Some years ago we took a trip down the Nile. Our trip excluded the pyramids and began with temples. And more temples. And yet more temples. There are a lot of temples in Egypt. It was an industry. And then the connecting lines – either physical or lines to be drawn on a map. The engineering, design, accuracy, ingenuity are all “immense”! Photographs do not do the reality any justice at all. I began a sceptic and ended a convert. All in one short week.
So here we are. Writing the bible. Charting the rise and fall and rise (and fall and rise and …) of the Chosen People. Just where do you begin? How do you get the Chosen People to “get it”? Just how do you create an identity the Chosen People can not only believe in – but live and breathe and “be”?
I look around today at the self-doubt in, and of, “church”. How our western “Christian countries” see themselves under attack from both the secular world and different faiths. And drugs – pornography – money – celeb culture – globalisation – complacency – even “slumbering our way to hell”. And I see writing to challenge that, to motivate, to reinforce the identify of today’s Chosen People – us believers, us followers, us disciples, us individual temples with God within each.
“What stopped the rampaging Roman army? Which structure was built of stones weighing up to 400 tons and capable of accommodating up to one million people? The answer to these questions is the Temple of Jerusalem.”
The biggest and baddest bad boy Chosen-People-Temple of all! Have a read of “The Jewish Temples: The Second Temple, by Shelley Cohney” which presents the Temple in my kind of language i.e. ex-biblical measurements (which always send me to sleep).
And now have a look at this: “ANCIENT EGYPTIAN TEMPLES, Jeffrey Hays” The biggest and baddest bad boy God-on-Earth temples a little further south. A lot of the brickwork still survives. And to walk amongst the ruins is still awe-inspiring!
But as I was pondering these things – God Soft Hands Jesus piped up: “Outer-inner- sanctuary.” And that pinged a bell. The Nile trip and our “temple time” each day … Each temple had an outer, an inner, and a sanctuary – just like “The Temple” in the bible. Except the second Temple in the bible was the biggest baddest bad boy Temple of all temples! Doesn’t the Biggest God need the biggest house? And don’t the concept drawings look very similar to other god houses?
Was the Temple for God – or was the Temple for the Chosen People? A sign that their God was the alpha God. A God under whom they would rule the world – nay the universe – nay beyond even that (if they just got the hang of following Him without all the dissent and whining and straying off on their own).
What unifies us today – gives us our identify as Christians? We have an indwelling God within. We are His temples – each of us. We have the biggest baddest bad boy temple of all – look at how many millions of walking talking living temples He has today! And we still have our outer, inner and sanctuary. Our outer persona, our corporate worship inner selves, and our sanctuary – our “prayer closet” – our personal soul.
The god house concept hasn’t changed much over time. So how else might the bible forge an identity under which all could – and would – gather?
A Chosen Land for the Chosen People might be a good place to begin. A place designated as holy and pure. A place wherein the fragrance of God would perfume even the air above and the earth below. A small universe where God and His Chosen People could be as one of one in One. And how might that be written so that the Chosen People would not stray (or if they did could be enticed back into line)?
By speaking in their language. By writing in their language. By having their words of their today create the past of their yesteryear. And is so doing to influence their present. Isn’t that cheating? Isn’t that rewriting history? Isn’t that heresy, Paul?
Well – this writing is doing the same thing. This writing is just as we write today. Looking back and drawing threads together. Perhaps entwining threads that were not real “threads of history”. Adding a little colour here and there. Skipping the chronology to compare like and unlike – and is so doing to see “likenesses”, e.g. to see god concept houses.
So why do we read the bible differently today? Why do we read the bible as a factual history. Why do we teach the bible as a literal history (apart from the bits which don’t fit – like loads of bits). Why do we perpetuate this icon of the bible at all levels? Why do we treat the bible as another Temple: the biggest baddest bad boy religious history of all! Read it and weep you unbelievers! We have the biggest baddest bad boy God of all – we have The Top God – just open your bible and see for yourself (sorry – but not that bit … and not that bit either … nor that bit .. and let’s just skip those pages completely … ).
And – in the same vein as throughout these words – don’t we assign the same outer, inner, and sanctuary “concept bible“ to prove it! We read without knowledge, we see without understanding. We discern together, we see darkly. God speaks to us through The Word, we commune with Him in our own private place.
Quick comfort break and then back to your bibles, please …