There are 66 books in the Protestant Bible. 73 in the Catholic Bible. The 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament is a Christian appropriation of the Hebrew Bible’s 24. There are now over 5,700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. No two of which are exactly alike. (There were 5,360 when I was in Graduate School.)
There are over 2,000 English translations of the Bible. Two of the most widely circulated are the King James Version and the New International Version.
Most of us know this already: the Bible is not a book. It’s actually a library. And since it’s a library, it offers theologies. Plural. Different. Diverse.
Read and compare 2 Samuel 24.1 and 1 Chronicles 21.1 and you’ll understand what I’m pointing out. Paul’s and James’s understanding of faith is a study in contrast. Compare the three versions of the Parable of the Sower in the Synoptics.
When one reads the Resurrection accounts in the Canonical Gospels, one discovers that there were three women at the tomb in Mark, two in Matthew, an undisclosed number of women in Luke, and only Mary Magdalene in John. The herald of the resurrection was a young man in Mark, an angel in Matthew, two men in Luke, and Jesus himself in John.
The Bible is a wellspring of diversity. Dictators and despots have used it to perpetuate their regimes. Liberation movements have used it to ground their causes. Churches have used it to dis-empower, dehumanize, and demonize people of color, women, indigenous peoples, LGBTQi, people living with HIV and AIDS, PWDs, and many more. The dis-empowered, dehumanized, and demonized have used it to rise above their oppression. And most, actually, don’t read it. It is the world’s number one bestselling book. But buying one and reading it are two different things.
In many “Christian” countries like the US and the Philippines, the Bible has been used to legislate sin, to criminalize dissent, and legitimize tyranny. It has also been used to birth solidarity, resistance, and revolution.
Diversity is a gift.
But diversity in a world led by the likes of Trump and Duterte and dominated by systems and structures of injustice, greed, power, and privilege is tokenism. Thus, those of us who confess to follow Jesus preach good news to the poor, not simply good news. We follow the One who proclaimed blessings to the poor and declared woes to the rich.
We always take sides. Like Jesus did. Because God does. ALWAYS!
Revelation Enriquez Velunta is the Associate Professor of New Testament and Cultural Studies at Union Theological Seminary. He is also the Coordinator of its Master of Theology Program and its Union Theological Open Seminary (UTOS) Programs. He studied at UTS, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Vanderbilt University. He is the author of “Reading the Parables of Jesus inside the Jeepney” (available from Amazon).