I was searching through my massive library and a book caught my eye. I pulled out The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written by Martin Seymour-Smith. I don’t know where this book came from, how it ended up as a part of my collection, but there it was and I looked to see what are the most influential books, according to Martin. The listing appears to be chronological rather than in order of preference. The first is The I Ching which is the the
classical Chinese text of Taoism, a very ancient book. The second is
the Old Testament, and down at eighteen is the New Testament. Hmm…
So Martin split the Bible into two “books.” But, if we are going to be splitting the Bible, perhaps we would be better served to consider that the Bible is not a single book, or two books. It is actually an anthology, a collection of books by many authors. There are 66 books in the Bible. Well, the Protestant Bible anyway. The Catholic Bible has 73. Stop and consider how amazing that is. At the very least, dozens of authors writing down their own piece of God’s inspiration which would be gathered together over the course of time. Somehow these books with in the Bible work together to give countless people-Jews, Christians, Muslims, and many others-the gift of God’s word. Now I know that this, in itself, is one reason that some doubt the validity of the Bible, but from the spiritual perspective, it’s miraculous. Somehow God, even when filtered through human vessels, manages to communicate with countless generations all over the world. This living collection of scripture is all about influence. Those that wrote them were influenced by God, and wrote to let God influence others. The earliest books influenced the later ones. We cannot begin to comprehend how influential the Bible, both Old and New Testaments as well as the individual books themselves, has been during the course of its existence. The Bible has influenced cultures, both within and outside the Church. It has shaped culture in the form of art, literature, music, cinema, and drama. It has created, through the process of interpretation and translation, countless denominations within Christianity who, in turn, have their own spheres of influence. Governments have been shaped by biblical principles and wars have been fought. Right or wrong, there have been innumerable actions and reactions made by human beings impacted by what they read (or do not read) in the pages of the Bible.
I believe the greatest influence the Bible has had upon this world is in its call to love. To love others, our neighbors as well as our enemies, and to be loved. To let others love us, most especially our God. While there are always criticisms that the Bible inspires hatred and separation, I find that scripture calls us to come together, specifically over the love of God embodied in Jesus Christ who came to love us, to teach us to love, and to give us the love of God in new and exciting ways. Never underestimate what the Bible can do. Just try to name all the ways it has impacted you, and consider all those who have influenced you who have been influenced by the Bible themselves. You have to love the mystery and interconnectedness of it all.
(Image courtesy of sallysjourney.typepad.com)