Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The risk of reading verses of the Bible

Some people seem to think that the Bible is a collection of verses. That is, of isolated sayings collected together.

No. The verses serve the purpose that numbering lines does in a legal brief. The system of verses and chapters is such that it preserves reference points across different formats of the text.

The Bible's books are generally just that, books. Usually of narrative (leaving aside the Proverbs and Psalms).

Thus we don't read 'verses' we read passages. Paragraphs or groups of paragraphs are the usual narrative units. Reading 'verses' will get you mislead.

Alongside misunderstanding the ancient world it leads to a few problems.

I read in The Daily Chrenk two typical such problems.

He talked about the horror of  'an eye for an eye' type of punishment for crime, and the equal horror of visiting the sins of a father down two generations.

What he missed was 'an eye for an eye' is a command for proportionate punishment. Punishment that fits the crime. So don't punish a poke in the eye with demolition of the perp's house, or incineration of his harvest, for example.

The three generations of inherited sin is contrasted with the 1000 generations of good. This is teaching that under God's covenant 'sin' dies out quickly, or its ramifications are dissipated across very few generations, whereas the good has an extraordinary enduring benefit to the descendants.

You can read more here: Leviticus 24:17-23 and Exodus 34:7.

The next one is about Noah's ark. Genesis 7:4. Noah and his troop had to sit in the ark for 7 days doing nothing until the flood came?

Nope. 7 days of frantic activity, storing and cataloging food and other stock, planning and trialing feeding and waste disposal systems, practicing ark management routines.

This was a static 'working up' period with the luxury of a stable platform. It's similar to the start of a long ocean yacht race. For a couple of days before hand the crew is on board 'working up' the yacht, their patterns of work and rig changes. Very busy periods in both cases.

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