The Bible Does Not Exist: Timothy Beal
"What if we were to think of the Word of God not as bound between two covers of a book but as that endless noise of interpretation, an inconclusive process that we are invited to join?" asks Timothy Beal in his recent book, The Rise and Fall of the Bible.
In this illuminating and provocative interview, Beal explores the implications of "the end of the Word as we know it." There was a Bible before it was gathered into a book - in the form of scroll and oral tradition. Now, thanks to the digital revolution, the Bible is once again slipping free of one particular physical form. The Bible is moving "beyond the book." As Beal suggests, "It's the end of the Word as we know it."
But this end is not the end of the Word itself: "What if that cacophonous hymn, rising up across time and space from digital networks, living rooms, lunch rooms, churches and bus stops is the living Word of God? An endless, inarticulate din of talking, arguing, reading and rereading in the library of questions. The Word as we don't know it. The Word as we live it. Word without end."
So when Beal asserts that "there is no such thing as the Bible, and there never has been," he's not denying that there is a physical object we call "the Bible." But this physical object, Beal reminds us, has never told the full story of the Word of God.
Despite the ubiquity of religion in the American political landscape, and the continued claims that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time, the fact remains that Christians have never fully agreed on just what this book is, what it contains, or how it should be properly understood.
Timothy Beal has authored a dozen books, and is Florence Harkness professor of religion at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post on religious issues.
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