The Holy Bible


I got my first Bible in 1969, three weeks before the first moon landing, in exchange for two books of S&H Green Stamps. I still have it. It’s a big black-bound King James red-letter edition, with large print and lots of maps in the back.



The Bible fascinated me, and still does. It was the biggest and most convoluted puzzle in the world, and the prize for solving it was eternal bliss. I didn’t really know much about the rules – in those days, I went only occasionally to the local church, which espoused a very general kind of God-loves-you Protestantism – but I gathered this much:



  • It is very important to read the Bible. All of it. In seventeenth-century English.

  • Memorizing it is good too.

  • Things that seem contradictory (like the Gospel timelines of Jesus’ life), or obviously fictional (like the stories of Jonah and Job), or just plain pointless (like the list of Jesus’ ancestors in the Gospel of Matthew, down to Joseph – except that Jesus isn’t Joseph’s son, right?), are all part of some huge jigsaw puzzle. You can work it out if you try. A few people have managed it. A few people have gone completely crazy trying to work it out. Again, the prize for doing this is eternal bliss.


  • So get cracking!



I took all this very seriously, and as a result, I know the Bible pretty well. I know who Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was, and Keren-Happuch, and Shear-Jashub. I know the longest book of the Bible, and the shortest. I have suffered through Paul’s interminably pompous epistles, and smiled through Zechariah’s wonderful apocalypse, in which the bells of the horses are engraved with the words HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD. I know the book of the Bible that ends with a punchline, and the one that ends with the word “curse.”



I have flickered in and out of faith, of various kinds. I was an indifferent pseudo-Protestant for a while, and then a Catholic convert, and then a former Catholic. As of this writing, I am a sad unwashed pagan. I have shamed my Catholic baptism.



I still go back from time to time, however. I keep multiple Bibles at home, and two at work, just for reference.



The Bible, at its best, is lyrical and terrible and beautiful and very sad:



The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. . . . O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.



I wish it were true. It would be lovely if it were.



I’m glad it’s not true. I’d be utterly doomed if it were.



But this much is true (as I can tell you from personal experience): the grass withereth, the flower fadeth.



Amen, brothers and sisters.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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