Yet another KJV quiz

A while back, I was in the kitchen listening to one of the speakers from the KJV 400 – Legacy and Impact conference [1]. When the professor giving the talk read out the verse that contains the phrase “the powers that be”, my eyes must have gotten very round indeed. It had never occurred to me that I didn’t know the exact origin of that phrase.

And that was the impetus for this blog post. What I needed next were 10 random phrases, which is where the video below comes in.

So here’s the quiz: Relying only on your memory, how many of the following phrases can you place, if not by chapter and verse at least by context? (I have changed some of the lines in the poem to reflect the biblical wording)

  1. Sign of the times
  2. How the mighty are fallen
  3. Gird up thy loins
  4. They know not what they do
  5. It is written
  6. The sweat of your brow
  7. High heaven
  8. A thief in the night
  9. Suffer fools gladly
  10. Born again

My results weren’t impressive; I couldn’t give an exact reference for any [2]. I got the context of four right, had no clue about four phrases and could have got 2 right if I’d thought a little longer (but didn’t). You can find the answers at The King’s English.

For all your effort, here’s a little reward:

_____

Notes

[1] This conference, held at Union University last September, produced over 20 hours of audio covering a wide range of topics from the history of translation of the Bible in English (did you know portions were translated into Anglo-Saxon?) to the direct and indirect effects of the KJV on literature and poetry, politics, preaching, etc. My only complaint is that quite a few of the presenters simply read their papers 😦

[2] I consoled myself for not getting chapter and verse references right by reminding myself that they’re not in the original texts—the present chapter divisions in our Bible were added in 1205 by Stephen Langton. Robert Stephanus added verse divisions to the New Testament in 1551.

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“Come unto Me”

Come Unto Me
Come Unto Me, by an unknown artist

The God of the Bible invites people to come to Him:

Reference Speaker If you are… You will…
 Proverbs 9:4-6  Lady Wisdom  Simple; lack sense  Live and walk in the way of insight
 Isaiah 55:1-3  Yahweh  Thirsty; have no money  Eat what is good; live and have an everlasting covenant
 Matthew 11:28-30  Jesus Christ  Weary; heavy-laden  Find rest for your soul
 Revelation 22:17  Jesus Christ  Thirsty  Take living water as a gift

Through Christ, God also tells us that whoever comes to Him will never be cast out (John 6:37)—isn’t that an offer worth taking up?

Adapted from Fighter Verse Songs

How do we become holy without becoming ‘holier than thou’?

Jared Wilson says that the answer is simple: By actually becoming holy, not just thinking we are.

He goes on to say:

Holiness and holier-than-thou-ness aren’t parallel phenomena. They run on different tracks. If someone is growing in arrogance, pride, and self-righteousness, by definition they are not growing in holiness.

The problem arises in equating holiness with religious behavior. Holy people do obey God, of course. But the character of holiness, in which the Spirit does his progressive sanctifying work in our hearts (and therefore in our thoughts, speech, and actions), produces qualities of humility, gentleness, kindness, and self-control. Any arrogant fool can abstain from certain sins or give to charity and what-not. The Pharisees certainly did that, and all our legalistic contemporaries do too. But that is not real holiness. That is moralistic separatism or some such thing.

Therefore, it is impossible to become both holy and holier-than-thou. To grow in one, is to atrophy in the other.

The bad news is that God—who said, “Be holy for I am holy”—knows when your actions are all behaviour modification without heart change (Jeremiah 17:10). More bad news is that outward actions, in and of themselves, don’t actually help (Colossians 2:23).

The good news is that God’s commands aren’t burdensome (1 John 5:3) and that He’s working in the lives of His children to accomplish His purposes (Philippians 2:12-13).

 

The tree that doesn’t wither

The 'Tree of Life' in Bahrain
The 'Tree of Life' in Bahrain, by Flickr user potomo

I’ve recently been watching some lectures on the Holy Land on iTunes U (Northern Sites, Southern Sites and Jerusalem. Don’t like iTunes? There’s YouTube!). Watching the footage shot in the parched Judean wilderness gave me a fresh appreciation for the picture in Scripture of the well-watered tree that never withers. We encounter this tree in Psalm 1:

Blessed is the one
  who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
  or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
  and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
  which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither–
  whatever they do prospers.

–Psalm 1:1-3, NIV 2011

The prophet Jeremiah says something similar:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
   whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
   that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
   its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
   and never fails to bear fruit.”

–Jeremiah 17:7-8, NIV 2011

The prophet Ezekiel in a vision saw a new temple in Jerusalem from which a river flowed, and:

Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.

–Ezekiel 47:12, NIV 2011

John also saw a vision:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

–Revelation 22:1-2, NIV 2011

Isn’t that a wonderful picture? Bearing fruit brings glory to God (John 15:8). The fruit we bear benefits others, not just ourselves (Galatians 5:22-23). May we always delight in and trust the God of the Bible, and so be trees whose leaves are always green!

(Super)natural provision

In the book of Joshua we read the following:

While the Israelites camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they kept the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month. The day after Passover they ate unleavened bread and roasted grain from the produce of the land. And the day after they ate from the produce of the land, the manna ceased. Since there was no more manna for the Israelites, they ate from the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

–Joshua 5:10-12, HCSB

The Israelites went from eating bread from heaven to eating grain from the earth (that would eventually be cultivated by the sweat of their brow). Was Yahweh any less of a provider for His people on the twentieth day of that month than He had been on the tenth?

Review of ‘The Robe’ (a novel)

Have you ever wondered what happened to the Roman soldier who, at Christ’s crucifixion, cast the winning lot for the robe? That is the premise of this 1942 New York Times bestseller, written by Lloyd C. Douglas. The Robe follows Marcellus Gallio, a Roman patrician, and his Greek slave Demetrius. One night at a party, Marcellus made an unguarded remark about the emperor’s heir. His punishment was to be made the commander of a dreary military outpost in Palestine, which is how he came to be at Golgotha that day. A series of events leads up to his making a journey through Judea, Samaria and Galilee on a quest to find out more about Jesus. The garment known as the Robe (yes, with a capital ‘R’) shows up every now and then in the narrative, greatly affecting all who touch it.

I loved the first 100 or so pages and the last 100 or so pages: Rev. Douglas certainly had the talent for writing captivating sentences. Why that skill took its leave in the middle portion of the book escapes me. In addition to being boring, I found the central section to be rather perplexing on account of the anachronisms it contained, and the author’s theology.

As with other novels in the historical fiction genre, it is difficult to tell whether the author departed from the historical record by design or by accident. Granted, Douglas wrote ages before Google and Wikipedia when fact-checking involved hours and hours at a library. On that basis, I can forgive him for messing up the genealogy and chronology of the Roman emperors. But I would have expected an ordained minister to display more knowledge and/or respect for the biblical record.

The events described in the novel cover a period starting from several weeks before the crucifixion through to a year and a half after it. In this relatively short time, there are numerous Gentile believers—our protagonists included. But wouldn’t that invalidate the need for Peter’s vision in Acts 10? The Jews and Gentiles in the novel are also rather chummy with each other, travelling and eating together[]. A keen reader of the Bible would know that Jews didn’t interact with non-Jews any more than they had to (Acts 10:28, 11:2). Douglas takes other liberties with what we know from Acts, for example placing events that are recorded in Acts 7, 12 and 3 in one chapter. In that order. It just felt so wrong reading Douglas’s fictional account of Stephen’s martyrdom that I was driven to put down the novel and pick up Acts chapters 4-6.

As regards his theology, Lloyd Douglas was a man of his time. One of the prevailing thoughts of his day was that the biblical miracles all had natural/ scientific explanations[1]. (Thankfully, that kind of reasoning isn’t as popular as it once was. But doesn’t it make you wonder what biases we are blind to today that will be glaringly obvious to a person living 70 years from now?) Hence, the feeding of the 5,000 was a miracle of generosity: Everyone who’d been sitting on their packed lunches pulled them out on seeing the boy’s noble deed of sharing. Other miracles are recounted in the book, but it seemed to me that the characters believed in them against their better judgment. Conspicuously absent is the Holy Spirit (Pentecost is never mentioned), and an angel is written out of a story.

The emphasis is on Jesus’ ethical teachings, with only one mention apiece of sin and repentance. To oversimplify things, being a Christian according to The Robe is about treating slaves well and being a pacifist. And resisting hostile authorities. Incidentally, all the opposition to the Christians comes from the Roman authorities and not the Jewish religious leaders as we read in the early chapters of Acts. The author may have chosen that plotline in light of WWII, or simply because it made for a more compelling story.

Conclusion

I find reading writers from previous generations to be a mind-stretching exercise, as they tend not to write in the dumbed-down manner of contemporary authors. For example, I picked up the following words: persiflage, tatterdemalion, withal, prating, addlepated, dunnage and badinage. Indeed, from a literary point of view, I find much in The Robe that is commendable. However, when it comes to worldview, which is what matters more to me, I’m not so sure.

So, if you want to read a good story set in the 1st century, go ahead and dig into The Robe. If you want to know more of Jesus of Nazareth, read the Bible.

[1] To learn something about early twentieth century liberal theology, listen to these three talks or read this article.

Correction
[] It turns out it was possible for Jews to eat with Gentiles, provided that the Gentiles hadn’t prepared the food themselves. Source: James G. Crossley, The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity, pages 145-154. In case you’re wondering, no I haven’t read the source material; I just saw it referenced elsewhere.