Wednesday 8 February 2023

The Bible to read, to hear, to see

My religion and spirituality

My spiritual journey through life has been exemplified in life-affirming and life-defining experiences from childhood that has ranged from terror to exhilaration, infirmity to wellness, adversity to prosperity, empowered by the force of hope, that helps the growth of faith and love. Another way to say this is I know a broad spectrum of the human experience from insufficiency to sufficiency in numerous facets of life.

Underpinning all this is my Christian beliefs and faith with foundations that bear the weight of what has become my story. Influenced by syncretic, African-initiated, Anglican, and Pentecostal inclinations, the former two are more by inducement when I had little agency, the third represents the faith of my fathers, whilst the last is one of determination and choice that has a history of almost four decades.

All this against and in accommodation with my sexuality presents an opportunity rather than a challenge that has been profitable to my health and well-being in spirit, soul, and body. I would be the first to say, for the trauma and experiences that have pitted sexuality against religion, some have been wounded, damaged, ostracised, or worse. My disposition leans more towards the pragmatic than the dogmatic.

For the reading and hearing

For my Bible Study, I once had many hardcover bibles before I found the ease of running multiple versions and translations on my PC, and then on all devices, laptops, tablets, and phones included. My preferred Bible Study tool is the e-Sword with an interface that accommodates, bibles [70 world languages (mostly free), 45 free English versions & 20 premium English versions]  commentaries [a few world languages, 35 free English & 23 premium English], and dictionaries [16 free English & 3 premium English].

Online, you can go for Bible Gateway or Bible Hub which is essentially free, both of which also sport versions and languages. Another bonus with e-Sword is that it has a built-in audio playback for the baseline King James Version (KJV), whilst other audio versions can be downloaded free or purchased from another website. The product licences are lifetime perpetual licenses, as I have products, I bought 15 years ago that are still valid as long as you can remember the email address you used for purchasing the associated modules.

I do have the propensity to use more audio content nowadays, I even remember having the gospels in audio playing back and I had the immersive experience of thinking I was just around the corner from where I was. Indeed, reading and meditating on scripture is a wholesome activity, however, I note that “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom 10:17 KJV)

From seeing to believing better

There is the added value of an audio-visual experience, for instance, to get a good idea of how Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross in a modern and relatable way, The Passion of the Christ (2004) film was a very good depiction, as it made the words jump off the pages to present a palpable revelation of what the crucifixion entailed.

Obviously, I have seen many gospel dramas from chronological scripts to subject matter indicative plays, usually tightly aligned to the text and not essentially helping with a deeper understanding of the gospel. They are useful and there are many such on Amazon Prime, but I have always thought the subject could be tackled better.

Into Samaria for a good drink

Then, yesterday evening as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came upon a short trailer that dealt with Jesus meeting with the woman at the well in Samaria, as narrated in the Gospel according to St John 4:1-41. After the conversation, the woman returned to her city to announce that the man she had just met told her everything she had ever done, the passage only has where Jesus said she had had 5 husbands and the one she was with was not her husband.

What I saw took an artistic licence and made it a relatable human story broadening the context to show how she could not obtain a divorce from her last marriage, why she was alone at the well and made an attempt at naming her first two husbands with the experiences that greeted those marriages. Together, you gained a better understanding of what then seemed like gospel in precis.

More to netting fish

I soon found out that it was The Chosen (TV series) taking aspects of the gospel narrative with Jesus Christ at the centre along with backstories and contextualisation, in the third series and available on YouTube, Angel Studios app (downloadable to tablet, mobile, or SMART TV), Amazon Prime, NetFlix, and other streaming services, for free with frequent nagging screens to pay it forward.

When I began watching the episodes, and this can be a spoiler, the backstory to when Jesus stepped on Simon’s boat to preach to the crowds on the shore, before asking him to launch the nets into the deep that all the boats were fully laden with fish and then he asked the fishermen to follow him suggested Simon was heavily indebted to the taxman with the risk of losing both his home and his boat.

In desperation and frustration he was in league with the Romans to shop poachers fishing during the Sabbath, then the whole night we went fishing, joined with other fishermen and caught no fish all night. The incredulity of a stranger asking him to cast his net in the daytime from his experience of fishing was daunting, then having caught the fish, Zebedee who lost his two sons to discipleship was not left bereft.

Zebedee sold off the fish to pay off all their debts and would have had enough to hire extra hands. That detail was not present in the gospel.

Choose The Chosen

The Chosen fleshes out the narrative and I think it redounds to understanding the gospel better. Yes, there were many times I cried in sympathy and was touched by how the gospel came to life. Luke 5:1-11 (NIV)

In my view, e-Sword and The Chosen come highly recommended, there might just be that revelation that blows your mind. 

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