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 XXXIX
Bill Long 1/26/07
1. "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," NRSV. The KJV is almost identical: "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."
There are more Google listings for "pride goes before a fall" than "pride goes before destruction." I don't know how the verse got conflated over the years in everyday usage, but the conflation actually isn't unfaithful to the spirit of the text. The verse is in synonymous parallelism, which means that the two half-verses of the text reinforce each other's meaning. I often heard this verse (mostly in the "pride goes before a fall" variety) in my early days in New England, mostly from my mother. She wasn't (and isn't) a Bible-quoting woman, but she seemed to know this (misquoted) verse. The liberal Congregationalism in which she was brought up had little fervor in the 1930s, or the 2000s for that matter, for mastery for the Bible. There really is a very profound truth in this verse. Pride, which often infects those who think of themselves as superior to others as people or in virtue, tends so to deceive the proud one that s/he underestimates both the skills (and machinations) of "lesser" people. While the proud person is preening, others are gathering their forces to undercut the proud one. Pride blinds us to how others can undo us; pride blinds us to the dangerousness of our own conduct. There is really nothing to be gained by pride. So, where do you find this verse?
2. "When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord..."
The people of Israel faced exile in the 8th and 6th Centuries BCE (Northern and Southern Kingdoms, respectively). Exile was about as contrary to the expectations of Israel as could be imagined. Hadn't God promised to bring them into the Promised Land? Hadn't God promised Abraham that every foot of the land on which his foot trod would belong to the people of God? So, the exile was one big theological problem for Israel, a problem no less significant for Israel than the Holocaust of the 20th century. This verse appears in a text of hope--where the writer is laying out reasons for believing that the people would return to the land of Israel. But the way that it is worded encourages readers to separate the text from the historical reason for its writing and apply it to the life of the religious person who is seeking God. Jesus told us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength. Why not seek the Lord? This verse promises that we will find God. If only the author would explain what that means. Where do you find this verse?
3. "For thus says the high and lofty one, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit."
I have loved this verse for longer than I can remember. It dovetails perfectly with verse # 1 above. It is reminiscent of Ps. 113:5-6: "Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?" These dual themes, of God's transcendent otherness or distance from the world, and God's immanent engagement with the same world, run parallel to each other throughout the history of theology. But here God's engagement with the world is not a general one; the text says that God dwells with the contrite and humble. When all the emphasis in the Bible is on the virtue of this kind of attitude, where is there room for the opposite? Though this verse isn't from Proverbs, that book explores the ways of the pride and the humble. I think this theme needs fresh consideration in our own day, for the contours of pride and humility are not always clear to me. Thus, our difficulty today is not that we might disagree with the Bible; we just might not be sure what it means. Well, where do you find this verse?
4. "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?"
One of the New Testament scholars I most admire is Gordon Fee. I met him during my days as a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the mid-1970s. He had just moved from Wheaton College in IL, and would soon be a vital part of probably the strongest NT faculty at any seminary I could recall: Ramsey Michaels, David Scholer, Gordon Fee and Andrew Lincoln. Fee wasn't accepted at first by some of the students because they were hard-core Reformed (mostly Presbyterian) students from Pittsburgh and he was a member of the Assemblies of God, and he believed in manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit in our day. The Reformed brethren thought that this meant he was soft-headed. But very soon he established himself at the school as one of the toughest-minded and hardest-working scholars on the faculty. Shortly after he left GCTS he published his 880-page commentary on I Cor, a monument to close textual and theological scholarship. In an interview about his achievement, he stated that the writing of a comentary is often a thankless and apparently uncreative activity. Yet, he discovered that occasionally verses would speak to him with an incredible power, even though he had known them well for years. This bolded verse was such a verse (oops, I guess I have given away which book it comes from..). And, guess what? It fits in with the "theme" of a few of my quotations today, doesn't it? Boasting is excluded, because all that we have that might lead to to think about boasting, is a gift from God. We don't boast of gifts; we gratefully and graciously receive them. Where do you find this verse? Does it likewise have an effect on you?
5. "Blessed by the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege."
We use the image of siege all the time. "She was besieged by autograph-seekers," we say. Or, we can speak of the "White House under siege" when the President has been pursuing an unpopular agenda, and all seem to be attacking him. We talk about having a "siege mentality" when a person seems scared or defensive in response to questions or probes. The image of siege is powerful because it because it bespeaks a need to gather our forces, hunker down to wait out or counterattack, and decide how best to do it all. Life may be a journey at times, but it is also a battle, and part of a battle is an ability to withstand siege. This verse has a wondrous quality to it because it speaks of the unexpected joy of the lifting of a siege. When God shows steadfast love to us in the besieged city, it is as if the threatening forces have withdrawn. Perhaps it was plague in their camp; perhaps it was a lack of food. Perhaps we were the stronger force. Whenever I hear this verse I also think of the verse that says: "He (God) brought me into a broad place; he deliverd me, because he delighted in me." The lifting of a siege; the bringing into a broad place--let the images of God's mercy tumble over each other on our behalf. Where do you find this one?