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Read the Bible!!!?

Elsevier, a leading Dutch secular weekly magazine not known for its
piety. were admonished to “Read the Bible! About the great importance
of the Holy Scriptures”.

I quickly turned to the contents page, wondering what had prompted this
outburst of apparent religiosity. Under a photo of Salvador DaliÂ’s Last
Supper, I read the following: ‘Cover article – The Book of Books. After
the success of The Da Vinci Code, an understanding of the Bible is
almost essential for the reading of thrillers. Knowledge of the most
influential writings of all time is also useful in grasping world
history, Dutch culture and classical art. Read the Bible!Â’

My curiosity aroused, I thumbed through to page 100, to discover again
Dali’s painting, undertitled: ‘The history of western art is saturated
with Christian influences.Â’ The accompanying article listed five
reasons why everybody, including those not convinced of the value and
truth of the Christian message, should make themselves familiar with
the Bible:

1. The Bible was the most important book in history – the writer
referred to a recent television series depicting the brutality and
immorality of ancient pagan Rome. Even the most hardened atheist would
have to admit that the coming of Christianity was a blessing, he wrote.
It was still the most exceptional development in world history, claimed
the article, proof that faith could truly move mountains: a believing
minority developed against all opposition into a powerful, religious
movement now with two billion followers worldwide, inspired by the
2. The Bible had strongly influenced the culture of the fatherland –
for centuries, the majority of the Dutch population read daily from the
Bible, introducing countless sayings, concepts and proverbs into the
language, including Babylonian confusion, Armageddon, GideonÂ’s band, a
judas kiss, good Samaritan, forbidden fruitÂ…
3. Much art could not be understood without knowledge of the Bible –
once past those few museum halls with paintings which could be hung
upside down without anyone noticing, the writer continued, you quickly
find a world depicting biblical figures, whether by Michelangelo and
Rembrandt or van Gogh and Dali. Constant allusion to Biblical imagery
was also found throughout more commercial and popular art forms, from
The Matrix, and Seven, a film about crimes involving the cardinal sins,
to Narnia and The Passion.
4. The Bible contained beautiful literature – texts with irresistible
literary power, including the Psalms, Ecclesiastes and the Proverbs,
were interspersed with thriller-like stories and common-sense everyday
advice. The tragic yet gripping drama around Job was surely one of the
high points of world literature, the article argued.
5. Bible study promoted multicultural dialogue – after September 11,
sales of both the Koran and the Bible jumped as Europeans and
Americans alike sought understanding of the religious differences. Many
western journalists found themselves simply ignorant of the spiritual

These arguments echoed something I wrote almost a year ago during our
first ‘Share the Heritage‘ tour after visiting the Bible Museum in
Amsterdam. We had expected displays demonstrating the
culture-transforming influence of this ‘book of books’ in almost every
sphere of Dutch culture. Yet I wrote then that, “disappointingly, the
museum seemed to be more an expansion on the quaint hobbies of
long-dead clergymen rather than a clear statement on the singularly
unique relationship the Bible has had with both Dutch and the broader
European culture”. (See Weekly Word, 27.6.05, ‘The book that shaped
EuropeÂ’ in archive site below).

This one article from a secular magazine offered more perspective on
the impact of the Bible than the whole museum! It also presaged the
forthcoming book by Loren Cunningham and Janice Rogers, with a title
something like, “The Book that Shook the World”, expanding on similar
themes. Watch for it.

Almost as an ironic footnote underscoring the Elsevier article, the
Finnish heavy metal group Lordi, garbed in monster costumes, won this
weekendÂ’s Eurovision Song Festival, drawing heavily on apocalyptic
biblical imagery. But I doubt anyone will ever consider the nonsense
lyrics of their Hardrock hallelujah, as high literature! Those with
long enough memories will recall that it was not the first ‘Hallelujah’
song to win the ESF, either – further evidence of the Bible’s
all-pervasive influence.

Till next week,

Jeff Fountain