Friday, November 02, 2007

2 Chronicles 31:7

It seems that some good and faithful folks have decided that it would be a good thing to publish a ranking of the most popular Bible verses on the Internet., hopes that this site will help people read the Bible in a new way. Well, I am always in favor of people reading the Bible in fresh and creative ways. But I am not sure this is what I had in mind.
The man behind the not-for-profit site, Peter B Chapman, spoke of the impact it was having on the internet community. "Putting the most popular verses first makes the Bible much more accessible. All sorts of people are visiting the site and seeing the Bible in a new way. I love finding old favourites in Psalms. You can see the top 10 Proverbs by simply clicking on Proverbs."
The article says that it will change how people read the Bible. A Pastor from Australia says it will be his new Bible search engine.
Pastor Jason Hubbart from Every Nation Church, Sydney said: "Top Verses will be my new search engine when preparing sermons and for my own personal Bible study.

“You no longer have to search through a hundred verses to find the one you have in mind. Most of the time, I find it on the first page."
This is a thoroughly modern way to filter the Bible.

If you go to a hotel or hospital and open a Gideons Bible, you will find a handy list of passages that speak to all kinds of conditions and emotions in life. Our Eucharistic and Daily Office lectionaries filter the Bible another way...we hear certain passages depending on the day of the Church season. So it seems to make sense in an age when we rank the 100 Best Movies, or whatever, or decide who wins talent shows by viewers texting their preferences, that we might filter the Bible based on popularity.

But there are problems with this.

First, it encourages the idea that one can lift an individual passage out of its very specific context and use it however one pleases. They call this proof-texting. I call it turning the Bible into a book of magic spells, where if you say the right verse in the right way it will somehow come true.

Second, it takes the edge off the Bible because we can safely ignore the parts that discomfort or challenge us. This non-invocation demonstrates what I am talking about.

Third, it makes the Bible into a handy book of axioms and separates us from the story of God's continuing interaction with humanity in history. Ours is not the God of the sound-byte nor of the long-ago past. God is present and active with us today.

Besides the fact that this is yet another way we put God in our pocket, I am betting that the passages won't change all that much, so it will also reinforce the idea that the Bible is boring, repetitive and irrelevant and therefore it, and by extension God, has nothing to say to us.

I like Dave Walker's take on this. (And thanks to him for telling us about this.)

Top verses is a very interesting site - and thanks to Inspire for alerting me to it. As well as the top verses it includes the top 10 books, the top ten chapters, the top verses in each book and the top verses containing particular words.

The failing, of course, is that one could be led to believe that the verses most often published on the internet are therefore the most important verses. My own view is that the most important themes in the Bible come not from picking individual ’soundbite’ verses out of context, but by looking at the overall message of entire books. Surely that is how it was intended to be read.

He suggests that his favorite verse in 2 Chronicles 31:7, which reads:
In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.
This is (right now) the is the 30638th most popular verse out of the 31101 verses that comprise the entire Bible. I suppose with various on-line Bible resources every passage gets it due at least once.

Walker's thorough exegesis of the passage is this:
To my mind it is quite an informative verse, telling us as it does:
  • Building heaps is a good thing to do.
  • A good heap should always start with a foundation.
  • It can take up to about four months to build a decent heap.
  • ‘They’ built the heaps. Building heaps isn’t a one man job.
  • You need to finish your heaps. There’s nothing worse than an unfinished heap.

Of course it is not a verse without controversy. The preceding verse (slightly more popular - ranked 28320) seems to suggest that cattle and sheep were included in the heaps. Whether they were alive or dead we don’t know.

He has a devious plan, which I heartily endorse and herewith promote:
Feel free to post your own devotional thoughts on 2 Chronicles 31:7. It would be great if we could bump it up to the top 5. This would perplex a lot of people, which I’m all in favour of.
I say, if God wants us to build a heap, let's build it with fervor!

1 comment:

PseudoPiskie said...

I searched for the word "heap" which revealed that the most popular reference to it is:
2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts; Rank 707

Hmmm. I'm not surprised it ranks so low. A certain PA "bishop" - closer to me than you - certainly would not want to use it.