Sunday, April 01, 2007

Old maps

I love old maps. They give a fantastic insight into how people saw the world around them. The map above is my favourite old map of Scotland, from 1558 (see it in more detail on the National Library of Scotland web pages). The thing about this map is that much of Scotland is mapped out reasonably accurately. If you wanted to travel from Edinburgh to Aberdeen by sea, this map would be of some use to you. But the islands on the west and north coasts are completely wrong - the map maker knew that there were islands there, but not anything about them.

So far, you are probably thinking I am posting this on the wrong blog...

I think I've come to an understanding of the books in the bible as being a bit like old maps. The people who wrote (or compiled) them knew something about God, but not everything. Obviously, if God is infinite, or at least very big, then we cannot know everything about Him, there is always more to find out - there is always unexplored territory. These people could only write with authority about what they knew - from their experiences or the experiences of folk they had spoken to. They could also always speculate about what they didn't know.

I'm not even saying here that the bible writers weren't inspired, I'm just thinking that, being human, they probably filled in the blanks in their understanding with speculation. This is why I think the inspired word of God contains errors and inconsistencies.

Another way I think of the bible as being like an old map is that it helps me think in terms of exploring God. The old maps are useful, but there are things you can find out without the map - by exploring for yourself.

Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34v8)

1 comment:

aude sapere said...

I hate to compare something as potentially important as religion to a love relationship, especially when the media makes love relationships out to be such monstrous-but-expendable things.

However, I have had an on-again, off-again relationship with Christianity for many years. Now, I'm in a state of deep doubt, playing devil's advocate (appropriate phrasing?) to Christian claims.

I would love to think that the Bible is full of old maps, ready to be seen and marveled at, but ultimately corrigible. However, so many would call us heretics for even suggesting it. I honestly don't know what in the Bible is to be seen as truth, allegory, symbol, etc.