We come across some literary gems while reading the Bible. Ruth 1:16-17 is one: Ruth’s speech to Naomi. This alerts us to the fact that the Bible is written by people who gave deep thought not only to their subject matter, but to how this could best be expressed using the literary skills available to them. Poems, proverbs, historical narrative, drama, myths and legends, stories, letters, laws and apocalyptic are some of the literary styles we find there. The writers used their literary skills to give expression to what they had to say, skills that they learnt from their cultural background. This highlights the fact that while we speak of the Bible being God-inspired, it is also the product of human experience and ability. To create the Bible, God involved human beings working in collaboration with him. This often seems to be the way God works: partnering with people, using the skills and learning that they have. For example, in summarizing God’s Law, Jesus gave guidelines for living, but he left it to us to work out in any particular situation how those commandments were to be observed. He did not give laws covering every imaginable situation we may find ourselves in. The life of faith is, in that sense, a collaborative enterprise. Clearly the way God wants us to live is with love to both God and neighbour, but it is for us to work out how this is to be done in any given situation. This is not easy. It calls for discernment, and Christians often come to different conclusions about what God wants them to do. Human culture and popular opinion vie with the Great Commandments in trying to shape our behaviour. However, it is not a purely intellectual decision that we are called to make; we have the same Spirit that inspired Jesus to guide us into lives of love to God and to other people. How we respond to the Spirit is up to us.
- What are some other biblical passages that are memorable because of the beauty in their form of expression?
- Why is it important to take note of the kind of writing when we read the Bible?
- What are some issues over which Christians have been divided about what is of God and what is of human origin?
- Suggest some ways in which our love for God and for neighbour can find expression?