embrace the Bible more deeply because of what he writes.
The author knows that the Bible was written by a series of eastern Mediterranean rabbis in the 8th century BC who reflected the values, customs and beliefs of their tribe in that era. Enns also knew that the authors hoped to distinguish the Israelites from other Canaanite tribes and, in doing so, established a series of customary purification laws- laws which are not ‘obeyed’ by Americans. Further, the author points out how the biblical authors brought stories and myths back from Babylon and modified these as lessons for the Israelites. And finally, author Enns hoped to help clarify the many ‘God-directed’ killings found in the Bible- that most were hyperbole and were lessons to the people of Israel that YHWY was ‘on their side.’
Biblical purists, literalists and non-errants will never ‘get’ the Bible, but Enns hopes that his readers will come to understand the Bible in a whole new manner through his writing. It may be late for a whole swath who have rejected the entire Bible because they were forced to believe in the literal interpretation.
The question must be raised: Why were biblical purists allowed to dominate the discussion? Why were others too timid to challenge them? What has been the cost of this untethered license?