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 Smart People XIV
Bill Long 1/3/07
1. "The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke..." NRSV. The KJV has, "And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake..."
I will forever be indebted to the Rev. William G. Silbert, Jr., pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Providence, RI when I was a student at Brown University in the early 1970s. Mr. Silbert, who died at 91 late in 2003, was a man who did so much to encourage me in ministry and the study of Christian faith. He provided opportunities to assist him in worship, teach adult education, work with youth and generally learn what the nature of ministry was. One of the things I most appreciated about his ministry was his dedication to careful preaching of the Scriptures. I think his most powerful sermon series was on the Biblical character that is the "main act" of the story where this quotation is found. Mr. Silbert was so persuasive on the theme of this passage because he had experienced it first hand in his life. When he talked about the "cruse of oil" that didn't fail, I imagined him in his early ministry days, with four children and few resources, proclaiming the sufficiency of God for all of our needs. His example will forever inspire me. So, where does this Scripture come from, and how does it function in its larger context?
2. "What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?"
The author's brimming confidence reminds us of Is. 40-66. The tone in that prophetic book is well captured at the end of Is. 40, where those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength and shall mount up with wings like eagles, running and not becoming weary, walking and not fainting. I recall hearing a pastor preach on the Is. 40 text when I was a boy. I don't remember a word that he said but whenever he talked about mounting up with wings like eagles, he would flap his arms in his black robe, making his puffy sleeves look as if they were eagles' wings. I think as a youth I loved the drama that the Bible could create in the minds of those who loved it. However, I didn't start studying it in earnest until I was about 18 or 19 years old. Some early images, however, have never left me. But, let's return to the bolded verse above. The author is obviously "soaring" himself because he has come to the end of a long statement or argument about some vital point for him. Indeed, it is vital not for him alone but for us all. God, he says, is for us. What powers, then, can possibly be arrayed successfully against us? Who says it, and where, and how does it "flow" from his earlier argument?
3. "the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the dirt came out."
This verse, I am sure, has inspired no one. It doesn't have a rich theological significance. It cannot be directly "applied to our lives," unless you take it as an anti-obesity text. Yet, it is a passage that, once I read it, I knew would never leave my mind. The picture is actually quite gory, but that is no reason to ignore it. A fat guy is stabbed to death. Actually, the fat guy was a king, though not of Israel. He was stabbed by the guy from Israel. Certainly if someone from Hollywood can portray the parting of the Red Sea so skillfully (by 1950s standards), we ought to be able to show fat closing over the blade that is stuck into the stomach of an obese person. Well, if this hasn't grossed you out so far, tell me where it is from...
4. "Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you," NRSV. The KJV has the "classic" rendering of the passage, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."
Few comments are needed here. We all have had the feeling of sharing our precious secrets or nuggets of wisdom with people and having them rejected. We have "cast our pearls before swine." It hurts. It sometimes convinces us to have nothing to do with the people who rejected us or people in general. But a better approach is to realize where and when to cast our pearls. The text doesn't say not to cast them; it simply wants us not to give our holy things away to those who won't or can't appreciate them. Who says this, and where?
5. "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift," KJV. The NRSV "modernizes" this as follows: "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift."
There are two leading definitions of "unspeakable" in the Oxford English Dictionary. The one more used today, where unspeakable means "indescribably or inexpressibly bad or objectionable," was only first used by Carlyle in 1831: "How they sailed..into Paynim land; fought with that unspeakable Turk, King Machabol..." But the only definition of "unspeakable" in use at the time of the KJV (1611) was: "incapable of being expressed in words; inexpressible, indescribable, ineffable." The 1611 usage is well-reflected in an earlier (1586) appearance: "The flocke of unspeakable vertues laid up..in that best builded folde." That is, around the time the KJV came out, the word was meant to describe something wonderfully good. With this use in mind, we see that the KJV passage refers to a divine gift that is so powerful and great that it exceeds the ability of human words to explain or describe it. I recall a pastor of mine from the late 1960s using the KJV of this verse to exhort the congregation to give generously to the work of the church. The people would chuckle and then open their wallets. I wonder how they understood the word "unspeakable." But where does this come from, and in what context does the sentence appear?
That's about it for tonight, friends.