21 Dec 2017

Strange World of the Bible #6: Ten Things You May Not Know About the Bible

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Cool Stuff, Environment, Exegesis, Love, Worship

This is the Advent version of our on and off again series of “Strange World of the Bible.” Sometimes we think we know the Bible but the Bible is wonderfully strange in the multiple meanings of that word.  So to some things we may not know are and are not in the Bible.

1) Did you know that “church of Christ,” with a Big C or little c, is a phrase that does not occur in the New Testament a single time. Not even once. “Church of God” occurs 8x in the NT. The single (1x) “churches of Christ” in Romans 16.16 has gotten a lot of sectarian airplay through the years. People argue, fight and disfellowship over the name “c/Church of Christ” not on a sign, when the irony is that term is not a New Testament term. So much for “Speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent.”

2) Did you know we disciples frequently create an “antithesis” where there is none in reality. One spectacular example is John 1.14-18. “Law was given thru Moses; grace and truth came thru Jesus Christ” (1.17). Scholars debate how best to translate this text. Did you know that the words “grace” and “truth” come from the divine self-revelation spoken to Moses (!) in Exodus 34.6, in the Hebrew Bible. John is quoting the “Old Testament.” The KJV even has those very words in that text.

John hardly is saying Moses did not know of, believe in, or even bring grace or truth (Jesus clearly believes Moses teaches the “truth”). Moses brought both! But what John is celebrating is the embodiment, or Incarnation, that is Grace and Truth – the very self-identification of God. Moses is a witness to grace and truth. Jesus is (as the very essence of God) grace and truth. The incarnation is grace and truth walking on two legs. This is not a “new” truth. It is not a slap down on Moses. John simply is noting that what Moses received via verbal communication has arrived in the flesh. Grace and Truth are now Incarnate in Jesus, in 3D! We would do well to avoid false readings of the text. We can avoid such false readings many times by knowing the Hebrew Bible as first century followers of Jesus did.

3) Did you know that God destroyed two nations, and singled out two tyrants, in part, because they attacked trees?Yes, Trees! Sennacherib of Assyria is described by Isaiah as one who

laid waste to all the nations {the people} and their lands {the dirt})”

He threatened little Judah and bragged of his destructive power. Isaiah sent a letter to Hezekiah delivering the judgement of God against him. God said that among Sennacherib’s crimes was a war on the trees of Lebanon. The Lord quotes the king’s arrogant boasts,

“I have gone up the heights of the mountains,
to the far recesses of Lebanon;
I felled its tallest cedars, its choicest cypresses

God judges his arrogance. In two texts, Babylon is singled out for similar reasons. In Habakkuk 2.17, Yahweh tells the Babylonian king

for the violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you;
the destruction of the animals will terrify you.”

Here Yahweh is returning to Babylon the destruction she has sown against creation.

In Isaiah 14 it is the trees themselves that break out in exultation because God has destroyed their Babylonian destroyer,

the cypresses exult over you,
the cedars of Lebanon, saying,
‘Since you were laid low,
no one comes to cut us down.
(Isa 14.8).

Modern westerners read right over these, and similar texts. They do not register in our post-Enlightenment platonic worldview. But even in the New Testament we learn that God will “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11.18). The Bible declares that the trees belong to the Lord (Ps 104.16f) and that humans are themselves “creatures” who are part of a community of creatures. No wonder Jesus taught that the Creator God knew even when a sparrow died.

4) Did you know, since I mentioned trees, that Scripture tells us that animals can “teach” human beings? Job in a beautiful defense of his integrity against his so called Friends tells them to go interview the animals … and trees.

But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
(Job 12.7-9)

Truly the whole world is full of HIS glory … may we have “eyes to see and ears to hear!” God’s Spirit is in the world as the Elixir of Life.

5) Did you know that when Paul wrote “as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs … giving thanks to God the Father” in Ephesians 5.19-20, that this certainly included the book of Psalms.  It may or may not be limited to the Psalter, but it most certainly included Psalms. Paul is quoting from Psalms with these very words (Ps 27.6, LXX).

We know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that other “psalms” besides what Psalter were sung. Many scholars believe that the Song of the Three Jews preserved in the Greek Daniel and the Prayer of Manasseh have their origin in the temple liturgy. They were loved by the early church. The song fragments that are preserved in the NT itself have a Psalm flavor to them. So it is beyond reasonable doubt that the first century church learned to praise God thru the Book of Psalms.

6) Did you know that what we believe about “love” may need to be nuanced? Most of us have heard that the Christian version of “love” is “agape” and it is superior to all others (like phileo, but apparently the Father phileo’s the Son, Jn 5.20). We are told that it is not an emotion. But I wonder? In fact, I believe it is a myth! Perhaps you are not aware that in the Greek version of Song of Songs, a work all about love, emotion and even sexuality, regularly uses agape to describe the “love” between the woman and her man. Perhaps Paul owes more to the Septuagint than the Greek philosophers … perhaps.

Be blessed … eschew sectarianism, love God’s creation as he does, listen to the animals, learn how to worship from the Psalter and become a person of passionate love.

For the Curious: Others in this Series follow the links …

Strange World of the Bible: Nudity, Public Bathing and Dogs

Strange World of the Bible #2: Ten Things the Bible Does NOT Say 

Strange World of the Bible #3: Ten Times the New Testament is Actually the Old Testament, But Didn’t Know it

Strange World of the Bible #4: Missing Eight Windows on Jesus’s Jewishness

Strange World of the Bible #5: “Ordinary People” and the Bible in the First Century

5 Responses to “Strange World of the Bible #6: Ten Things You May Not Know About the Bible”

  1. Dwight Says:

    Actually the term ‘church” from “chirche” meaning “house of God” is not a church word, that is to say biblical, as it came later and was added by translators. The original word ekklesia is the called out (technically), but meant “congregation” “or “gathered people”. It is a strange twist of fate that Wycliffe used the word “chirche” in place of ekklesia, while Tyndale and Coverdale used congregacion, but when KJ did his translation he argued that his translators use the “traditional wordage used predominately at that time”.
    So while people argue that the term “church of Christ” is the right “name”, it is not “right” in itself as there were no names. There were just people who were saints.

    • Bobby Valentine Says:

      the word “ekklesia” does not mean “the called out.” That is a preacher’s myth that has been repeated over and over. The claim was based upon the etymology of the word which has no bearing on its actual usage in the text. There is not place in the New Testament where it has this meaning. Ekklesia means gathering or assembly. Paul does seem to use the word with its LXX roots especially in Deuteronomy where it translates qahal regularly, it is the gathered before God ones. But the English word “church” is misleading as you note. But my point was that the there is no individual body identified with the moniker “Church of Christ” in the New Testament.

  2. Dwight Says:

    In regards to love, I totally agree. In fact we are wrong to strip love of emotion and feeling per the OT. While live in the NT is primarily agape, which means “best interest for another”, love in the OT is ahab, which means “desire for”.
    When we put the OT and NT together we have ‘best interest for another because of a desire for”.
    David showed this love as he desired God and sought to do what God wanted out of his desire for God.
    The greatest love is led by a great desire for others well being and pleasure.

  3. Dwight Says:

    Yes, Bobby I made the mistake of looking at the eytomolgy of the word Ekklsia and buying into the concept of “the called out” and then I learned better. It is quite an amazing feat that this word can mean the same thing “the gathering” or “congregation” across many different venues…worldwide…in a region…in a town…in a house, etc.
    What I have heard lessons do is isolate and disfranchise the people in one venue from the people in another venue. This is sectarian thinking. The people of God are the people of God no matter where they are and no matter how many of them are gathered or not gathered and no matter what they call themselves.

  4. ZCL Says:

    Bobby, could you address God’s concern for creation (Animals looking to God for food, knowledge of the sparrow,) in relation to the circle of life and death? I like the idea of God caring for the creation, yet animals starve daily, and are ripped apart by one another.

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