Britain as Bible Land

Bible Quotes

Britain is (two difficult words) known as a Christian nation. But what does this mean? Well, simply enough, it means many of the traditions we have inherited are shaped by references taken, and understandings gathered, from the Bible.

It is hard to write about the Bible. It is, as critics would say, a contested zone. Two of the first and most obvious comments I would make, that: “The bible is a book of books”, and “the bible is a great book” are immediately suspect.

But both statements are arguably accurate: it is a book made of many other books, all stuck together, and it is great, in that it is huge, and epic.

It is full of stories, which are, like the contemporary historical novels, a creative blend of fact and exciting plot. And like modern historical fiction, it offers a view of ‘what-happened’ that overwrites previous ideas, that somehow inhabits the shapes of history, to become authority and memory. The reality-tunnels formed by this book are wide and extensive. Britain is tattooed (some would say ‘blessed’, others ‘scarred’) by references to Biblical stories and characters. In her architecture, her political institutions, her laws and streets, in the names of her children, in her music and song, and in her stories, Britain is a Bible-Land.

So as we walk through a landscape almost built of these ancient stories, it is hardly surprising that we pick up a few on the way. Of course, many versions of the Bible exist, and each carries its own sense of meaning and historical imperative. And, of course, much is almost unreadable, dull and boring, a long series of lists and family-trees, of names endlessly begetting names.

This does not fit well with our stream-lined modern ignorance of ancient cultures, and can become tedious. No, it’s better to look out for the best bits, many of which are written into the life that visibly surrounds us: the setup of law-courts; the Tate and Lyle logo; the oaths of parliament; much film and television; most literature; the shape of your hometown; the laws of tax and commerce; the days of the week, the months of the year. The Bible is everywhere, and is thus worth knowing, on these grounds alone.

Not all of the following quotes are purely biblical; some are sayings/writing from people who’ve devoted their lives to following the teachings they found in the Bible. All are worth hearing, and bearing in mind. That such reflections have become their own traditions, demonstrates their objective value. They have lasted, endured, with what appears to be a sense of their own future, as if they’re passing themselves down until they get to their destination, the right place at the right time, to once again be filled with the divine fire from which they are said to come.

Matthew 17:20 (KJV) (JC lets it be known that it is not the eating habits of a person, but the world they create by their words, that makes them good or bad)

“Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man”

Jeremiah 44, 15-19 (KJV) (Jeremiah is telling people not to worship the Great Goddess. They are saying – but we always have done before, and we did alright. This is a crucial moment in the transference of dominance from one idea of religious accuracy, to another)

“Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying,

As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee.

But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.

But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.

And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?”

Matthew 15: 1-11 (NIV) (Jesus is approaches by the law-givers, the gang of uber-religious nasties who want him to commit an error so they can discredit and silence him. With superb information judo, he turns their attack on its head, and plays the crowd marvellously to capitalize on his rare opportunity for debate with these fearsome right-wing theocrats. He shows them up for fools; which is daring and brilliant, for it eventually costs him his life)

“Then some Pharisees and scribes came from Jerusalem to Jesus and said,

“Why do your disciples disregard the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands when they eat.”

But he answered them, “Why do you also disregard the commandment of God because of your tradition?

Because God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother must certainly be put to death.’

But you say ‘Whoever tells his father or his mother, “Whatever support you might have received from me has been given to God,”

does not have to honor his father.’ Because of your tradition, then, you have disregarded the authority of God’s word.

You hypocrites! How well did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said,

‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

Their worship of me is empty, because they teach human rules as doctrines.'”

Then calling out to the crowd, he addressed them, “Listen and understand!

It is not what goes into the mouth that makes a person unclean. It is what comes out of the mouth that makes a person unclean.”

Luke 24 13-53 (NIV) (Jesus plays coyote, baffling and impressing his disciples; between life and death, he plays, and teaches by trickery)

On the same day, two of Jesus’ followers were walking to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about all these things that had taken place. While they were discussing and analyzing what had happened, Jesus himself approached and began to walk with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing with each other as you’re walking along?” They stood still and looked gloomy.
The one whose name was Cleopas answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know what happened there in the past few days?”
He asked them, “What things?”
They answered him, “The events involving Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in what he said and did before God and all the people, and how our high priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and had him crucified. But we kept hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel. What is more, this is now the third day since these things occurred. Even some of our women have startled us by what they told us. They were at the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body there, so they came back and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who were saying that he was alive. Then some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said. However, they didn’t see him.”
Then Jesus said to them, “O, how foolish you are! How slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! The Messiah had to suffer these things and then enter his glory, didn’t he?” Then, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them all the passages of Scripture about himself.
As they came near the village where the two men were headed, Jesus acted as though he were going farther. But they strongly urged him, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the daylight is nearly gone.” So he went in to stay with them. While he was at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed it, broke it in pieces, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they knew who he was. And he vanished from them.
Then they asked each other, “Our hearts kept burning within us as he was talking to us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us, didn’t they?”
They got up right away, went back to Jerusalem, and found the eleven disciples and their companions all together. They kept saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two men began to tell what had happened on the road and how they had recognized him when he broke the bread in pieces.
While they were all talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. But Jesus said to them, “What’s frightening you? And why are you doubting? Look at my hands and my feet, because it’s really me. Touch me and look at me, because a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
After he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. Even though they were still skeptical due to their joy and astonishment, Jesus asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds so that they might understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “This is how it is written: the Messiah was to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and then repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am sending to you what my Father promised, so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Later, he led them out as far as Bethany, lifted up his hands, and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. They worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. They were continually in the temple, blessing God.

Matthew 10:9-14 (Jesus telling his disciples how to live in perpetual pilgrimage)
Don’t take any gold, silver, or copper in your moneybags, nor a travelling bag for the trip, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or a walking stick, because a worker deserves his food.
“Whatever town or village you enter, find out who is receptive in it and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet its occupants. If the household is receptive, let your blessing of peace come on it. But if it isn’t receptive, let your blessing of peace return to you. If no one welcomes you or listens to your words, as you leave that house or town, shake its dust off your feet.

Matt 10:16 (A classic quote)

“See, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. So be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves.”

Acts 19:27 (Paul’s preaches an end to the tradition of goddess worship)

“the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.”

Deuteronomy XIII, 12-16
(How the Old Testament God says we should treat those who worship other Gods. How their memory should be purged)

‘If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying…Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known;  Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and behold, if it be truth, and the thing is certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;  Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.  And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.’

St Augustine of Hippo

da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo
(Grant me chastity and self-restraint, but not yet)

Sir Thomas More

“It is certain that God wishes to be worshipped in particular places.”

Kairos and Conversion by anon. third world Christian)

“Another characteristic of right-wing religion is that it takes some of the valid distinctions made by Christianity i.e. between body and soul, material and spiritual, this world and the next, politics and religion, the profane and the sacred, society and the individual, and turns them into antagonistic dualisms. It creates polarisation and antagonism between the body and the soul, the material and the spiritual. Right wing Christianity reduces salvation to that of the soul only.

This leads to an other-worldly interpretation of the Bible. Everything in the Bible that refers to material possessions, wealth and poverty, oppression and liberation, is distorted and made to refer only to other-worldly and individualistic concerns. This spiritualistic interpretation of the Bible is reductionist.”

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