Today’s two Bible readings are confusing.
In the first reading God told Abraham that, following the wishes of his first wife, Sarah, he should send off his other wife Hagar, along with their firstborn Ishmael, furnishing them with only a few pieces of bread and a goatskin of water. It doesn’t seem to us that God would be that heartless.
Then, it is hard for us to accept the Gospel story where Jesus sent a throng of evil spirits into a flock of sheep who promptly committed suicide.
After Martin Luther rejected the pope’s authority, he started people believing that the Bible was our ultimate authority as what is and isn’t true. We agree with Luther on that. We too believe that the Bible tells us the truth, however, we do not believe that the Bible gives us factual accounts. At times it teaches us the truth through different literary form.
Like the childhood narratives of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel and in Matthew’s Gospel contradict each other. Luke had his parents going back to Nazareth after the presentation of Jesus in the temple when he was forty days old. Matthew had his parents taking the infant to Egypt for several years before they went to settle in Nazareth for the first time. Matthew and Luke chose to follow different myths and parables that were going around.
In reading the Bible we must be able to distinguish factual accounts with those in which the truth comes to us clothes in a fable, a parable, or a myth.