7 Really Outrageous Things That Actually ARE in the Bible
- Snake handling. Yes thank you longer ending to Mark, because of you we get this, “And he said to them, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:16-18)
- Too many genealogy nuts! You know how every family has one of those people who tracks down all your great-great-grandfathers and mothers? Well Jesus had two of those. Matthew and Luke. Too bad they got different results. I mean they are good up to David but after that it all goes awry and they can’t even agree with who Joseph’s father was. (compare Matthew 1 with Luke 3)
- Speaking of family issues exactly what came first the chicken or the egg? I mean, Adam or Eve? You see we make a lot of Adam being created first but that is actually in the second creation story (Genesis 2) while in the more well-known creation story in Genesis 1, the one with the days of the week, Adam and Eve are actually created at the same time. So which is it? Do we actually know how all this happened, is the Bible just guessing, is this a multiple choice test?
- Pretty much everyone commits adultery! We spend a lot of time on sexuality but we are usually careful in our application of such standards (making sure to apply them to others not ourselves). Jesus isn’t. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 and following) he is quite clear. Anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery. Then something about plucking out our eye. Really? They will know we are Christian by our eye-patches. (Keep reading if you really want Jesus to speak to you on divorce as well… yes more adultery – we have quite the theme going here.)
- Lions, and Tigers, and Bears – Oh My! Okay more like Levitical Codes, mythical beasts, and murderous happenings. I mostly steered clear of this one because it’s the stuff that populates other such lists. But yah – no eating shellfish, or playing with pig skin, and watch out for Leviathan and unicorns, and don’t forget not to mock adults after reading the story of the 42 children slaughtered by two she-bears for mocking Elisha (2 Kings 2:24). We read all this… and there is a lot of it, and then we say, “This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.” Whatever we mean when we say that after reading things we mostly or completely ignore.
- God forgets God’s own rules. Peter has a vision that reprimands him about not eating “unclean” food. God’s rebuke: “The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” (Acts 10:15) The challenge? It was in Leviticus 11 that God forbid Jews from eating these things. So Peter didn’t call them profane, God did. Only apparently God has forgotten that – or changed it and neglected to tell poor Peter until making a public display of it.
- Speaking of unfortunate people just trying to help. Helpers shall be executed! At least in one case. 1 Chronicles 13 and 2 Samuel 6 tell the story of poor Uzzah who is killed for daring to touch the Ark of the Covenant. Must have come as a big surprise for him because he thought he was steading it so it wouldn’t fall over. Be careful about doing a favor for God apparently – at least that was David’s take-away that day.
Bonus Round for good measure:
- The worst recruiter ever. I have to add 8 because these are texts I spend a lot of time with in my journey. It doesn’t matter where you start looking; Jesus is horrible at the recruiting game. Give away everything you own and only then can you start following me? (Luke 18:22) Family too… and the dead… and pretty much everything (Luke 9:51-62). The rewards of this will be great in heaven… if you get past the part about being sent as lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3) with pretty much nothing to call possessions (a challenge to anyone who thinks prayer will get you material wealth). In fact Jesus takes all and offers a life filled with persecution and prohibitions seemingly (there are other voice of course – thankfully – but that the point really). Worst deal ever!
So what in the world is the point of this? Why start (and really this is just a flash in the pan, a first set of musings about the outrageous that exists in Holy Scripture) a list that seems to discredit the Bible? The point is that we live in an age (and probably every age shares this) that is very confused about the Bible. On average we aren’t very literate in what is in there, and we think a lot is there that actually isn’t thanks to good Christian storytellers like Dante and his contemporaries today. We are prone to leave much, if not all, the interpretation up to “experts” which further distance us from reading and knowing and exploring ourselves. We don’t realize how many different texts there are or the translational challenges that exist to create anything close to an “authentic” version. And we pick and choose which parts we really believe God said… because honestly DON’T handle poisonous snakes – just don’t do it.
But… but all this aside we then say things like: “Well the Bible says…” or “Its very clear the Book of Genesis/Mark/Revelation/Whatever tells us…” or, for that matter, “This is the word of the Lord.” As if that is all that there is to say, it’s that clear and that definitive and that final.
Please don’t get me wrong. I love scripture. The Bible is a unique and authoritative voice in my life. But not because “I said so” or its divine equivalent. It’s far more complex than that. It’s like Jacob wrestling with the angel. (Genesis 32) I’m as much put out of joint by it than I am given an identity, purpose, and direction. Abraham was instructed to kill his son, but that isn’t a warrant for you to do the same. The Bible says many many things. It contradicts itself. It corrects itself. It has fluid understanding of what it means – just look at almost any interpretation from Paul of the Old Testament and you will have to admit he does strange things with it.
The church has an ages old crisis of authority when it comes to scripture. It is all too common to claim someone is abandoning scripture when it’s just that they interpret it different from you. Peter abandons scripture… because God tells him too. The Bible is as much about the group of people listening to it as it is about the group of people speaking and the Holy Spirit dwells in both parts of that equation. The Bible isn’t simply true because it was dictated by God. It is true because it is the living testimony to the living God. Its truth comes in those moments when the community of faith – wrestling with direction and identity – is put out of joint by it and named by God through it. So tread carefully – sandals off for we are on holy ground – when you are discerning how the Bible speaks to you, to us, today. And be careful how you measure a verse to the chapter to the Book to the whole arc of Scripture before you say, “The Bible says…” because somehow this merry band of outrageous texts IS the Word of God, just as somehow this merry band of eclectic and crazy people IS the Body of Christ. We need to be treated with care – with respect for the whole voice and with caution that we don’t just pick who to listen to because that is the most convenient truth for our lives.
Thanks (most days at least, sometimes I’m far more put out of joint) be to God!