Appreciating the Bible
And Other Books
By Apolinario Villalobos
The first religious book I had was given to me as a prize for beating the rest of the contestants who were my senior in an extemporaneous writing contest in English. I was in first year high school and the book was the freshly circulated “Imitations of Christ”, which today is one of the best sellers. I just kept it, forgetting even the name of the author. A friend borrowed it and decided to keep it for good. Then, a lay minister whom we fondly called, “papa Joe” gave me a King James Version Bible which he fondly marked with a dedication. It occupies a space together with the Koran, two other versions of the Bible, Apokalipses of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a book about mankind’s search for God.
When a friend saw my collection, he asked what I will do with them. Despite the silliness of the question, I told him that I need to know what I am supposed to know. He used to be a staunch Roman Catholic but when he joined the Masonic Temple, he seemed to have drifted away and sounded different. I told him that for me, all books contain information that everyone must learn, especially, those “special” ones that discourse on religion, cult, God, church, Christian movement, Marian devotion, archaeology, astronomy,etc. I could have told him more, but noticed his irritation. So I closed my statement with the short, “knowledge is power” with a tone of jest. I just did not want to embarrass him with a remark that he is the only “Mason” I know who does not believe in God. I pitied him for his choice to be ignorant.
Had not my curiosity made me interested in religious books, I may not have known that:
-the eldest son of Abraham was Ismael, and whose mother was Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah;
-in the Old Testament, the Israelites were told to always have a trowel as a household
tool so that they can use it to dig the ground when they move their bowel;
-in the Old Testament, one of the Lord’s instruction was not for the wife to join in a fight in which her husband figured, and most especially, not for her to grab the testicles of her husband’s foe as her effort to help her husband;
-in the New Testament, it says how Jesus lost his temper and cursed a fig that did not bear fruits that he could have eaten that day;
-in the New Testament, it says that the chosen people of God were also partaking of dried fish as a staple food;
-the legend of the flood was universal, meaning, practically, every race has a knowledge about it, but with their own different version;
-the “Mother and Child” devotion is not limited among the Catholics but also prevalent in other religions and cults;
-there is also universality in the belief about end of the world.
Those are just a few of what I have gained from browsing the pages of the books which others abhor because doing so would mean that they already “believe” in God or rather, develop in them an attachment to a religion, a church or worse, God. I cannot understand such attitude, because, how can you hate something that you do not understand well enough?
Going through the pages of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, which is the basis of other religious books is like browsing through the pages of National Geographic. Its historicity interspersed with “legends” made it some sort of a mini-library. I have the same interest when browsing through the pages of other similar books. There is a popular allegation that getting seriously immersed in these books would result to confusion and eventually, alienation from God. It did not happen to me. In fact, it developed in me more respect for others who are so dedicated to their own kind of evangelism to the point of fanaticism.
In the Philippines, despite the deeply- rooted Catholicism among the majority of the Filipinos, there is enough space left for ecumenism that is why, in every activity of the national government wherein there is a need for invocations, different religious sectors are represented. This atmosphere is a great consolation among Filipinos who have diversified culture, yet united in their view as a race about the universality of God.