A human being is in a very questionable position to judge another’s motives. After all is said and done, at the end of our lives, we only have our own complexity to understand, and perhaps not even that. But there is a set of biographies, as I am persuaded, that tell the most honest truth about humanity.
When it comes to exposing hidden motives, divulging the inner heroes and villains in one person, and telling the full truth about human beings, Bible biographies stand in a completely distinct genre compared to human biographies. The way it treats its heroes and villains are at times unpredictable, since heroes sometimes become villains, and villains heroes. Some of the most horrendous things recorded in the book are committed by its supposed heroes and heroines.
For example, take a look at this list: “Noah, the survivor of the flood, got drunk and exposed his nakedness; Abraham, the friend of God, lied and doubted God; Lot, the hero of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, got drunk and had an incestuous relationship with his daughters; Miriam, the beautiful singer and prophetess of Israel, had a racial and jealousy problem and was struck with leprosy; Rahab, the woman of faith and the ancestor of Jesus Christ, had been a prostitute; David, a man after God’s own heart, was guilty of adultery and murder; Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, lived the life of a fool…”
I quote Heschel a lot, and I’m going to do it again, “The Bible is not man’s theology but God’s anthropology.” It depicts a view from someone who can see all humanity to the deepest core of the heart.
Human biographies typically enhance the social standing and reputation of notable men and women. Naturally, aspects that would mar this image are prudently tucked away or limited to a handful of cases just to make the said person relatable and human enough. “This is the way men write history; but when the Lord undertakes to tell His story of a sinful man, He does not select a poor miserable beggar, and show him up; He does not give even the name of the thief on the cross… but He takes King David from the throne, and sets him down in sackcloth and ashes, and wrings from his heart the cry, ‘Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving-kindness…’ And then when he is pardoned, forgiven, cleansed, and made whiter than snow, the pen of inspiration writes down the whole dark, damning record of his crimes, and the king on his throne has not power, nor wealth, nor influence enough to blot the page; and it goes into history for infidels to scoff at for three thousand years. Who wrote that?”
I had a college professor who once said, If the Bible is such a moral book, why does it have horrible stories like Lot’s incestuous relationships, rapes within a family, etc?
I would submit that the reason why the Bible has these grotesque stories is precisely because it tells the truth about humanity. It doesn’t cower from exposing the great evil a human being can do towards his neighbor. History of wars, ethnic conflicts, and slavery can attest to the unimaginable evil people can do in unusual times. And most of these people are, at some point, regular people, like you and me. The Bible is not a collection of fairy tales; it tells the stories of real people, with real conflicting motives and inner turmoils.
“You find a man who will tell the truth about kings, warriors, princes, and rulers today, and you may be quite sure that he has within him the power of the Holy Ghost. And a book which tells the faults of those who wrote it, and which tells you that ‘there is none righteous, no, not one,’ bears in it the marks of a true book; for we all know that men have faults, and failings, and sins; and among all the men whose lives are recorded in that book, each man has some defect, some blot, except one, and that is ‘the man Christ Jesus.’”