Biblical Quiz for Really Smart Folks IV
Bill Long 12/26/06
I so enjoyed the two previous quizzes on biblical quotations from contemporary movies that I would love to do some on quotations from literature, popular sayings in our culture or even those nicely-knitted or crocheted pillows or fabrics you can put all over your house or hang on your wall. For example, I recall a hanging in someone's house: "But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Where is that from, by the way? Context? If you have any suggestions along this line, let me know. But, for now, I return to the Bible itself. Here are six more quotations for you, with some explanations.
1. "Leviathan that you formed to sport in it." The KJV has "here is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein."
The image is beautiful. God has fully subdued all the chaotic forces of the world. Whereas other passages hint at the raw power of various mythological figures, this biblical author, wanting to emphasize the transcendent power of God, speaks of God's potential adversary as a plaything. But the phrase "To sport in it" can be loosed from its context and used in our normal everyday speech in contexts ranging from wonder to indignation. "Did you do that to sport in me?" Well, where is this from? Can you tell us anything about the larger context of the quotation that might help us understand not just this one text but several other nearby texts?
2. "Too much learning is driving you insane." Or, as the KJV says elegantly: "much learning doth make thee mad."
My parents, and most intimate friends, have said this repeatedly to me, but it is straight out of the Bible. Perhaps they didn't know they were quoting the Scriptures when they hinted at the idea. Maybe this verse ought to be kept away from children and others in school, because they might turn and use it on their elders. Can't you just hear a whining teen, when confronted with mountains of homework and pushy parents: "Like, Mom, I SO don't want to be driven INSANE by learning too much! Like the Bible says, I don't want to be driven MAD by studying too much. You don't want an INSANE kid on your hands, now, do you?" Maybe this verse should be for an "adults-only" quiz.
3. "for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." The KJV has "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
This is a good place to show how the KJV words are reflective of 17th century English usage rather than our own in the 21st. We usually think of "repentance" today as "saying you are sorry" or "confessing" your sin. Its earlier English usage, reflecting the Greek, is only that of changing one's mind or agreeing with someone about something. Thus, when this Scripture says that the gifts and calling of God are "without repentance," it means that they are not to be changed. Ok, now that you know that, where is it from? A little hint. I chose this verse because it is the culmination of one of the longest sustained arguments in the Scriptures about the relationship of the emergent Christian movement to the contemporary Jewish religion. Oops, I gave away the Testament, didn't I? If you get the verse, try also to explain why this is an important culminatory verse for the author's argument. By the way, I just made up the word "culminatory." Even the OED doesn't have it. It has "culminating." I like mine better. Go for it!
4. "within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot."
Would that all of us would know at times the longing of this Biblical figure. We talk in our culture about a passion for things or a heart for something, but the image of this passage is more powerful--a burning fire shut up within the bones. We cannot hold in the fire. It must burst forth from us lest we burst. Have you ever known that kind of desire in your life? In love? In search for something? In commitment to a cause? In having to tell someone about something? Have you had fires within your heart in your younger years but given them up in your later days? After all, fires burn as well as warm. The 18th century French philosopher Rousseau in his educational classic Emile (1762) said that the goal of living was to have "the greatest experience of felt life." In other words, let the fires burn. So, where is this Scripture from, and what is its context?
5. "God, who never lies.." The KJV has, "God, that cannot lie..."
I remember the first time I ran across this verse. I was home from college for the summer, and one of my pastors came in to speak to the church interns (I worked as an intern in the summers of 1972-73 at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in CA). He was going to present the doctrine of the "inerrancy of the Bible." What was his "proof?" Well, this verse. God, he said, never lied. The Scripture itself says so. Q.E.D. (why don't you learn what that stands for?) I remember thinking to myself, "Hm. That is a rather strange argument. You argue for the reliability of a text from within the text and you do so not inductively (by showing reliability in particulars) but deductively (by general assertion). I saw from that moment that I was going to have difficulties with the doctrine of an inerrant Bible. Frankly, I didn't really know what the word "inerrant" meant. People eventually told me it means that the original MS (which are lost) didn't have an error in them. How does THAT help? In any case, we have this verse, which is a challenging one. Where from? And what do you make if it?
6. "as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake."
Truth be told, this is often the "theme" of horror movies. That is, one of the ways to scare the bejabbers (or is it the bejesus) out of the audience is to present the "hero" or "star" of the horror movie as just barely escaping the clutches of a deadly foe, retreating to a place of supposed security, and then, when all seems secure, having them confront the same or another scary creature from the point of apparent security. Screams fill the auditorium. Guys and girls clutch each other. Hm. Not bad.
Well, let's return to reality for just a moment. The verse captures what it is like to be between what we call "a rock and a hard place." Everywhere we turn is a disaster. No redemption is in sight. That is the felt experience of many people. We go even to the places where there should be the most security, our homes, and rest our hands upon a wall, and are bitten. The verse, therefore, has a utility in our imaginations and in the experience of living. But, where is it from?
Want to have still more? Ok.