Bible Quizzes for Smart People XV
Bill Long 1/5/07
I try to select Biblical quotations that have meant something to me in the past and that are fairly equally divided between Old and New Testaments. I have heard Scripture quoted in a variety of contexts--from well-meaning but misguided people in Bible studies, to literary references in books I read, to sermons preached and to my own study. Once you have made the Bible your own book you notice it wherever you go. Often people have no idea they are quoting it; other times a situation just invites a Biblical quotation to illumine it. My goal is to have you use the Scriptures comfortably in the varied relations of your life. Here are five for today.
1. "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat," NRSV. The KJV has, "if any would not work, neither should he eat."
I don't know if poeple still quote this verse as a way of attacking those who collect welfare or not. I recall it being used that way a generation ago, as if the advice given by the author to a religious community thousands of years ago became an eternal principle of economic life in an advanced democracy. That being said, I don't think the idea behind it is so bad. Yet I think if we use it to criticize people today, we ought to be evenhanded--saying it also to the rich who spend their time "playing." In the early Church it was a temptation to give up one's gainful employment to be "ready" for the return of Christ. So, who says this and where does it appear?
2. "It leaves a shining wake behind it; one would think the deep to be white-haired."
What a brilliant picture is here painted! But, just as it is with Indian paleoglyphs (oops, not in the OED!) and petroglyphs (that's better!) that are now hidden beneath the water in WA State or with an intricate network of beautiful flowers hidden under brush or in inaccesible places, so poetic beauty is often concealed in the deep places of the Bible. It is not so much that these words are hidden or inaccessible; it is more the case that even serious Bible students never get to this text. Something is gliding along the sea, leaving a shining wake behind it. Indeed, so deep is the slice in the sea that it sends out a foaming white mass, making it look like it is a whilte-haired person. There are very few Biblical authors who could speak with such eloquence. Where does this quotation appear?
3. "Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
When I was just begining to be "Biblically sensitive," early in 1970, I remember attending a memorial service for the atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell at Stanford University. Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling spoke about Russell as did other friends in the scientific, philosophical and political world. After hearing all speak so glowingly about Russell, I decided to check out his essay "Why I am Not A Christian," which he had penned several years previously. I remember almost nothing of that essay, except that he took particular offense to the Biblical passage(s) that spoke of "weeping and gnashing of teeth." He felt that any God who consigned people to a place where there was that kind of pain was not deserving of his respect or worship. Well, this isn't the place to deal with Russell, but it is the place to identify the verse. Where is it from and who speaks it?
4. "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger," KJV. Or, in the NRSV, we have: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
This is one of the pearls of Scriptural insight that was cast before me for many years and which I, in my swinish ways, ignored. I ignored it in my teens, twenties and well into my thirties and forties because I felt that the "truth" had to be spoken, regardless of its reception. Well, what can you expect when I spent several formative years in my 20s in Boston!? (By the way, the combination of the exclamation point and question mark is called the interrobang). Ever since its founding in 1630 Boston has thought of itself as the center of progressive and confrontative ideas, from abolitionism in the 1830s to women's rights in the 1960s-1970s. Thus, I never "heard" the words of this Scripture. I didn't necessarily want to "turn away wrath;" I wanted to be a spokesman for the "truth." Now I think differently. For me it is the soft words, actually, that not only turn away wrath but get you much further in achieving your goals than the harsh words. Others may disagree, but I am now committed to "soft answers" to people. Where does this come from and do you agree with its philosophy?
5. "Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." The KJV has, "for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light."
One of the groups I most admired in my early days of studying religion seriously (in the early to mid-1970s) were the 17th-18th century Puritans. I didn't like the way they were characterized in mainstream scholarship at the time (dour, sexless, morally rigid, judgmental), and soon I began to see that my more optimistic assessment of these folks was shared by an increasingly broad group of scholars. One thing that always alternatively impressed and depressed me about the Puritans was their attitude toward Satanic deception. They believed in a personal Satan, to be sure, but one who was so skilled at deception that the Saints of God were almost quite helpless in discerning Satan's wily ways. This led to frequent soul-searchings and diary-writings to determine if, indeed, the Christian had been led astray by the Devil's machinations. I felt then, and I still do now, that the Puritan intellectual vision was slightly occluded because of its obsession with deception. But, in the final analysis, maybe I am deceived about that. Oh, by the way, where is this Scripture?
Sufficient unto the day is the evil (and quizzes) thereof (KJV). OK, where is that from?