The Bible: Handle with Care & Keep out of Reach of Children
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
Prayer of the Day: Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures to be written for the nourishment of your people. Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, comforted by your promises, we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen’, lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” Nehemiah 8:6-8.
“And [Jesus] rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” Luke 4:20-21.
Last summer I read an article published in the Christian Century by Matthew Schlimm, a professor of Old Testament at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary entitled “Violent Texts.” Schlimm begins his thoughtful reflection by recounting a discussion he had with his young daughter who, upon receiving her first Bible, happened upon Deuteronomy 20 and, more specifically, the following admonition:
“But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 20:16-18.
Why, asked this elementary school age girl, who had been taught from infancy that God is loving and merciful, does the Bible, which is supposed to be God’s word, have God commanding God’s people to kill whole populations of cities, including small children? As I read about Professor Schimm’s struggle to respond to his daughter’s question, it occurred to me for the first time that putting the Bible into the hands of impressionable young children might not be a good idea. Read more