In this article we are going to cover quite a lot of ground about the Bible – some of its historical development of over more than 2000 years and then, perhaps more importantly, some of its spiritual aspects from our church teachings. It is truly a remarkable journey through its history and an astonishing spiritual truth that this Bible, the Word, is God with us. Each item will be numbered for reference.
1. The Bible has 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. 40 authors over about 1500 years created what is a remarkably cohesive text from beginning to end.
2. The oldest book in the Bible is probably Job, written around 1500 BC. The youngest book is Revelation, written around 95 AD or later.
3. The ‘canon’ (accepted books) of the Old Testament was finally decided by 200 AD and the New Testament by 375 AD.
4. The oldest full Bible in English was in 1382 by John Wycliffe. The Bible was the first book printed by Johannes Gutenberg in 1454.
5. In 1611 The King James version was published after teams of translators and scholars meticulously collaborated and shared samples until agreement was reached.
6. The KJV became the authorised version of the Bible for the next 270 years and many say it is the finest book in the English language.
7. The Revised Version was the first newer English Bible, produced in 1885. Since then 110 different English Bibles have been produced.
8. During the 1900s and even far more today, the King James Version Only (KJVO) movement developed, arguing that more modern versions have been based on other corrupted manuscripts, while the KJV was based on the authentic Received Text.
9. Some KJVO people believe that the King James Version itself is divinely inspired in every word and phrase, direct from God.
SOME SPIRITUAL ASPECTS TO THE WORD
1. We believe that the Word is divinely inspired by the Lord, being a full revelation of the Lord to us. (John 1.1 “…and the Word was God.”)
2. Swedenborg says that most of the books of the Word are fully inspired. Some others are not but they are still important for the Church. The list is in the Arcana last volume (12) paragraph 10325.
3. The inspiration is in what Swedenborg calls the ‘continuous spiritual sense’. This means that (in the inspired books) every passage is always connected from what came before and into what follows, and it is about the Lord’s glorification and also our regeneration.
4. Importantly, the imagery in the Bible of things like rivers, sheep, stars, swords, mountains etc., is spiritual and is a ‘correspondence’. For example, rivers correspond to truths flowing into us from the Lord.
5. The Word has different levels of spiritual meaning, the deepest meaning being about the Lord’s inner life when he was in the world, and his love for us all; another level of meaning is about our spiritual progress or regeneration; and a third level is about the spiritual history (through progress and decline and newness) of the human race.
6. All these deeper meanings just mentioned are contained within and rest upon the literal text of the Word. This text expresses them and enfolds them in itself. The Word’s power for us is in what we read and how it moves us.
7. Many things in the Word are written in what are called ‘appearances’ of what is true or how it may seem to be true to people, but isn’t. A good example is that it says, ‘God’s anger was kindled against them’ when what that means is that God’s zeal is to lead us from evil to good. We are not always meant to take the Word literally.
8. It is helpful to clear our mind from things to do with time and space, person and number, when we are reading the Word because these keep us in the ‘story’ so strongly. We need to think spiritually and go into other things such as words that are said, what happens, any changes that take place, and always, the outcomes.
9. Swedenborg tells us that when we read the Word, angels get a sense of its spiritual meaning and they feel the delight of this. Because of that effect from us reading we get love and understanding of the Word from the angels.
10. The Lord is the Word in all its truth and life, and the Word exists to keep the essential link between heaven and earth. We are to know what the Word is and to be faithful to its teachings.
… Some examples to help you with the Word
1. At the beginning of Matthew chapter 8, Jesus heals a leper who believes that Jesus can heal him. Leprosy is a terrible skin disease causing loss of feeling, numbness, deadness. It stands for us feeling we are worthless. This needs the direct touch of the Lord to heal us.
2. Psalm 23 includes the words, ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.’ Hopefully we do not have any enemies but many friends. Our ‘enemies’ are inside us, in thoughts and wishes that do not want to follow the Lord. These need showing the Lord’s bounty.
3. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus in John chapter 12, it says that the oil’s fragrance filled the whole house. Scents do that, but the meaning is about when we feel full of the loving presence of the Lord throughout our whole being.
4. In Isaiah 6, the seraphim cried out to each other and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory!’ Three Holies – acknowledging God in our love, in our understanding and in our life’s activity and use.
5. Jesus said to the fishermen, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ No doubt we can offer the Lord’s truth to others, but to fish is to go down into the depths and bring up fish. We can help someone else – and ourselves – see what we already have there within us.
6. One Old Testament law says that it is forbidden to take the upper or lower millstone as a pledge. It would take away a person’s livelihood or family’s bread. But two millstones grind and produces flour, which is about our need to think, reason and work on what we understand.
7. After the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus spoke about forgiving and being unforgiving. He said that if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses. This is not about God being difficult; it is our difficulty in not forgiving which is preventing us from feeling the forgiveness of our heavenly Father.
8. When Israel was dying of thirst in the wilderness, God told Moses to strike the rock ahead with his rod and water gushed out when he did. Rock is dry solid learned truth in our memory and mind. When we strike it, it will become living flowing meaningful truth for us in our life.
I hope these examples help to show some of the power and life that the Word can bring and reveal to us.