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 XLVII
Bill Long 2/3/07
1. "my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning," NRSV. Of course the KJV has the much more euphonious "more than watchmen for the morning.."
The NRSV is committed to removing the "sexism" from the Biblical text or, better said, removing the gender-specific references when a generic one was likely intended. Removal of "watchmen" from this text in favor of the wimpier "those who watch," however, is not even gramatically justified. The Hebrew word behind it (mishmerim) is a masculine plural. In addition, from what we know about ancient Israel, do you think they would have had a regiment of female night security guards? Well, enough of this. I think I first memorized this verse for two reasons: (1) the desire it captured; and (2) its repeated nature. I knew that other phrases or verses were repeated in the Bible (such as the refrain in Ps. 136), but I didn't know of any other like this, where a longish phrase was repeated without intervening words. But I think I also learned it because of the desire it bespoke. Yearning for God, whether in Ps. 64 or 42 or 84 or this Psalm (oops!), is central to Israel's (and our) faith. We lose our souls when we lose the ability to yearn. So, where do you find this delightful verse?
2. "and having done everything, to stand firm," NRSV. The KJV has, "and having done all, to stand."
I learned the verse in the RSV, which copied the KJV in this instance. The author of this passage tells us that we should accoutre ourselves with the entire armor of God so that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the evil one. Once we have so dressed ourselves, we are to "stand" and face the world or the enemy. I didn't like the pugilistic nature of the passage at first, but the older I get the more I realize that life is often a series of battles for which you just have to be "ready." Ps. 1 uses terminology of walking, sitting and standing to illustrate the various "postures" of life in which we should be meditating on the Torah of God but this passage just uses "stand." When I was in college I hung around with a bunch of Christians whose hero was a guy I had never previously heard of: Watchman Nee. Nee (1903-72) was a Chinese Christian heavily influenced by British missionaries who put his distinctive "spin" on the Bible and Christian faith. Along with Witness Lee (In my later, cynical, days I wondered if there might be a third Chinese spiritual writer, to sort of constitute a "trinity" of Chinese theological stars, whom I named in my mind, Witless Dee...Sorry for my strange humor). In any case, one of Nee's 55 books translated into English was called "Sit, Walk, Stand." I think he tried to argue in it that these were "movements" in the Christian life. I see that the book had a big impact on me.. Where do you find this verse?
3. "So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
This verse is reminiscent of the Jack LaLanne (the amazing American body-builder and first fitness guru, 1914- ) line about food: "If it tastes good, I spit it out." Only here we have another subject in mind. The author is putting these words in the mouth of an "angel" who says these words about a particular group of people. I eagerly looked up the verse in the Vulgate to see if it used one of my favorite Latin verbs--spuere (to spit). We can almost hear the verb, and see the results, without even having to pronounce it. But, unfortunately, Jerome drew upon the rich Latin vocabulary for disgorging things and wrote, instead, "sed quia tepidus es et nec frigidus nec calidus incipiam te evomere ex ore meo." We see "vomit" in the word, but the Latin adds the emphatic prefix "ex," which is shortened to "e" before "v." I was warned from my earliest days as an Evangelical not to be a "lukewarm" Christian. I needed, on the countrary, to be "on fire" with Christ or "full of the Spirit" or something like that. I drank in all the advice, becoming more confused, I am sure, with the conflicting nature of advice that I received. I think that the reason it took me until I was in my early 50s to develop a personal style and philosophy of life, a philosophy with which I am very comfortable, can be attributed to my willingness, I think, to listen to everyone. Because so many people are so sincere, I thought they must be right. So, that is how I lived for years, until I realized that they had no more knowledge of important things in life than I did and that, in fact, I had more wisdom than most. In that connection, then, I like this verse not because I have eschewed lukewarmness but because of the way it allows me to develop my Latin vocabulary of expectoration. So, where do you find it?
4. "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments."
Why would anyone think that this verse has anything to say about anything? It is so clearly a piece of personal advice to someone to bring his raincoat and some books and papers when they meet again that it is seemingly worthless for any kind of "present-day" meaning. But because in my early days of Christian faith, I was committed to seeing world-shaping knowledge in every biblical verse, I had to find deep meaning here. Once you think about it for a minute you see that my approach to Scripture wasn't weird or unprecedented. Indeed, when in graduate school I took a course on Midrash, a form of Hebrew literature from the early Middle Ages, which commented in extenso on every verse in the Pentateuch (for example), by trying to limn spiritual meaning in the number of letters in a word, by the shape of the letters, by the meaning of the words in combination, etc. In other words, once you are committed to the full divine inspiration of the text, you try to discover how imaginative God could be in "hiding" meaning in and through the words. The Bible becomes a huge puzzle, then, which you can put together; a mystery that cries for clever exposition. So, what did I do with this verse? Well, I had a friend named Norm, a Plymouth Brethren, who was quite spiritual. I felt he put my pusillanimous Presbyterian piety to shame. He liked this verse. 'Oh my,' I thought, 'I really need to get more spiritual.' What did Norm make of it? Well, he took the advice of the author to the recipient, to be a piece of spiritual counsel for then and today. My friend loved the word "parchments," which means papers. Rather than seeing these parchments as just stray papers, my friend projected into his soul the belief that these parchments contained the drafts of what would become the New Testament epistles. Thus, the recipient would be charged with the sacred task of bringing the "first draft of the Bible" to the author when they met up again. As to why the author would have left behind such valuable manuscripts--my friend had no clue. Nevertheless, it made me remember this verse, and now I torture you with it. Where do you find it?
I think that is enough (probably too much) for today.