Biblical Quizzes for Really Smart People
Quiz III--Movies II
Quiz VII--X rated
Quiz VIII--X rated
Quiz X- The Numbers
Quiz XXIX (Messiah)
Quiz XXX (Messiah II)
Quiz XXXI (Mess. III)
Quiz XXXII (Mess. IV)
Quiz XL--vivid images
Quiz LIX--weird doct.
Quiz LXV--doctrine II
Bible Quizzes for Really Smart Folks V
Bill Long 12/29/06
Returning to Reality
1. "Oh my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
This is an easy one, but I still wanted to give it to you. I cite it because I consider it the most profound expression of individual grief in the Scriptures. Absalom, the handsome, talented, charming young man, the apple of his father's eye, was killed when rebelling against his father. And the father was inconsolable in his grief. Note, however, that the literary power of the verse arises from the varied way the words "son" and "Absalom" appear. It isn't "repetitive" grief but "creative" grief. I think that Shakespeare must have had this passage in mind as he gave us two unparalleled expressions of grief and horror in Othello 5.2. Note Emilia's expression of unalloyed horror when she divines that Othello actually has killed Desdemona:
"Villiany, villainy, villainy!/ I think upon't, I think--I smell't--O villainy!/ I thought so then--I'll kill myself for grief--/O villainy! villainy!" (Othello 5.2.190-93).
Then, a little later, when the scope of his action has dawned on on him, Othello says:
"Whip me, ye devils,/ From the possession of this heavenly sight!/ Blow me about in winds! roast me in sulphur!/ Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire!/ O Desdemon! dead, Desdemon! dead!/ O, O! (Othello 5.2. 277-82).
Skillful repetition of grief incises it into our hearts.
2. "clothed and in his right mind."
Yep, that is all. Who could THAT be? The reason this verse strikes me so strongly is that it appears in a context where a person originally wasn't clothed and in his right mind, but then something happened and he was. I often have used this verse in conversation with people. I am sure that it has confused and confounded them a great deal, but I really don't care. A typical situation is: "Bill, how are you today?" Instead of saying, "Fine" or "Great," or some other mindless Americanism, I will sometimes say, "Clothed and in my right mind." After all, I am being Biblical!
3. "then I shall be weak, and be like another man," KJV. The NRSV has "then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else."
Actually, I like this sentence even more than I do #2. The picture created by the scene is especially appealing to talented people who have just had a victory. Sometimes when you experience a victory, you feel invincible. You are grateful for the victory but you feel that perhaps you have risen to a new level of humanity, a kind of plateau from which you can see the world with broader and wider perspective. But if you really are aware of your humanity in this situation, you know that you can fall as quickly as you have risen. You know there are situations that can reduce you to nothingness. You know that you can "be weak, and be like another man." Well, where does this appear?
4. "When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned."
The first time this verse made a deep impression on me was when I heard it read by a Black pastor in a Bible study I was attending. He had the most sonorous and passionate voice, and he lingered over every verse of the Scripture as if it was a precious Christmas gift that he wanted to prolong opening in order to intensify the joy at its gift-like character. It took him about 30 seconds to read this verse, and I can still hear his cadences, as if the entire history of African-Americans in America was bound up in the slow reading. In fact, if you are doing this quiz with others, why doesn't someone take the time to read this verse passionately, with deliberation, emphasizing every word, feeling the hopelessness of it. And then, of course, tell each other where it is from and in what context it appears.
5. "What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest?" KJV. Or, in the NRSV, we have "Why is it, O sea, that you flee?"
I confess, I like the KJV better here. Maybe that is because as a youth my mother would frequently look at me with exasperation and say, "What ails you, Bill?" Of course, as a child, you often "mishear" what people say, and so I thought she was saying, "What sails you, Bill?" To which I often responded, "A ship, mom." But here we have a most powerful visual picture created. The sea is fleeing. As you might have expected, the author is referring to the Exodus here, but the verse is not from Exodus (thanks, Bill, that leaves 65 other books!). The stark originality and creativity of the verse, however, is that nature is personified and then questioned as it flees. It emboldens me likewise to speak to nature, though you may not want to be around when I launch these soliloquies!
6. "faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.."
This is an important verse for those who have aspirations for understanding the history of earliest Christianity (ok, I gave it away--the words are from the New Testament). In the history of the study of early Christianity many scholars at first argued for an "early orthodoxy," that is, a sense that there was a faith deposit or a common faith understanding shared by most Christians by the end of the 1st century. This verse would go along with that approach. But, around 1970 the perspective gained momentum, and it still reigns in New Testament scholarship, that Christianity was a diverse, and possibly immensely diverse, phenomenon from the beginning. Well, the issue is very complex, but this verse helps trigger the topic. Where do you find it?
Enough for one more day. Here is the next.