In the previous post I included a poem about the Virgin Mary by Edgar Allan Poe and mentioned that it was the second religiously-themed poem of his that I had blogged about. I don’t think Poe was in any way an overtly religious man, and his writings certainly do not bespeak of someone focused on purely Christian matters, but Poe definitely had a solid knowledge of the Bible – I am sure he knew the good book inside and out, in fact, as did most writers and indeed the average person of his time (I should also point out that Poe spend a brief period of time attending the alma mater).
Obviously, the situation is different these days – the average person’s biblical literacy is, from what I have seen, somewhere between vague and appalling. My interest here is to focus on Orthodox Christians because, and let’s face it, many of us, especially those of us who grew up in the Church, are not very well versed in biblical matters. This is pretty sad because a) the Bible is foundational to our faith, and Orthodoxy is a scriptural religion, b) the Bible is incredibly edifying, and c) we lose credibility when talking with evangelical protestants or whomever if we don’t know our scripture. A quick story, with names changed to protect the not-so-innocent 🙂 : When Rapheala was born and we told people her name, we got a great reaction and many questions on its origins. This was a nice opportunity to talk about the Archangel Raphael and the Book of Tobit. A friend expressed interest in reading the story – nice – so I handed her the good book. She told me I would have to find the reference for her and I responded ” No way. You are an Orthodox Christian. I expect you to know the Bible inside and out.” And she did indeed find the story and read it. The good news – so to speak – here is that curing biblical illiteracy is easy. Pick up the book and read. Carve out an extra ten minutes a day – believe me, it is possible, and read it prayerfully. Jump around and just familiarize yourself with characters and stories. As you become familiar with things you can start making connections. The Bible is ultimately easy to understand but it is nice to have some guidance, whether from a church Bible study or helpful texts like Fr. Tarazi’s works.