The Bible as holy book
DOI link for The Bible as holy book
The Bible as holy book book
The concept of the Bible as a holy book contains special pitfalls. Even the apparently simple question of definition raises acute problems of circularity and question-begging. Conventional academic methodology would presumably begin with defining what is a ‘holy book’ and then proceeding to enquire in what ways the Bible might or might not be held to conform to this genre. Yet even the most cursory inspection of the historical material reveals how much our idea of a holy book is rooted in, and stems directly from, the Bible. The result has produced a curious paradox: because our word for ‘book’ has a common semantic root with the title by which our own holy book is known, there is a sense in which the idea of a book, any book, has become ‘holy’ in Western thought; at the same time, the Bible itself has acquiredand it is important to recognize that it is a historical acquisition rather than an innate right-a unique and exclusive status. Books are symbols of spiritual power. As Heine in the nineteenth century prophetically remarked, ‘Wherever books are burned men also, in the end, are burned.’ Film clips from the 1930s of Nazis ceremonially burning books is a twentieth-century illustration of the awesome power, and therefore potential danger, attributed to the status of a book by at least one secular modern European state-however disturbed and irrational an example Hitler’s Germany might be. The uneasiness aroused by the sight of the same thing being done before television cameras in Bradford in the 1980s is not merely a reflection of inhibitions in our own collective psyche stemming from the consequences of Hitler’s Third Reich, but also, indirectly, of the complex relationship that seems to exist between two selfdefined holy books. If we needed an example of the degree to which our notion of the category is essentially singular and exclusive, we need only look at the difficulty Western Christendom has had, since at least the Crusades, in coming to terms with the existence of that other holy book, the Koran.