Saturday, September 06, 2008

If You Don't Know the Meaning of a Passage, Withhold Judgment

Some have dismissed the Bible because they could not "get past" a problematical verse. Or because they detested a particular Biblical character. One friend of mine kept wondering how God could call someone like David “a man after His own heart?” Heck, I don’t much like David either. But let's face it: the David story is only one story in a book of many stories. If the history of David and his family irks you, move on. There are sure to be other stories that will be more to your liking.

Similarly, if you don’t understand what is going on in a story, don’t mull over it and become obsessed with it. People have created whole sects in order to make some obscure passage of the Bible comprehensible.

For instance, the writers of the books of Kings, Samuel, and Chronicles speak of other seemingly lost historical books: the history of Gad the prophet, the history of Iddo the prophet, etc. Paul speaks of a letter he sent to the Laodiceans. As far as we know these books are lost. (The recreation of these “lost” books has been the preoccupation of many.) But perhaps the books aren’t lost at all. Perhaps we do have the letter to the Laodiceans in the Bible but it’s now given another name. Maybe the courier who traveled with the letter passed through Corinth or Ephesus and somehow the name of the epistle was changed. Or maybe the letter was truncated or two or more letters were collapsed into one. Perhaps the history of Gad is just another name for one of the historical Bible books we do have. After all, no one knows for sure who wrote the books of Kings and Chronicles. Besides, just because a history was written doesn't mean that it is "lost." The Hebrew scribes and ministers probably didn't think that that particular history was divinely inspired.

Whatever the answer, be aware that there are only a few times in your life when knowing the exact right meaning of a Bible passage or the whereabouts of some obscure passage will be a life or death.


Tia Nevitt said...

Good, commonsense advice. I'm working on John now. I read Exodus last month (complete with all the Tabernacle instructions and building).

Carole McDonnell said...

Thanks, Tia.

I'm trying to give common sense advice on Bible reading all this month. -C

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