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 XXV
Bill Long 1/12/07
Learning the Bible, One Verse/Passage at a Time
Those who are successful in any venture know that they need two things for success. The first is a natural enduement or giftedness or inclination to do the thing that they end up doing. The other is a long period of training and hard work where the skills that will seem most "natural" to the world are cultivated. (Some might add a third: luck). These skills need to be polished, burnished, deeply worked on in the quiet of the night as well as the sunlight of the day. When I was a teacher in undergraduate and graduate education I used to tell my students (many of them frustrated over their writing) that it takes about 25 years to become the writer that you want to become. It takes that long until the flow of your mind, the flow of your pen and your relationship to the knowledge you want to communicate mesh together.
The purpose of these quizzes is not simply to entertain or to give you interesting insights on obscure passages or on things from my autobiography. In fact, what interests me most is to stimulate your interest in wanting to understand and internalize the very words and thoughts of the Bible. It takes time, quite a long time, to do so. Not many people are interested in it. Many of those who say they are simply are interested in learning a few "famous" verses that they can recite at an appropriate time. But I think the Bible requires and invites us to the most detailed and earnest consideration of its contents. Of course, the goal is not simply to have the contents readily at hand; it is to learn to "live the message" or to internalize and externalize the message of love of God and neighbor that is central to the Bible. Yet, the Bible is also learned "one verse" or "one story" at a time. It begins with the phrases, which should then encourage you to build a bigger context for the phrase or verse and the, before you know it, you have developed solid Biblical knowledge.
With this exhortation in mind, let's begin today's quiz.
1. "And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal," KJV. The NRSV is not so different: "and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal."
This image and text is a part of my daily ruminations not only because it is a very "visual" Biblical text, but because this picture stands behind a verse of a famous Christian hymn and was utilized by John Milton in Paradise Lost. The second verse of Holy, Holy, Holy goes as follows: "Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,/ Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea." And the blind bard John Milton, writing Book VII of Paradise Lost, where the angel Raphael is describing to Adam God's intention to create the world in six days, speaks of a creation of a "new-made World." He also teaches us a new word in this passage, and so we receive a "double-blessing." He says:
"Witness this new-made World, another Heav'n
From Heaven Gate not far, founded in view
On the clear Hyaline, the Glassy Sea" (617-619).
Milton almost coined the word hyaline. He was writing in 1667 and the first attested use of the term in English is from 1661: "Sprinlked over with hyaline or glass-colour'd dust." The word hyaline is really a transliteration of the Greek hyalinos, and that Greek word means "resembling glass" or "transparent as glass" and the Greek word appears in the passage above. Literally, the Scripture passage says "the hyaline sea." That image sticks with me--a sea so clear that Crater Lake in Oregon is murky by comparison. Well, after this literary and hymnic tour, where does the verse appear, and in which context?
2. "And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)--those leaders contributed nothing to me," NRSV.
This really is a pretty harsh passage that shows us how just below the surface of the early Christian movement (OK, it is from the NT!), there was not a lot of respect of leaders for each other. They strove for preeminence, wanted to make sure that no one touched their flock, were quite concerned about their authority. One of the problems in the earliest days of the Church was how the question of authority was to be decided. Did one have to be an original disciple of Jesus to become an apostle or leader in the early Church? Or, was the concept of apostleship something more "spiritual," so that a person born "out of time" like Paul could move in and be so recognized? The answer to this question depended, of course, on who you talked to. Paul would argue for the spiritual conception of apostleship, the notion of apostleship as growing out of being chosen by Christ in the vision on the Damascus road. In fact, this is a pretty controversial statement, because it opened the door to rival claimaints who also might contend that they had a "personal revelation" of Christ. Well, this is a long discussion that helps us understand something of the controlled vitriol behind the passage just quoted. What would it have taken, in fact, for the acknowledged leaders to have contributed something to the writer? I think this verse is wonderful because it plunges us into the deep human complexities and tangled realities of the earliest generation of Christianity. Where do you find it?
3. "He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision," NRSV.
People make plans in life. Sometimes we are very serious about our plans. We draw them up, meditate on them, put them into place. Sometimes they actually work, but often our best-laid plans come crashing down, like the Potemkin villages they really are. We construct cardboard realities that collapse when the winds of adversity or reality blow. Sometimes, of course, our plans come to fruition, and we are grateful. But one of the realities of life, as this Scripture tries to emphasize to us, is that God laughs at human plans. In the specific context of this passage the "kings of the earth" had decided to "burst their bonds asunder" and cast aside the "cords" binding them. They were going to attack the Lord and his anointed. What is God's reaction to it all? God laughs. Why does God laugh? Because God ultimately has a purpose to establish that is independent of human means. We so often emphasize that we can be "co-creators" with God or that we are trying to do God's will that we miss the bracing reality of a verse that says that God holds some human plans to derision. Granted, in this text, the ones God derides are those who are planning life against God, but the principle holds true beyond that. We might propose, but it is God who disposes. Where is the text?
Only three for today, but it is better, much better, than nothing.