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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Bible Embellished

I sat in a class of genuine, Bible-affirming, Bible-believing, gentle, godly Christians. The class was on an overview of Scripture, starting with Genesis. Today's lesson was from Genesis 11. You remember that one. It's about the Tower of Babel. Well, there's a lot of stuff in there. You know, things like where it happened ("a plain in the land of Shinar") and why it happened ("Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.") and what happened ("'Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.' So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.") (Gen 11:1-8) That kind of stuff.

I was fascinated as the teacher and members of the class discussed the text. "It's clearly," they assured me, "about their idolatry. You see, archaeologists have found the Tower of Babel and saw that it had astrological symbols on it, so they were worshiping the stars." ("But ..." I thought, "that's not what it says.") "It says they wanted to make a name for themselves. It's a sin to make a name for yourself." ("Now, hold on a minute ..." is going through my head, "is that what it's saying?") Someone asked where the people in China came from. (I was confused. "Doesn't this say that they were dispersed ... from here?) Another said, "I used to wonder the same thing, just like where Cain got his wife. Then I realized that God didn't only make Adam and Eve." ("Okay, now that is problematic if Scripture is wrong when it declares that we are all descended from Adam, that sin entered the world through Adam.")

Just a couple weeks before they were on the Flood. They kept repeating the truism that it took Noah 120 years to build the ark. Did you know that I can't find that anywhere? I found where God said of Man "His days will be 120 years" (Gen 6:3), but no other reference to even hint that it took Noah that long to build the ark. In fact, I read that Noah was 500 years old when he fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen 5:32) and that he was 600 when the flood began (Gen 7:6). Now, if God's initial covenant with Noah included his wife and his sons and their wives (Gen 6:18), it would seem most likely that it took him less than 100 years to build this ark since his sons were already born and, in fact, married when he started.

Now, mind you, I'm not complaining about these people. I'm simply pointing to what seems to be a natural tendency to ... embellish. We'll take an idea, even a biblical one, and then we'll ... build it up. Oh, you know what I mean. You've probably heard and maybe even believe, for instance, that in the case of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus bent down and wrote the sins of the people around Him and that was why they left (John 8:6-9). Oh, it's not in there. Not at all. But it has been told so many times that it is assumed by many. Perhaps you've heard that smoking is a sin because it says so in the Bible. That verse would be "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?" (1 Cor 6:19) Sounds definitive until you actually read the topic -- sexual sin. And until you actually think about it. I mean, if you are not supposed to do anything unhealthy to your body (the logic of "your body is a temple" in a vacuum), then eating Twinkies and living in a place with polluted air are equally sinful. But we've embellished it and for many it is a direct command not to smoke cigarettes. Or how about this one? Did you know that the Bible does not say that Jesus died on a Friday? "What??!! Are you some sort of heretic suggesting that Good Friday was not the day He died?" No, I'm just saying that it's not in the Bible. Other popular ideas you won't find in the Bible include the "three kings". No "three" are mentioned; just three gifts. How about the wisemen who arrive at the manger? Not there. The Bible says when they arrived they went to "the house" (Matt 2:11) (probably a year or two after He was born -- compare Matt 2:7 and Matt 2:16). Just a few examples of how we 1) embellish things we see in Scripture until 2) they become "truth" and "Scripture" and ... are not necessarily so.

It's always interesting to me. People will be glad to latch onto this added content as "from God" will just as willingly reject plain statements in Scripture. Which, in the final analysis, is where I'm going with this. I think it's a mistake -- sometimes a serious mistake -- to add stuff to Scripture and call it "Scripture". I think it is an equally serious mistake to deny Scripture on the basis of prior commitments to something we think or learned or feel. It can be a difficult task, to be sure, to allow God's Word to shape our thinking and perceptions and reasoning in the face of so much that is opposed to it. But the alternative is to deny God's Word. Surely that's a much worse thing to do.


Bob said...

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4

see; even Eve couldn't resist a little embellishment.. don't touch that tree..

Stan said...

"You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men." (Mark 7:8) It was a problem for the Pharisees as well. In fact, the Pharisees got their start in the business when they tried to make the Scriptures "more applicable". "So," they helpfully suggested, "when the Law says not to do any work on the Sabbath, that might mean things like not walking more than 300 paces from your property or ..." Things like that. Their "helpful application" became "biblical law", until it overshadowed God's actual Law.