The great thing about shopping for almost anything in America is the nearly infinite number of options and choices the consumer has. For example, if you’re shopping for a car, you might start with its make (e.g. Chevy, Ford, or perhaps a foreign brand), then you might consider its model (Cavalier, Impala, etc.), then there is the type of engine (Hemi, V6, etc.), and the transmission (manual or automatic). Finally, of course, you choose a color and a wide variety of options such as power windows, CD player, or leather seats.
Options and choices are available for just about anything you want to buy: computers, cell phones, even bread.
But options and choices do not exist when one goes Bible shopping. Sure, you can buy Bibles with different covers, or with pictures and maps. You can even buy different translations of the Bible. But the actual books of the Bible are always the same. It always begins with Genesis and ends with Revelation.
And that is utterly ridiculous.
Granted, there is a slight variation between the Protestant and Catholic Bibles. While the Protestant Bible is a collection of 66 books (39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New), the Catholic (and Orthodox) Bibles contain an additional set of books called the Deuterocanonical writings which gives their Bible a total of 73 books.
But these two versions of the Bible — Protestant or Catholic — are the only choices we have in the world of Bible shopping. And it’s not even really a major difference. One version simply has an extra seven books.
This is a sad state of affairs for heretics such as myself, but really it should be an affront to everyone who wants to buy a Bible. Why are there only 66 to 73 books in the Bible and why are they always the same ones? Why do people stand for this? Would you like it if you went to buy a new album on CD (or download it to your iPod) but then realized that you could buy only Barry Manilow’s greatest hits? Oh, you could change the cover if you wanted so it could look like Abbey Road by The Beatles, but the actual music would still be Barry Manilow.
That’s what Bible shopping is like.
We need options and choices. I may not want, say, the book of Esther in my Bible (really, it doesn’t even talk about God!), but the Bible monopoly has decided everyone gets Esther. Or maybe I’d like the Gospel of Thomas in my Bible, but no, it can’t be added because it’s a gnostic writing.
Then there’s the whole problem of all the mistakes and contradictions that are in the Bible. In most sectors of the publishing industry, when mistakes are found in a published book, they’re corrected in later editions. Not so with Bible publishing. For example, we’ve known about the errors in the Bibles’ account of how life formed on Earth for over 100 years, but no Bible publishers have bothered correcting it.
The way I see it, the whole problem is that Bibles are produced only for the placid, unthinking Christians who believe everything they’re told. Well, what about us heretics? What about we Christians who have learned to think critically and ask questions? Where are the gnostic gospels? Where are the writings from Jewish Kabbalah? There are so many books that could be — and should be — in the Bible, but aren’t because the Bible publishing industry is controlled by a theological and ecclesiastical monopoly that, in its arrogance, has decided what everyone needs to read.
It is a huge problem and, frankly, I’m surprised the government hasn’t stepped in to put an end to it (must have something to do with that pesky notion of separation of church and state).
Anyway, until the day comes when the Bible publishing monopoly is broken, I’m going to do what I can to help. People need to realize that they don’t have to buy a Bible that has been pre-assembled with a fixed number of books.
You can build your own Bible.
It’s really quite easy once you’ve gotten rid of the idea that the Bible is a fixed, unchanging canon. It’s not. People have simply forgotten how (or been afraid) to argue. The early Jews and Christians argued all the time about what should be in the canon. But, at some point, one group won out, basically by labeling the others as heretics and burning them at the stake.
But heresy is coming back into vogue. Heresy will soon be the new orthodoxy, just as what was radical and liberal fifty years ago is conservative and commonplace today. It’s just a matter of time.
And today, building your own Bible is even easier thanks to the Internet. All of the canonical and most of the non-canonical writings (for both Judaism and Christianity) are already out there in cyberspace. All you have to do is find the ones you want, copy and paste them into one document, and print. Then, voila! You have your own custom-made Bible with only the books that you want to read. You can also change the order of the books, as well as fix all those mistakes that should have been proofread and edited 2,000 years ago.
Heck, you don’t even have to stick with the traditional Judeo-Christian writings. If something speaks to you and you feel it is inspired by God, then you just go right ahead and put it in your Bible.
That’s what the early Christians did.