There is a book that has an unsurpassed record of being published, read, and translated, a book that unites peoples and families, a book that guides and heals and saves. It's a book that is at the same time controversial and open for interpretation, a book with a long history of use and abuse. This book is the Bible.
This year in Germany, home to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, 2003 has been proclaimed as "the year of Bible." Every morning, a politician from any one of a variety of parties will be quoting a Bible verse on public radio in Germany and commenting upon it - as a politician, not a theologian.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, had a life that showed the impact of the Bible. Having grown up and been educated in a New England Puritan family where the Bible was foundational, her love for the Scriptures was deep and in accord with her time.
Yet she couldn't find relief from debilitating physical problems she'd had since childhood. It was in her 40s that she turned to the Bible in great need to find healing from the effects of a serious accident - and found it.
A moment of insight led her not only to find healing but also to study the Scriptures even more deeply and listen to an inner voice, which for her was the voice of God, to find out what had healed her and how. One of the results was the writing of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." She also healed others and taught others how to heal with an enlightened perspective on the Bible.
Broad scope of the Bible's teachings
The Bible teaches us where we come from and where we are going. The children of Israel become the offspring of Spirit, stories from the Old Testament stand in their historic or their imaginative glory, yet Bible characters emerge as prototypes of human characteristics, representing modes of feelings and actions we all deal with. The women of the Bible take on meaning as distant friends and symbols of the worth of womanhood today.
Furthermore, the healing record of the New Testament reaches into our time, uniting the present and the past in the shining reality of Christian healing, the healings of today proving the veracity and historical accuracy of healings by Jesus and the apostles. The letters written by Paul and others to early Christian churches become important guidelines for Christian communities and churches - underlining the importance of brotherhood and closeness, again standing in their historical context, but at the same time moving beyond literal meaning to spiritual significance.
For Mary Baker Eddy, the Bible in its spiritual import was the number one guide to eternal Life. She wrote: "The Bible teaches transformation of the body by the renewal of Spirit. Take away the spiritual signification of Scripture, and that compilation can do no more for mortals than can moonbeams to melt a river of ice" (Science and Health, pg. 241).
The Bible's spiritual message
Perhaps these frosty January days so glistering with ice and snow cause this analogy to speak particularly to my heart, and I feel the warmth of a spiritual message. This message tells me to see the spiritual signification of Scripture and realize how much it can do for us - the same as sunbeams can do for a river of ice, melting away its frosty shell and inviting the forces of spring to rejuvenate and transform nature.
In my early teens I became interested in religious and philosophical matters, questioning, wondering, restlessly seeking, and I started to study a small pocket edition of the Bible. Ruth, Joseph, and Paul became spiritual friends and models for action and peace of mind, and I embarked on a spiritual journey where biblical truths and verses became travel companions. One stood out to me: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:2).
I remember as if it were yesterday the insight I gained in one moment, filling this 14-year-old's consciousness. I was grasping a world of unseen and unknown things, entirely good and acceptable and perfect, finding a guideline in life and seeing clearly for the first time that a significant life is a life of transformation and constant change. I could learn from Paul because the spiritual depths of his counsel were being unveiled.
Here was not merely a historical text or an invitation simply to believe and adore, to accept without questioning or to follow without understanding. Here was powerful support, enlightening vision, practical advice. The Bible was speaking to me - and its sunbeams melted away some ice that had formed on the streams of my troubled teenage thought. It has never formed again, not through my teen years; not beyond.
As much as I love winter and its ice-cold promises, when it comes to life and the qualities of thought, I definitely prefer spring.