From this distance, I’m not certain how the misunderstanding occurred. Perhaps someone had shown me a new translation, an updated NIV or something, but I had come to believe that the New Testament had been written when my father was a child. I remember, as a second grader, asking him if he had known any of the writers personally. There followed a long pause.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Did you know any of them?”
“No.” The word drawn out whole minutes.
Had I been confused by the word new? Had Jesus seemed so close then, as familiar as a relative, that I’d taken him for a contemporary of my father’s? Or was I baffled because I sat every week in the congregation, and listened to my father’s unflinching conviction for the bound document on the podium before him, a smaller replica in my own hands? Was I just trying to understand all the urgency?
I read the Bible early and thoroughly. While the rest of the house slept, I sat at the kitchen table, in the hard metal chair and read. The delicate pages filled with startling vengeance and dark tales. I remember feeling sick as I read Judges.
Later, in college, I was grateful for those mornings. Every oblique poetic allusion, Shakespearean reference, Flannery O’Connor metaphor, hadn’t I spent years preparing for them? Hadn’t I learned the old code? Not only from fear, or shame, but with interest. With love, even. I’d memorized passages. I’d read some of it aloud, marveling at the beauty, the rapturous beauty. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures …. Yea, though I walk … Yea, though I walk … Thou art with me.