My final post of Lent, a list of the top five books of the Bible! Of course top favorites lists are kind of ridiculous. Boiling down all the artistry and importance of, in this case, books of the Bible, to one dimension is an overly simplifying and even arrogant exercise. So let's get to it!
#1) The Acts of the Apostles. I find these tales of the spread of the early church to be endlessly fascinating. The second half of the Apostles gives us the terrific story of Paul, from his conversion on the road to Damascus, through his spreading Christianity across Asia Minor, to his trip to Rome to appeal a prison sentence to Caesar himself, at which point the story abruptly ends. I think my favorite part is his visit to Athens, when he tailors an intellectual argument to the philosophical Athenians, who have gathered to hear him speak as they might any other thinker presenting his theories. Paul is immensely charismatic, a complicated character with an adventure-filled life.
#2) Ruth. A gentle, touching recounting of Ruth's loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi, even after her husband has passed away, and her mother-in-law's compassionate response, finding her a new husband who will take care of her.
#3) The Gospel of John. The weirdest of the Gospels, and also the only one written (or claimed to be written) by someone who was actually one of the Apostles. Beatifully done and with a tight but well-chosen selection of miracles. I know a lot of people like the Gospel of Luke because it explains so much, but I simply can't believe all that stuff. John leaves out everything unnecessary, including all the nonsense about Jesus's birth. Yet he also includes episodes not found in the other Gospels, such as Jesus raising his dead friend Lazarus, which I think is one of the most humanizing events in his life. Yes, if you can read only one Gospel, I definitely feel that John is the way to go.
#4) The First Book of Samuel. The second half tells of David as a young man, his rise to fame (killing Goliath, remember?), and his gathering together a sort of outlaw band that eventually topples Israel's cruel king Saul. An interesting story, with lots of parts you never hear about in Sunday school. His friendship with Saul's son, Jonathan, in particular, is strongly homoerotic. The story is interesting and David himself a remarkable character.
#5) Micah. Well, this one mainly because my son is named after him. The book itself is kind of a downer, mostly a long prophecy about the coming downfall of Jerusalem. Still, you can't top this quote: "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Still trying to get my son to reflect his namesake!
So, what did I get wrong? What are your favorites Bible books?