My then-wife and I sat at her parents green streaked Formica table. With the double tubular chrome legs. Fashionable for the time, it served another purpose and was impervious to scissors and knives and to the edges of sharp rocks.
“You! Of all people,” my wife said, burning through me. “You read a book a week, and you aren’t going to read it? I mean, it’s all Lou and Jeanie talk about.”
If you are old enough to know, we were talking about Frank Peritti’s surprising runaway fiction hit This Present Darkness.
“Nope,” I said, shaking my head. “No interest.”
“Why? What’s wrong with it?”
This was clearly an issue. A confusing issue.
“It’s easy. I don’t want Frank Peretti’s vision of hell and demons and the end of the world in my head.” I blinked hard at her several times. “I want to read the Bible and learn Bible things from the Bible.”
“What are you talking about? Do you guys get any of this?” She turned to her mom and dad.
Mom played with her glasses, as confused as me. Dad shrugged: “Makes sense to me.”
I always liked that wise and erudite man.
I think about this silly scenario often as I go through the four or five daily emails I get from sites shilling their hyperlinked top ten books of the day, positive that I will want three or four. I rarely do and find that I’ve changed little over the graying years and stick mostly to my Bible and to Bible academics when wondering about Bible things. Why read someone else’s opinion of Balaam and his shenanigans when I can read it myself in ten minutes.? I like the insight from academic books – did you know that the root of Balaam’s name in Hebrew means little ass? – and I’m always interested in historic or cultural tidbits of ancient Hebrew culture. I worry, too, that my understanding of Christian scripture is so contaminated with modern Americanisms that I hardly trust myself.
All this to say that, for Bible things, for me, it’s the Bible first and foremost.