Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Missing Book of the Bible

Years ago I bought a hefty paperback entitled "The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden." It included pseudepigraphal works like the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Lost Gospel of Peter. I found it fascinating.

When I first heard about the Dead Sea Scrolls, I immediately bought a copy. When the Gnostic library of Nag Hammadi, found in 1945 in Egypt, was finally published, I devoured it. In my first church in Illinois I even turned the Wednesday night prayer meeting into a study of the Old Testament Apocrypha, to the puzzlement of those good Midwestern Baptists.

People love spiritual mysteries. It accounts for the popularity of books like Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code." The tenth chapter of Revelation mentions a missing book of the Bible. Up to this point the apostle John has been dutifully writing down all he has seen and heard during this visionary trip to heaven. He has recorded the words of the Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets.

Now he sees an angel with a little book, the Book of the Seven Thunders. "When the Seven Thunders spoke, I started to write it all down, but a voice out of Heaven stopped me, saying, "Seal with silence the Seven Thunders; don't write a word." (Revelation 10:4) John was not allowed to reveal the contents of the Seven Thunders. But he is allowed to eat the book. (Rev. 10:10)

There is spiritual truth that can be apprehended but not recorded. There is truth that is sealed with silence. I am not talking about occult religion or Gnostic teaching. I am talking about intuition and communion. The Gospel is fundamentally about relationship with God. Relationships cannot be put into words, regardless of how much Hallmark tries.

The apostle Paul talks about an experience like John's Revelation experience. Paul says he was caught up into the third heaven; he did not know whether he was in the body or out of the body. "He was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." (2 Corinthians 12:4)

The Gospel involves a spiritual experience of God that cannot be encased in doctrine. When we try to speak of such things, out comes only paradox. It is "the exceeding grace of God in you.... His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:14-15)

There is richness in sacred silence that can only be incarnated in our lives. We are His missing book. "You are an epistle of Christ ... written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart." (2 Corinthians 3:3)  

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