Biblical Quizzes for Really Smart Folks
Bill Long 12/24/06
On this and the next several pages, I present a series of quizzes, consisting of about five to ten biblical quotations each, which are designed to appeal to those who have developed or want to develop a sophisticated knowledge of the Bible. I put these quizzes here because I think they are the kinds of quizzes that are useful for those who would like to have the Bible as a ready literary and spiritual source to apply to some of life's varied experiences. I think that Scripture can be useful to highlight almost any circumstance in life. You will have to "try out" some of my quizzes below to see what I mean.
Thus, I do not have in mind to develop quizzes as "general knowledge of the Bible" exercises. I am not interested in how many curtains there were in the wilderness tabernacle, or who the third child of Adam and Eve was, or who was the fifth King of Judah. This, in my mind, is a sort of childish biblical knowledge--a knowledge which has no utility other than to say you know a particular fact. I am playing here for higher stakes.
What really interests me is a way to bring back the Bible into intelligent conversation in our culture without implying thereby that the person using the biblical quotation must be committed to the literal truth of the Sciptures or even the religious value of the Bible. What this means is that I think that the Bible "captures life" in a way that no other book in our culture does. Why not try to find those Biblical phrases or verses that are especially potent or useful in aiding intelligent conversation? Thus, I hope to take America's "iconic' book down from the shelf and open up its language to us in a variety of circumstances.
How to Use These Quizzes
What I do in this and the following essays is to provide a quotation and then describe briefly why I think a knowledge of this quotation is useful, or maybe even the best way, to describe a situation in life. I will not give the "answer" as to where the quotation may be found in the Bible. That is your job: the job of the "really smart person." If you can't figure it out, you can easily find it through an Internet search. I will usually give the quotation in the Revised Standard Version or New Revised Standard Version translation, but often I will refer to the King James Version, too. Let's begin with five quotations on this page, just to get us started.
1. "Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person's hand is rising out of the sea." The KJV has: "Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand."
We spend our life longing for clarity, for signs of things to come, indications of hope. Often we scan the horizons of our lives and nothing is out there. We are like the sea-farers of old, straining our eyes for the shoreline so eagerly sought. Sometimes things come into our ken with blazing clarity and power, but often they emerge like a cloud no bigger than a person's hand. Soon that cloud may turn into "heavens" that are "black with clouds and wind," bringing a heavy rain. When I hear my colleagues about possible signs of something to come, I muse that the cloud on the horizon is no bigger than a person's hand. They look at me nonplussed. But, what can you expect? They are only law professors. But you are a biblical student. So, where is it from?
2. "Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both," KJV. The NRSV has: "There is no umpire between us, who might lay his hand on us both."
Ok, ok. This is probably too hard and you were probably expecting easier quotations to get us started, but I couldn't resist throwing this in. I wrote a mini-essay on the meaning of "daysman," which you may want to read. I love the word. This verse suggests a kind of frustration felt deeply by people when they feel that they have justice on their side but no one wants to listen. There is no umpire, we say, no neutral person who calls the balls and strikes according to the zone and not according to the players. I love this verse also because we are in a day of mediators. Law is ga-ga over them; so are many other fields. When you get into a heated argument with someone, possibly you need a daysman to lay hands on both of you.
3. "All fat is the Lord's."
I hope that got you laughing. It is just there, in a special place in a special book in the Bible, but I think it ought to be emblazoned on t-shirts in response to all those "God's Gym"-types of t-shirts, which claim that God wants pain before you can get gain, that Christ's spurting blood is equivalent to dozens of extra reps on the bench press. Your response: 'Hey buddy, all fat is the Lord's. The Bible says so." Maybe this should be the slogan for the "Religious Obesity Movement" (ROM). We have RAMs in our computer and REMs in sleep. Why not now assault the world with a ROM, with this as its shibboleth.
4. "...that he may run that readeth it," KJV. The NRSV has: "so that a runner may read it."
I first became entranced by this partial verse in the early 1970s when one of my fellow staff members at a church were I was an intern used the phrase all the time. Sometimes we say that we want something written in BIG LETTERS or in italics or in some form so that we will be sure not to miss it. But rather than just putting it in this "frozen" or "static" form, why not say that you want something written "so that he may run that readeth it"? What you are saying is that even people on the move will pay it heed. Isn't that the dream of every marketing guru today? How can we get people to read something when we know they are bombarded by thousands of messages daily? How can we write something "so that a runner may read it"? I prefer the Bible to the argot of marketing professionals.
5. "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine," NRSV. The KJV has "thy love is sweeter than wine." I prefer the latter, don't you?
This is a pleasant note on which to end. I don't know if it needs much comment. The first part of the verse is in the third person, while the last half is in the second person. What has happened in the mean time? Perhaps the beloved has decided to "show up." Now her words can transform from the dreamy longing to the specific face to face words--"your love is better than wine." Someday I would like to write a book on the particular biblical book from which this is taken, but I don't yet have the nerve at this point to tell you the title. Let's just say that many a man and woman would love to be told "thy love is sweeter than wine."