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 XLIV
Bill Long 2/1/07
1. "To get wisdom is to love oneself; to keep understanding is to prosper," NRSV. The stately KJV has: "He that gets wisdom loveth his own soul; he that findeth understanding shall find good."
This verse makes me want to write a book of essays (66) on Proverbs when I finish these quizzes. I guess I have given away the general location of this verse with that comment, but I don't care. The wisdom tradition emphasizes the importance of practical knowledge of the world in order to "get ahead" in life. This knowledge includes whom to avoid and which path to follow. Trust in the Lord (Prov. 3:5-6) is the foundation of the tradition, but once the fear of the Lord (1:7) or trust is affirmed, we have tons of apothegmatic statements that provide either general or specific words of advice. Many of the Proverbs are just observations about life or people ("A violent tempered person wil pay the penalty..."); many of them are exhortations or encouragements to live a good life ("Better the poor walking in integrity than one perverse of speech who is a fool"). This one is particularly beloved because it stresses that acquitision of wisdom is an important element in self care. We don't just get wisdom simply to know "how to act" in various social situations; wisdom is the foundational principle of good life rhythms. When I first began to memorize the Bible in earnest in 1971 I eagerly devoured the Book of Proverbs. Prov. 2 was most beloved to me:
"if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understading; if you see it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures--then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God," (Prov. 2:3-5).
I wanted wisdom so badly; I could almost taste it. Well, wisdom (biblical style) isn't learned in a day or even a few years. It takes years of cultivation, focus, suffering and attempts at articulating what one has learned. But I think I am finally getting there. In fact, I am beginning to believe that one of my most cherished "gifts" is not wealth or continuing athletic ability (though I keep in shape), but wisdom-giving. That doesn't mean that I know a lot or know what to do in most circumstances; but I can tend to understand, restate, hold a situation out for all to see, and then assist in reframing it for some kind of "solution." Now you see why such a verse as the one bolded after 1. is so precious to me. Let me ask you a question. What kind of person do you want to be? What is the earnest direction of your heart? Do you seek wealth? Fame? Love? Power? Wisdom? How do you know? How are you going to pursue that which you most desire. Ok, back to reality. Where, precisely, do you find it?
2. "Can Ethiopians change their skin or leopards their spots?"
When the Biblical author uses these words he is leading up to a condemnation of the peope of Israel. "Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil." This verse expresses a reality we know so well--that sometimes it just isn't possible or likely that people will change. When President Bush, for example, announced a new spirit of cooperation with the Democrats after Republicans lost the mid-term elections in 2006, this verse immediately came to mind. He has staked his Presidency on uncompromising approaches to terrorism and issues of national security. Lots of debate can happen regarding whether he has been wise in his choices. I think a lot of slack has to be cut the President because he was responsible for trying to define an enemy and shape an agenda when we had experienced a devastating attack on our soil on 9/11. We really had no "precedent" to which we could turn that would give guidance on how to act. But, with that having been said, I wonder how serious he was about cooperating with "D's" in 2007-08. Already, by his rejection of the Iraq Study Group's major recommendations, by taunting the D's to come up with their own plan, by saber-rattling with Iran, he has shown himself to be acting, in my judgment, consistently with his past actions. Thus, this verse has a relevance in the most modern political discussions. It is also very useful in trying to determine if people have "changed." There is a great tension between this verse and the following one, to which I will now turn. Ok, first, where is this one?
3. "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!"
What can you do when you love two verses that appear to be contradictory? Oh, sure, there are some of you out there who will rush to the defense of the Bible by explaining how 2 and 3 above are not really inconsistent. I really don't care to try to see if there is a logical way that these might be compatible. To me they emphasize contrary realities, both of which are true. The realities are the following: on the one hand, people and situations really don't change that much. We are who we have been, even if we have "shed our skin" in the intervening years. Whenever someone tells me that there has been a dramatic change in their lives, the first thing that rushes through my mind is whether they are in an impossible debt situation. I am not being cynical or skeptical, I hope; I have just been around long enough to know that people who proclaim transformation or dramatic change in their lives are often trying to run from something that really wants to sit down and look them straight in the eyes.
Then, on the other hand, is the second reality, a reality which emphasizes the "newness" of life in Christ. The approach of the author of this verse is that the condition of being "in Christ" so changes one's reality that it is as if everything has become new. I don't know how many times I have used this verse in speaking to emphasize that you can, indeed, begin anew; that life isn't "over" if you have made some bad choices; that there is a new and positive world "out there" to which you can devote yourself. There is no movie that explores the theme of unsuccessful transformation than Monster, the chilling sory of truck-driver killer Aileen Wuornos. Played by Charlize Theron, Wuornos is portrayed as someone who was had a "transformation" to good, which quickly falls apart when difficulties arise. Where, then, do you find this verse?
And, for the record, how do you try to explain the theological dilemma I have created?