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24. 12. 2012

Ján Bittšanský (BASG 1994-1999): Inner connections in the Book of Books

Inner connections in the Book of Books

They call it the Book of Books. According to the website it is the number one in the top 10 most widely read books in the world with the number of printed copies as many as 3.9 billion. The second book in this chart is Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse-tung (820 million), Harry Potter (400 million) and The Lord of the Rings (103 million). Why are people still interested in the Bible after all those centuries? Let’s remember the coronation of the current British queen Elisabeth II. The Archbishop of Canterbury handed her the Bible saying these words: “Our gracious Queen: to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.” It seems that the Bible is considered the most precious thing, even for the British queen, because it contains the “lively Oracles of God”. The Bible itself says: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword” Hebrews 4:12. Anything alive, any organism is defined by the inner logic, the interconnection of the individual part thus creating an organized whole. Can we say this about the Bible?

The process of the creation of the written Bible had lasted more than 1000 years, which means unbelievable diversity of eras and cultures in which the writers involved had been living. In spite of that, we are still able to find inner connections, recurring elements and motives there, yet every time they occur, they point to something new. Everything in the Bible evolves into a spiral culminating in the last Book, the Apocalypse of John. The first Book—Genesis—speaks about what was in “the beginning”, here we find important symbols—the light and the darkness which are in contrast with each other. In the New Testament the Bible points back to the Creation through the words apostle John chooses to begin his gospel with: “in the beginning” and again, he uses the symbols of the light and the darkness, this time pointing out the new connections with the creation of the world: the Word-God becomes the intermediary of the Creation, He is the “real light” and “the darkness” refrains from Him, it does not accept Him. Later in the first book we come across the picture of the paradise garden, the Eden where “out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden” (Genesis 2:9). Besides the tree of life there is also a river which flows from the paradise and divides into four streams. The man has to leave the earthly paradise due to his disobedience, yet whole his pilgrimage seems to be dedicated to finding a similar place, a place of peace. This desire also reflects in his willingness to follow the leadership from Egypt to the so called “promised land”. Jerusalem, the name of the city considered the spiritual and political centre of the Israelites in the times of kings David and Solomon, means “a city of peace”. Yet, the hope put in the earthly paradises failed in the end, Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by the Roman soldiers in 70 AD. Is the hope to find a new “place of peace”, a new paradise garden dead for good? We find the answer in the end of the imaginary spiral, in the last chapter of the Apocalypse of John: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. ” (Revelation 22: 1-5). The place described was called the “New Jerusalem” by the apostle John—literally the new city of peace. In the given passage we can see both the beginning of the Old Testament and the end of the New Testament contain the symbols of the light and… no, not really. The darkness is not there anymore. “the night will no longer”. Yet all the elements of the paradise garden remained intact: the river, the tree of live in the middle… It has just become perfect in a sense, everything is better than it was at the beginning—it is not earthly anymore. The beginning of the Bible speaks of the earthly paradise, but the ending speaks of the heavenly one.

OK, you think, the beginning and the ending of the Bible are interconnected, but what about the cohesion between the two parts it is composed of, the Old and the New Testaments? Is there something in the beginning of the New Testament which links up to the ending of the Old Testament? The answer is yes, although the time difference between the two “Testaments” extends over several centuries. And that’s exactly what’s interesting about all that. But it would be a long story, so let’s save it for the next time. After all, the link between the Old and the New Testament is closely related to the upcoming holiday—you surely know I’m talking about the Christmas.

Ján Bittšanský (BASG 1994-1999), a catholic priest (chaplain), currently working in Rajec. At first, he began studying physics and management at the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics at Comenius University. Later he achieved a bachelor’s degree at Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum in Rome.

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