This week saw the collective expression of geek ecstasy; nine episodes of sixties Doctor Who, long thought lost but now uncovered in Nigeria, were released on iTunes. The master tapes wiped as part of a cost cutting exercise, no-one’s seen these episodes for decades; they’ve achieved almost mythical status, known only through novelisations and grainy photo reconstructions.
Now, this is important for all sorts of reasons – a part of the UK’s pop culture heritage being restored, and the unexpected opportunity to watch sort-of new episodes during the show’s 50th anniversary. And, once you factor in the intrinsic OCD of us fans of science fiction TV, there’s a joy in knowing that gaps can still be filled, that there’s a hope, however slim, that missing episodes will no longer be missing. The canon is slowly being restored.
Now you’re asking why I’m going on about all this on a Bible blog. Fair enough.
Throughout 1 Kings there are references to the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel. Effectively, it implies that the outlines of all the reigns we read about in Kings and Chronicles are just the tip of the iceberg. The writer of Kings doesn’t feel the need to overdo the detail; after all, anyone who’s interested can go find this book and get all the juicy gossip.
It’s just a pity the book no longer exists.
It’s frustrating, like a dead hyperlink or all those missing Doctor Who episodes. The absence of this book makes things feel incomplete. I want to know what’s in it. I want to know what happened to all these kings with borderline unpronounceable names. There are a bunch of stories, a mass of history that we don’t know about because a specific book hasn’t managed to survive. There’s always the hope that it found it’s way into a pot buried somewhere in the Middle East, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
It gets worse. Numbers 21:14 mentions the Book of the Wars of The Lord – no longer exists, which sucks because it sounds awesome. When the Chronicler gets to the reign of King David he talks about the records of Gad the Seer and Nathan the Prophet, neither of which are in the Bible. The story goes on; the Hebrew Scriptures keep making references to books that no longer exist.
This bugs me, and it brings me back to the Doctor Who thing: the references to these works triggers my geek gene, making me feel like I’m missing something. In he case of Doctor Who, this is the case; 90-something episodes that form part of the show’s ongoing narrative are gone, including some pretty landmark moments. Of course fans should celebrate getting them back.
The Bible, however, is different. As a history book it leaves stuff out; as a science book it implies that the sun orbits the Earth rather than vice versa. And that’s fine as long as we realise it’s actually neither of these things. That’s not to say the Bible doesn’t speak to how we view the natural world, or the impact of politics and sociology and theology on a particular society, but none of that is it’s primary aim.
No, the primary narrative of the Bible is the story of how God and humanity work out their relationship to each other, culminating in the Cross which ultimately restores all things. It’s the word of God inasmuch as it points to Jesus, the Word of God. Anything else is just gravy.
Does it matter that we’re missing the Annals of the Kings of Israel? Hey, I’ve got a history degree, I’d love to know what else Jeroboam or Zimri got up to. When John mentions that a lot of stuff went down but for which he didn’t have room in his gospel, I want to tell him to stop moaning and write a few more chapters. I want to know these things.
But I need to get over my nerdery – the Bible is not incomplete. It is the story of how God reconciles himself to humanity through Jesus, and as such everything we need to know is there. And as much as I might want more information, the fact is that I’m not even close to understanding the entirety of what’s actually in the Bible, let alone the ‘missing’ bits.
Maybe that should be my focus – to look at what’s there, rather than what’s not. To see more of Jesus , rather than some trivia about King Uzziah. And to appreciate the completeness of the Bible, and of the story it tells.