TorahBytes - Back to home pageVa-Yakhel & Pekudei
For the week of March 9, 2013 / 27 Adar 5773
Torah reading:, Shemot / Exodus 35:1 - 40:38; 12:1-20
Haftarah: Ezekiel 45:16-46


The Bible Is Not Fiction

According to all that the Lord had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. (Shemot / Exodus 39:42; ESV)

Last week's TorahByte's message (Don't Overcomplicate) made some people nervous. So nervous, in fact, a whole slew of people unsubscribed. I don't know for sure why they decided to no longer receive TorahBytes, but I think I can guess. The last time I had this kind of response was three weeks earlier when I wrote a prolife piece (Protecting the Preborn). With regard to last week, however, I chose an inaccurate word to describe some of the Bible's writing style. It's too bad that it appears some people reacted instead of interacted. One comment was pretty aggressive and, in my opinion, extreme, but at least they were willing to confront me.

The ill-chosen word I am referring to is "fiction." I should have realized that for many people there are few things worse that can be said in relation to the Bible than this word. The point I was trying to make stems from how the Bible uses a wide variety of writing styles to convey its message. There is everything from legal language to poetry, short wisdom sayings to letters. There are also parables, which are stories purposely designed to make a point. Parables are found in the teachings of Yeshua and in a few places in the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. Shoftim / Judges 9:7-15; 2 Samuel 12:1-4). Parables are not descriptions of actual events. They are made up. So are they fiction?

If I wrote a book about a real person who traveled around the world telling made up stories to children in order to teach them life lessons, is my book, fiction or non-fiction? The stories told by the real-life person are not descriptions of actual events, yet the book is relating to the reader something that actually happened. Therefore the book is non-fiction. But what about the stories told in the book? Is it accurate to call them fiction?

What if I wrote another book about an imaginary character who told stories of actual events? Isn't the book fiction, since the storyteller lives in my imagination even though the stories he tells are truly historical? Is this getting too complicated?

While the Bible is accessible, it is not a simple, straightforward book. It can be hard to understand at times. Once of the reasons for this, is that its various writing styles are even more complex than my two book examples I just mentioned.

Determining whether or not a book is fiction has to do with what it is claiming to portray. Regarding the Bible this has to do with whether or not it describes actual events, which it does, including the telling of the parables. While parables as a type of story by nature are fictional, biblical parables were really spoken by real people to real people in actual places at actual times. Therefore the Bible is not fiction.

I have been surprised that even using the word "story" at all when describing biblical events upsets some people as if "story" always means "fiction." It doesn't. There are true stories that describe actual events and there are made up, imaginary stories. The Bible describes actual events. It is not fiction.

For example, take this week's Torah portion. It describes in detail the building of the Tabernacle (Hebrew: mishkan), the predecessor to Solomon's temple. This is not the stuff of fiction. In fact the more we read the Bible, the more we discover that no one could have made it up.

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