Contradictoria, mal escrita, aburrida... ¿no pudo acaso Dios aprender a redactar? Esa es la queja central de Jordison, para quien leer la Biblia es importante, pero una pesadilla literaria....
The Bible's literary sins
August 13, 2007 8:02 AM
The literary quality of the Bible is an issue that I think is worth addressing. Firstly, there's the simple point that if the Bible really were the word of God, you'd think that He would be able to make it more interesting. Secondly, there's a war being waged against reason at the moment and it's gone time that reason started landing a few punches of its own. Why not freely state the obvious, but hitherto rarely mentioned, truth? The Good Book is not, as is so often suggested, a damn good read. It's crap. If the two Testaments tell the greatest story ever told, I am a monkey (and not just the distant descendant of one).
Now, I'm aware that saying the Bible is crap rather a crude statement. So, let me introduce a few points to qualify my basic assertion.
Firstly, I do not want to suggest that the ancient books of the Bible are not fascinating and valuable historical documents (no matter how dubious their own claims to veracity).
Nor am I saying that one should not read the Bible. On the contrary, it's vitally important that those on the side of reason should study it, especially in order to know and understand what they are up against. Similarly, if more people who call themselves Christians actually read the book, they might spot a few of its internal contradictions and realise that far from being the meek and mild socialist of popular conception, the Jesus in the New Testament is an unforgiving egomaniac, obsessed with demons, who likes nothing more than to have his dirty feet kissed (Luke 7: 44-5). They might also see that the God they pray to, is, as Evelyn Waugh once quoted Randolph Churchill, "a shit." Failing that, literalists might at least start taking the instructions about not eating shellfish as seriously as they do those that encourage homophobia, and so lessen the burden on our over-fished seas.
Thirdly, and most importantly in terms of such an artistic judgement of the Bible, I'm not denying that some absolutely wonderful manipulations of the English language can be found in the King James version. I also wouldn't dream of suggesting that this translation hasn't been profound influence on English literature. What I would say, however, is that the most important word in the previous sentence is translation. The committee of remarkable talent that put together this version performed a miracle (in the strictly non-divine sense of the word). It was an incredible achievement to transform the sow's ear of the New Testament's rough koine Greek into the silk purse that has resounded so strongly in our culture ever since.
Finally, I'm willing to concede that there are a few passages of extraordinary power and beauty in the Bible. The Song Of Solomon for instance is a blast. There's also no more striking example of random and bizarre sadism in literature than God's decision to turn Lot's wife into a pillar of salt and then make the luckless widower have sex with his daughters in a cave. The book of Revelation, meanwhile, is a hallucinogenic head-trip without parallel from start to finish: exhilarating, unsettling, and gloriously mad.
However, these are rare flashes of light in 1,000 plus pages of opaque, dull, greyness. Can anyone honestly tell me that they enjoy reading all those lists of endless genealogies that take up such huge portions of the Old and such hefty chunks of the New Testaments? Has anyone got the stamina to read the entire tedious work from cover to cover? To keep up with all those hundreds of characters that appear from nowhere and disappear without explanation, rhyme or reason (the greatest story thereby displaying ignorance of the most basic storytelling rules)? Do all the cubits, marriages, lists of names, departures, camps in the plains of Moab across from Jericho and offerings of goats say more to you about the human condition than, say, The Great Gatsby? Would you even prefer to read all that bunk about demons in the New Testament, unleavened as it is by humour or the intriguing possibility of the lead character finally losing his virginity, to Harry Potter?