The Perspiration of the Scriptures

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

I would love to see some of the Bible’s rough drafts. I mean, in spite of the fact that God may have been the primary content provider, it was the boys who put the ink on the paper. And even if God had great enunciation, I figure there were a few times when the dictation session was no picnic for the lowly humans. I mean, here’s deity talking at you, his every word jam-packed with enough thermonuclear punch to blow a hole in planet—not to mention your brain—and you’re supposed to write that stuff down? Yikes. Talk about pressure. The burn your face off God is looking over your shoulder, lobbing you bomb after bomb of infinity, and you’re supposed to catch those suckers, figure out how to put them in words, watch your grammar and spelling, and save paper all at the same time. I wonder how many scribes God used up before he finally called it a wrap.

I don’t think we appreciate just how much sweat probably went into getting the scriptures to come out right. Sure, God’s part was easy. All he had to do was blab about something and, being God, it would come out perfect. Not only that, he could just make stuff up as he went along because as soon as he said it, it would become true. Heck, this whole universe was most likely created as a divine stream of consciousness monologue: “Yo, like, let there be light.” BING! “And let’s do a little water-shakin’ land grab for fun.” BING! “Yeah, baby. Totally cool, man!” BING! “Whoa! Where’d that dude come from?” The whole creation story was probably a beatnik happening complete with finger-snaps and bongos.

For the boys doing the real work, however, it must have been a different matter. For every divine quip there must have been tons of editorial decisions to make. Do you make that into one sentence or two? Should I include that “um” I heard or was that merely a moment of divine hesitation? Just how do you spell God’s name anyway? And then there’s his literary agent to deal with, the notoriously picky and evasive Holy Spirit, who keeps throwing in his interpretations all the time—and you thought you were supposed to be the ghost writer. Add to that the divine love affair with ambiguity and you’ve got yourself a migraine for sure. No wonder it took so many guys to finish the book.

Knowing a little bit about the writing process, I can imagine the evolution—er, I mean development of holy writ as we know it. For example, knowing how creative God is and how he can often get carried away with things, he may have originally dictated to John something like this:

“The Son of God, eternal second person of the triune divinity, incarnate now in human form, and filled with the Spirit without limit, in order to reveal the glory of God in the world and thereby redeem it, confronted the hard reality of death as he observed the rough-hewn burial site of his good friend, now dead, and, overcome with emotions, broke down and burst into tears, sobbing with profound grief at the travesty of mortality, wailing before a dumbstruck and faithless crowd.”

After God finishes up the session and departs, John makes a cup of coffee and sits down to look over what he’s got. Right away he sees that God tends toward a flowery redundancy. He begins to cross stuff out and looks for a more concise way of saying what God wants to communicate. Knowing how touchy God is about his words, John is very careful not to alter the vibe. Yet if the average reader can’t even make it to the end of the sentence, God’s lost his audience and the whole thing’s pointless. John resharpens his quill, dips it in red ink, sighs deeply, and begins. By morning he’s got what he thinks is a keeper. He carefully scratches his rewrite on a new piece of parchment—Jesus wept—and hands it in for review.

Obviously, John’s rewrite made the final cut, but it apparently did make a few waves. God realized just how much power an editor had over this material and took action to ensure that such a brutal revision would never happen again. He made John himself write down a new publishing decree, including sanctions for any violations, so that there would be no mistakes:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

Shortly afterward, as a safety precaution, the canon of Scripture was officially closed.

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