I’VE SPENT MOST OF MY CAREER writing about the Bible. So it jarred me when I found myself having to paraphrase Jesus as saying the Bible won’t save us.
Sure, the Bible won’t save us. Jesus saves. We’ve read those words of the prophets written on the subway walls.
But did Jesus have to sound so down on the Bible, which in his day was what Christians now call the Old Testament?
Here’s a draft of what I quote Jesus as saying to a cluster of Jewish critics of his at the Jerusalem Temple. The Casual English Bible paraphrase of John isn’t published yet, and it will probably be delayed for several months because of other writing commitments I’ve made. But here’s a draft of that short speech. See what you think.
“You immerse yourself in the Bible because you think it will save you. You think that’s the way to eternal life. It only points the way. It points to me.
But you won’t come to me and live forever.
Listen, I don’t need people coming to me and saying good things about me. That’s not what I’m asking for. I wouldn’t accept it anyhow.
I know you. And I know God’s love when I see it. I don’t see it in you.
I come here on behalf of my Father, yet you don’t want anything to do with me.
Well, why should anyone expect you to believe in me? You want approval and compliments from other people. You don’t bother with approval and praise from God.” —John 5:39-44, Casual English Bible