Hugh Fulford: Biblical Illiteracy

A number of years ago I was teaching an adult Bible class and made the passing remark that many people think that the forbidden fruit of which Eve ate was an apple but that the Bible does not actually identify the fruit.An elderly lady from the back of the class spoke up and said that the Bible did say it was an apple.I kindly suggested that we turn to Genesis 3 and read the account.Of course, when we did so, it was easy to see that the kind of fruit of which Eve (and, later, Adam) ate is not identified.Not to be outdone, the good lady said, “Well, it could have been an apple!”We all had a good laugh, but the point was made that many people often think the Bible says a certain thing, teaches a certain doctrine, or authorizes a certain practice when, upon investigation, many of the things frequently attributed to the Bible are not actually found in the Scriptures.

Tradition says that three wise men came to visit the child Jesus, yet when the biblical record is consulted one does not find the number of the wise men given (Matthew 2:1-12).The title “Reverend” is commonly applied to preachers, yet the word appears but once in our English translations (Psalms 111:9), and there it is applied to God.And while it is true that the root from which the word comes is found in many places in scripture to refer to holy and sacred things, Jesus forbade the wearing of religious titles of distinction (Matthew 23:8-9).

When I was a very young preacher I was conducting a meeting in a southern state and staying in the home of one of the leaders of the church.He was a good man, loved the church, and had raised a good family of faithful Christian children.How shocked I was when one evening after the services he asked, “Hugh, how old was Jesus when He joined the church?”Since I thought he was being facetious, I came within a gnat’s whisker of laughing in his face.I caught myself just in time to realize that he was dead serious.Now, it is certainly true that Christ and the church enjoy an intimate relationship.The church is the body of which Christ is the head.For an understanding of Christ’s relationship to the church one needs to read and digest the first three chapters of Ephesians.But the church did not exist in historical reality during the earthly ministry of Christ, and Jesus never “joined” the church in the sense in which people today talk about “joining” the church.In fact, the whole concept of “joining” the church is deserving of deeper study, for the Bible speaks more in terms of a person being saved from his or her sins and being “added” to the church than it does of “joining” the church (Acts 2:41, 47).

In a certain city where I once lived a preacher of a particular denomination conducted a daily radio program designed to spread the beliefs of his church.His knowledge of both the Scriptures and basic grammar was highly suspect.On one occasion he cited Paul’s admonition, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).He then observed, “Yes, the Bible says the devil is wild, and he is getting wilder ever’ day!”While his observation likely was true, there is a vast difference between the “wiles” of the devil and the fact that the devil may also be “wild.”

We need to be diligent students of the Bible.People sometimes show their ignorance of the Bible by speaking against things the Bible clearly endorses.Desiring to appear to know more than they do, they oppose things the Bible commends.At the same time, not everything that is said to be taught in the Scriptures is actually taught in the Scriptures.Of the Bereans it is said: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).Paul exhorted: “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21).We need to be diligently engaged in such today.

Hugh Fulford

Hugh’s news and Views

April 24, 2012

#bible, #bible-knowledge, #ignorance