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 LVI
Bill Long 2/20/07
1. "O that my words were written down!/ O that they were inscribed in a book!/ O that with an iron pen and with lead they were engraved on a rock forever!"
The growing crescendo of these words is deafening. At first the author only wants his words written down. But words can be written on a scrap of paper, disappearing into the wind at the slightest gust. So, he decides that he wants them inscribed in a book. Well, that is a more permanent form of expression. Books from antiquity still survive today. But, he is playing even for higher stakes. He wants them to be "engraved in a rock forever." He wants the epigraphers of the future to trace his etchings with their fingers and then tell the world what he has written. Why do some people long for their words to be written down forever? I think that some of it may be a desire actually to share new and path-breaking knowledge, but a lot of writing is our best argument against mortality. We write because we don't want our lives to be forgotten. The author of these words, however, thought that he had been treated unjustly by God. He wanted all the world to hear about this experience and he was neither going to let go of his experience or of God until he had an explanation that satisfied him. Who says such words and where does he say them? Oh, one final point. Psychologists point out to us that breakthroughs of sort sometimes happen when one has reached the end of one's emotional resources. The verse quoted above comes just before one of the most stunning breakthroughs of understanding that is in the Scriptures. So, maybe there is virtue in doggedly clinging to what one thinks or knows to be the truth; it can lead to understanding of mammoth proportions. If this Biblical author had listened to his friends, we never would have had insight...
2. "We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day," NRSV. The KJV has, "we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day."
This verse properly belongs with my previous essay but I didn't have room for it there. I love the filth and rubbish language, but I particularly enjoy the word "offscouring." The OED's first attestation to the use of this word in English is in Tyndale's 1526 translation of the Bible. The OED says: "In biblical use, and allusions to this: a group of people despised and cast aside like rubbish; scum, riff-raff." In the singular it can mean a "worthless or contemptible person." The KJV uses the word "offscouring" in one place other than what is quoted above. Lam. 3:45 says "Thous has made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people." But, hark, when we look at the actual Greek term (ok, I gave you a clue, the verse if from the NT), we have peripsema. Literally meaning "wipe all around" or "wipe clean," the word suggests that which is removed by the wiping process--dirt or, drum roll, offscouring. But in Bauer Arndt Gingrich (the big Greek NT dictionary), the article on peripsema goes on to say that as the Greek language developed, peripsema became "more and more a term of polite self-deprecation, common enough in everyday speech." So, a wife could say that she was someone's peripsema--similar to the way someone might say that s/he is "your humble servant." However, this emolliative reference to peripsema probably didn't arise until the 3rd century CE. Thus, when the Biblical author penned the phrase, he wasn't just thinking that the Christians were the world's "humble servants." He was thinking that they were cast aside as garbage. Using his typical cadences he says, "When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered we speak kindly." You know that there is only one biblical author who speaks like this. Who is it and where do you find it?
3. "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return."
This verse is key to understanding the theology of one of the Evangelists. Of course, these words are said by Jesus, but the way the Evangelists "shape" the words of Jesus tells us what their theological aims are. In this Gospel writer's mind, Jesus was telling us that we ought to give, without expectation of recompense. This, indeed, is a radical message from Jesus' (or our) day. When we lend, we expect someone to pay us back. When we do something nice for someone else, we often think that it would be nice if the other person would reciprocate. When we invite someone to a party, we expect a return invitation in the future. But this type of thinking is anathema to Jesus in the quotation above. He is building a new community, and the essence of the new community will be the experience of giving without expecting returns. He is breaking the "balanced reciprocity" of the world of his day. Calculation is the way of the world; uncalculated giving is the way of Jesus. Or, to put it cutely: Calculated living is the way of the world; uncalculated giving is Jesus' way. 'Having the greatest impact' is the way we all talk today; Jesus didn't seem to care much about "impact." Can we hear his "countercultural" message to us in our complacency and wealth? Probably not, but there it is. We are to give, without expecting any return on our "giving." Maybe, however, we will find that if we cast our bread upon the waters, it will return to us after many days (where is THAT Scripture, by the way?). Ok, where do you find this one?
4. "Then XXX took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer, for he said, 'Thus far the Lord has helped us,'" NRSV. When I memorized the verse long ago, the version had, "Hitherto has the Lord helped us."
This verse, actually, has a checkered history in my own life. I learned it when I was memorizing hymns as part of my single-minded devotion to God in the early 1970s. Part of the second verse to "Come, Thou Fount of every blessing" (words by Robert Robinson, 1758), goes as follows:
"Here I raise my Ebenezer; Here by Thy great help I've come;/ And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home."
Because I was marinated in the Bible in those days, I quickly discovered that Robinson's reference to Ebenezer was in the bolded verse above. It is the "stone of help," a memorial stone set up to commemorate a victory of Israel. Well, this is the positive history of the verse in my life.
The negative? I was so impressed with my quickly-exploding Biblical knowledge that I thought I would wield it like one would wield a sword. So, I did. I used this verse with small and great alike. One time I went to visit a friend who had just gotten married. He and his wife seemed distraught over something. Ignoring their distress, I just quoted this verse at them. They looked sadly at me. "Bill, that doesn't help at a time like this." What a great verse to conclude these two quizzes, for today is my "worm and not a man" day. Where do you find it, and have you, also, memorized "Come, Thou Fount"?