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 LV
Bill Long 2/20/07
1. "Surely I am too stupid to be human; I do not have human understanding," NRSV. The KJV has, "Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man."
Why might I begin my quiz for today with this seemingly inauspicious verse? Because this is the way I feel today. Why? Well, for the past three years I have been engaging in adult spelling bees. They are done at the local, state and national level. Except for one time when I was really "out of it," I have consistently placed 2nd or 3rd in all these bees. I have never won one, no matter how humble. Last night, at a pizza pub in Portland, I got second. I misspelled a word that I KNOW (it frequently happens this way!), faena, having to do with bullfighting, by spelling it fiena or some such ridiculous spelling. In short, I felt like a hyena for spelling faena fiena. Linda Goertz, whose diligence and good spelling I admire, then went on to win the bee. So, I am feeling quite like the wording of this verse; I study words, poring over the dictionary, writing up a storm, memorizing and learning precious new words, emphasizing the importance of precision in life, trying to better myself every day and, what happens? I lose. Every time.
Well, you might say that getting second isn't exactly losing. But this has been the consistent picture of my life to date. Getting second (a few victories are when I get jobs, I suppose, but those tend to fade rather quickly). Blowing words that I know. Not knowing things that I should know. Some might say that this means that all knowledge seeking is vanity and a striving after wind and that I should just relax and "enjoy" life, whatever that means, but I think it means that I need patiently just to keep pursuing little chunks of knowledge. Maybe someday it will stick with me. Maybe I will have to disguise myself as a third-grader so that I can win a tournament. But, in any case, the words of the Scripture, as usual, speak deeply to the heart. Where do you find this delightful verse?
2. "But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people."
Why not just continue the tone of self-flagellation? You can derive some joy out of it, you know. Just a second, let me tighten my metal cilice. Actually, I don't feel as if the second part of the verse is my experience. I am not really "scorned" by others or "despised" by people. I think, in fact, that since I began to get my writing life together a few years ago, I have actually begun to be liked by people. The author of this passage may have felt that part of his shame or humiliation was that he was scorned or rejected. Certainly that can contribute to the feeling of being a worm. But I don't need to feel rejected to know that I am a worm and not human. It is here that a hymn comes to mind. I don't know enough to do the criticism of its linguistic development, but here is what I think I have. The popular Gospel hymn (is it still sung today?) "Beneath the Cross of Jesus" is five verses long. I focus only on the words of the fourth verse. Originally written by Elizabeth Douglas Clephane in 1868, the words were, I think, altered in a more "positive" way by Ira Sankey, who was Dwight Moody's music man. Well, here is what Elizabeth wrote:
"Upon that cross of Jesus mine eyes at times can see/ the very dying form of one who suffered there for me;/ and from my stricken heart, with tears, two wonders I confess:/ the wonders of redeeming love, and my own worthlessless."
See what Ira Sankey has done with it a few years later. I will only give the last line, since all else remains the same:
"the wonders of redeeming love, and my unworthiness."
Well, I have always been one who wants to get to the roots of language and creativity, and here it is "worthlessness." I suppose that spoke too directly and too negatively for the relatively upbeat theology of Moody, but not for that of Bill Long on this day. So, getting back to the Scriptural quotation above, where do you find it?
3. "When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,/ I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast before you.."
Again, another Scripture that seems to capture my mood today. Here the author seems to suggest that his stupidity related to the bitterness of his soul. I truly believe that the experience of embitterment can make one, frankly, stupid. You become curved in on yourself; you make bad choices; you try to hurt people around you because ultimately you don't care how they feel. The poison of your bitterness sprays out indiscriminately to all around you. But I am not a bitter man today. I was, at one time, but now I am of rather equable temperament. Yet, I still can identify with the second half of the verse. My stupidity overwhelms me at time. I am so glad that the Scripture has verses to come to your rescue when you are in seemingly any mood of life. Well, where do you find this verse?
4. "How then can a mortal be righteous before God?/ How can one born of woman be pure?/ If even the moon is not bright/ and the stars are not pure in his sight,/ how much less a mortal, who is a maggot,/ and a human being who is a worm?"
Here we are, back to maggots and worms, and I feel right at home. I killed a spider a few days ago (does that make me guilty of arachnocide? or is it arachnacide?), but I think I would just let the worms or slugs slither across my living room floor at this time. Why? Because I identify with the words of this Biblical author. We have three different Biblical books represented in these four verses (so far) for today. Thus, the feeling of stupidity, of "maggot-like" existence, of vermiculate life, is my ever-present reality. I have squished lots of worms in my day, but today I regret that. Who knows, one of them may have been me in a previous life...
5. "Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"
I think I will stop with this one. Another Biblical author realizes his wretchedness. He will not remain or rest with the wretchedness too long, however, but he will run to Christ's open arms. I don't think I will do that today. One, like me, who believes that Job gave in too easily, who believes that Paul used his faith as an excuse to cover up hugely-felt inadequacies, will not easily and quickly believe that redemption is near. What does redemption consist of for me? I don't know, but I think it goes through the word culicidologist.