Monthly Archives: September 2014

On snake-handling, Fundamentalism and suicide – Part II



Welcome to DORScribe, a blog on reading the Bible with an open mind.


In other words, this Bible-blog is different.

It says not only that the Bible should be read with an open mind, but also that it was specifically designed to help liberate the human mind and spirit, not shackle them.   That runs contrary to a prevailing perception these days, that way too many Christians are way too negative and/or close-minded.   For more on those ideas see About this Blog, which also talks at length about how we as a people can live fuller, richer lives of great spiritual abundance, and do greater miracles than even Jesus did, if only we open our minds

  In the meantime:

 As noted in Part I, John R. W. Stott was an Anglican cleric whom Time magazine ranked among the 100 most influential people in the world.  He wrote a book, Understanding the Bible, and on pages 140-143, he made three key points.

Stott’s first point was that the process of Bible inspiration “was not a mechanical one.  God did not treat the human authors of Scripture as dictating machines or tape recorders.”

He said God spoke to the authors in different ways, sometimes through dreams and visions, “sometimes by audible voice, sometimes by angels.”  He said however God spoke to them, the writers’ “literary style and vocabulary were [still] their own…   God made full use of the personality, temperament, background and experience of the biblical authors.”  Thus there was a “dual authorship.”  The Bible was equally the word of God, and the word of men and women;  “This is, indeed, how it describes itself,” with citations. (Id, at 140-41.)

Stott next disputed the notion that “every word of the Bible is literally true.”

He said instead that the words of the Bible were true “only in context,” and cited the book of Job as an example.  He said the first 37 chapters of Job consisted of dialogue, usually between Job and his ostensible comforters, while the truth of the book was contained only in the last five chapters.  “The book as a whole is God’s word, but the first thirty-seven chapters can be understood only in the light of the last five.” (Id, at 141, emphasis added.)

Thus a key principle for Stott is that Scripture is without error “in all that it affirms.

That principle (he said) was not always apparent “in the so-called ‘inerrancy debate.’”  Stott said (for example) that much of the Bible is written in a figurative manner, including many “‘anthropomorphic’ descriptions of God.”  He said the Bible often described God in human terms, as for example His having eyes and ears, or an “outstretched arm” or a “mighty hand.”  (On the other hand, Jesus Himself said that “God is spirit,” in John 4:24.)

Thus when we read of people hiding under God’s wings, we understand the Bible writer was passing on the truth that God “protects those who take refuge in him.” (Id, 141-42, emphasis added.  For more on the “inerrancy debate,” see Biblical inerrancy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, of which more in later posts.  See also Fundamentalism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted that the first of the Five Fundamentals set out at the Niagara Bible Conference 1910 was “the doctrine that the Bible ‘is without error or fault in all its teaching.’”)

Then too, this business of “requiring every word of the Bible to be inerrant” brings to mind what Jesus said in Matthew 23:4, as He chastised the Scribes and Pharisees.  In the “Easy-to-Read” translation, Jesus said in pertinent part that such Scribes and Pharisees “make strict rules that are hard for people to obey.  They try to force others to obey all their rules.  But they themselves will not try to follow any of those rules.”

Of course the choice is yours.  As Jesus said in John 6:37, He would never turn away anyone who comes to Him, and if “coming to Him” means – to you – having boatloads of kids or handling snakes, He may well end up accepting you as He promised, stumpy-arm and all.  On the other hand, don’t take the words of the first 37 chapters of Job too literally, or you might end up committing suicide.  See On Job, the not-so-patient, which included this complaint:

Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth…   “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb..?   For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest…    Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave?


Job and His Friends - Ilya Repin


The upper image is courtesy of Understanding the Bible by John R.W. Stott — Reviews, ….  See also John Stott – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which added – as noted – that Stott was an Anglican cleric whom Time magazine ranked among the 100 most influential people in the world.

The lower image is courtesy of Job and His FriendsIlya Repin –


On snake-handling, Fundamentalism and suicide – Part I

A snake-handler – who maybe answers to the name “Stumpy” – ostensibly following Mark 16…



A small minority of rural Christians practice “snake handling” as part of their religious ritual.  They do this based on a passage from Mark 16:16-18, part of Jesus’ “Great Commission:”

 And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation…    And these signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will cast out demons;  they will speak in new tongues;  they will pick up serpents with their hands;  and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them;  they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (E.A.)

On the other hand, see for example SnakeHandling Pentecostal Pastor Dies From Snake Bite – ABC …, which arguably shows that such a practice may not be such a good idea.

Then there are the Christians who seek to have “quiverfulls” of children, based on another, more obscure Bible passage, to wit: Psalm 127:3-5:

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.   Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.   How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…

All of which comes under the heading of taking the Bible too literally, not to mention “out of context.”  That can be a definite problem if you think the way to get into heaven is either handling snakes (“Stumpy”), or having quiverfulls of children.  On the other hand, if you’re focusing solely on the end result and not the instructive “journey,” you may have “already missed the point.”  See for example On three suitors (a parable), which included this prayer:

O God, if I worship Thee in fear of hell, burn me in hell;  if I worship Thee in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise;  but if I worship Thee for Thine own sake, withhold not Thine everlasting beauty.

So the point – in case I’m being too subtle – is not to focus on getting into heaven as the “be-all and end-all.”   The point of your Christian life is to focus on the journey, and all the valuable lessons you can learn while you’re in your present incarnation, but we digress

But that does bring up the difference between focusing too exclusively on the “plain meaning” of the Bible – treating it as a set of definite statutes or rules to be followed, on pain of being excluded from heaven – as opposed to treating it as a Book of Wisdom, from which valuable life lessons might be gleaned (and the pathway to heaven paved, metaphorically).

In other words, you could say that the Bible message is both simple enough for a child to understand, yet so full of subtle mysteries that a lifetime can be spent on its study, yet still leave myriads of lessons yet to be learned.  (See 1st Corinthians 4:1, “This is how you should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”)

But there is both another way, and an inherent danger in taking its “plain meaning” too literally.

For example, John R. W. Stott was an Anglican cleric whom Time magazine ranked among the 100 most influential people in the world.  He wrote a book, Understanding the Bible, and on pages 140-143, he made three key points, as discussed in Part II.




The upper image is courtesy of Snake handling – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption reads, “Snake handling at Pentecostal Church of God, Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky September 15, 1946 (National Archives and Records Administration). Photo by Russell Lee.”

As to the validity of such practices as a method of proving one’s faith, see Does MARK 16:17-18 mean that Christians should handle deadly …:

This passage can be understood two ways.  One way is to assume that Jesus followers are expected to handle deadly snakes…   Another way to understand this passage is to be reassured that when Christians accidentally come in contact with poisonous snakes, God will miraculously protect them…   Such an experience happened to the apostle Paul.  After being shipwrecked and escaping to the island of Malta, Paul was bitten by a deadly snake. [Acts:28:1-6].  Additionally, the Bible tells us that we should not tempt God by deliberately placing ourselves in potential danger [Matthew 4:5-7]. (E.A.)

Further information on the “Quiverfull Movement” can be found at sites including Quiverfull – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; What Is Quiverfull? – Patheos, part of “No longer quivering,” an ostensible “gathering place for women escaping and healing from spiritual abuse;”  5 Insane Lessons from My Christian Fundamentalist Childhood ;  and/or QuiverFull .com :: Psalm 127:3-5.

(Please note that these were the first four entries listed under the “Google search,” and are not intended to be interpreted as any sort of personal “ranking” by the Scribe.”)

The lower image is courtesy of Understanding the Bible by John R.W. Stott — Reviews, ….  See also John Stott – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 

On the readings for September 7

Lamentations over the Death of the First-Born of Egypt…”  



The Bible readings for Sunday, September 7, are Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, Romans 13:8-14, and Matthew 18:15-20.  For notes and commentary on Psalm 149, see On the Psalms up to September 7.   As always, you can see the full readings at The Lectionary Page, but here are some highlights and commentary.

In Exodus 12:1-14, Moses instructs the Hebrews – still in Egypt as slaves – in the institution of the Passover. To set the stage, God just announced to Moses the last of the 10 plagues, with the tenth plague – to follow – being the killing of the first-born son of every Egyptian couple, from the Pharoah on down. (That happens in Exodus 12:29-36, which gets skipped this year.)

The Jewish people celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation over 3,300 years ago by God from slavery in ancient Egypt … and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses…   God helped the Children of Israel escape from their slavery in Egypt by inflicting ten plagues upon the ancient Egyptians before the Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves;  the tenth and worst of the plagues was the death of the Egyptian first-born.  The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord knew to pass over the first-born in these homes, hence the English name of the holiday.

See Passover – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, emphasis added.  Or as noted in Exodus 12:7 and 13, the Hebrews in Egypt were to “take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it [the Passover Lamb]…   The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live:  when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Emphasis added.)

In Romans 13:8-14, Paul discussed the code of conduct “in relation to neighbors” and “in the day of salvation,” to wit: a “discussion of love fulfilling the law and the imminence of Christ’s second coming.”  Paul noted that “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law,” and further that all the commandments “are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”  Finally he noted that “love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Emphasis added.)

As to Matthew 18:15-20, Lectionary Scripture Notes had this to say:

We continue to consider [Matthew,] the most Jewish-oriented of all the gospels, addressing an original audience that was probably Jewish Christians no longer in full communion with Judaism…   Matthew alone concerns himself with matters of the church and how Christians are to live together.

The reading goes through the procedures to resolve conflicts between church members, and ends with Jesus awarding “the Power of Keys to all the disciples (whatever they bind or loose is bound or loosed in heaven),” and not just Peter alone, as had transpired in Matthew 16:18-19.  For discussion of the impact of that later decision, see On sharing the “Keys to the Kingdom”.

Finally, note that this Sunday’s Gospel leads up to Jesus telling Peter that he should forgive his erring neighbor not seven times, but “seventy times seven” times, which will be discussed further in next week’s post.  In the meantime consider web articles including What does it mean to forgive seventy times seven? – Richmond ….

The gist of that article seems to be that while Peter sought to put a limit on both his own and God’s power to forgive, Jesus intended that power to be both limitless and ever-expanding.


The upper image is courtesy of Plagues of Egypt – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption:  “Lamentations over the Death of the First-Born of Egypt by Charles Sprague Pearce (1877), Smithsonian American Art Museum.”  The article further noted:

After this, Pharaoh, furious, saddened, and afraid that he would be killed next, ordered the Israelites to leave, taking whatever they wanted, and asking Moses to bless him in the name of the Lord. The Israelites did not hesitate, believing that soon Pharaoh would once again change his mind, which he did; and at the end of that night Moses led them out of Egypt with “arms upraised.”

Note also, vis-a-vis the Passover Lamb, “In Christianity, the Passover Lamb is generally taken to have been fulfilled by the Lamb of God (i.e., Jesus).”  See Passover sacrifice – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Some comments about Romans – and Matthew – were gleaned from Lectionary Scripture Notes

As to the effect of Jesus giving “the Power of the Keys” to all the disciples, in a “later decision” than Matthew 16:18-19:   “It is not novel that prior statutes should give way to later ones.” See statute legal definition of statute.  See also Common law – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted, “Later decisions, and decisions of higher courts or legislatures carry more weight than earlier cases and those of lower courts.”

The lower image is courtesy of

On the Psalms up to September 7

“A woman playing a psalterion,” an instrument used to accompany psalms



This is a new feature, focusing not only on the psalm for a given, upcoming Sunday, but also on some highlights from the psalms in the Daily Office Readings (DORs) leading up to that “any given Sunday.”  Since I’ll be trying to publish the review of an upcoming Sunday’s readings on the prior Wednesday, the DOR psalms will be taken from the readings for the week ending on the Tuesday before that “prior Wednesday.”

For example, the Psalm for Sunday, September 7 is Psalm 149.   In turn, the DOR psalms highlighted in this post will be from the readings for Wednesday, August 26, and going on to the readings for Tuesday, September 2.  As an example, the DORs for Monday, September 1 included Psalm 9:10, “you never forsake those who seek you, O LORD,” which goes along with and supports what Jesus said in John 6:37:  “I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.”

Turning back to Psalm 149, the International Bible Commentary used the sub-head “firstfruits of victory,” and noted that the psalm was “evidently inspired by a national victory.  As the people praise God for it, they look forward to the future, final triumph of His purposes.”

But first note that the psalm begins, “Hallelujah!  Sing to the LORD a new song…”   On that note see the post On the DORs for July 20, which asked the musical question:

How can we do greater works than Jesus if we interpret the Bible in a cramped, narrow, strict and/or limiting manner?   For that matter, why does the Bible so often tell us to “sing to the Lord a new song?”   (For example, Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.)

Or for more, in the “Search” box above right you could just type in “sing Lord new song.”

Getting back to Psalm 149, the IBC noted that it was God who had “made a rabble of slaves into a cohesive nation,” and further that “Yesterday’s victory, celebrated in today’s praise, was a steppingstone to the promised triumph of the end time.”

Which is something to keep in mind these days when all the world seems to be roiling against us as a nation.  Thus the mandate of verse 3:  “Let them praise his Name in the dance;  let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp,” as David did in the painting below.

Getting back to the psalms in the last week’s Daily Office Readings, Saturday’s readings included Psalm 110, verses 1 and 6:  “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool,” and also, “The Lord has sworn and he will not recant; ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1 in Mark 12:35-36, saying “‘How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’   David himself calls him Lord.  So how is he his son?’ And the great throng heard him gladly.”

And Paul quoted Psalm 110:4 in Hebrews, Chapter 7, speaking of Jesus:

The matter becomes even plainer; a different priest has appeared, who is like Melchizedek. 16 He was made a priest, not by human rules and regulations, but through the power of a life which has no end.   17 For the scripture says, “You will be a priest forever, in the priestly order of Melchizedek.”

And note that Psalm 149:1, one of the DORs for Sunday, August 31, keeps up the theme of singing to the Lord a new song, while Psalm 39:14, one of the DORs for Tuesday, September 2, serves as a reminder that – bottom line – we all came here from somewhere else:

“For I am but a wayfarer with you, a wayfarer, as all my forebears were.”

– The Scribe



The upper image is courtesy of Psaltery – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption:   “A woman playing a psalterion.  Ancient Greek red-figured pelike from Anzi, Apulia, circa 320–310 BCE.”

The lower image is courtesy of Psalms – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption:  “David Playing the Harp by Jan de Bray, 1670.”

As to David playing the harp, see David – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted the account of First Samuel, Chapter 16, which told of Saul, the first-ever king of Israel, being tormented by an evil spirit.  In turn it was suggested that “he send for David, a young warrior famed for bravery and his lyre playing.  Saul did so, and made David one of his armor-bearers. From then on, whenever ‘the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play.  Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him,'” as illustrated above.

As to  Book of Psalms generally, it is “commonly referred to simply as Psalms or ‘the Psalms’ … the first book of the Ketuvim (‘Writings’), the third section of the Hebrew Bible. The English title is from the Greek [word] meaning ‘instrumental music’ and, by extension, ‘the words accompanying the music.’   There are 150 psalms in the Jewish and Western Christian tradition.” Psalms – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia…   The book is “divided into five sections, each closing with a doxology (i.e., a benediction) … probably introduced by the final editors to imitate the five-fold division of the Torah.”

Wikipedia added that the  “version of the Psalter in the American Book of Common Prayer prior to the 1979 edition is a sixteenth-century Coverdale Psalter.  The Psalter in the American Book of Common Prayer of 1979 is a new translation, with some attempt to keep the rhythms of the Coverdale Psalter.”


On “babyliss,” a thorn in the side – and maybe karma




“The endless knot,” perhaps a metaphor for spam, and our ongoing, never-ending attempts to try to get rid of it…





The first thing I do these days – when I first log in – is go to the “Comments” section and mass-delete the latest batch of spam, most of it having to do with “Babyliss,” apparently a division of Conair Corporation.  See e.g., Conair Corporation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  See also web articles including We Can’t Get Rid Of Spam – Forbes.

Needless to say, such spam – as of this writing I’m “down to” 3,614 of them – is extremely annoying, so much so that I’m tempted to wish that certain body parts will start falling off anyone connected with “Conair” or “Babyliss.”   But that isn’t really a Christian attitude, so instead I’m thinking maybe I can derive some comfort from the Apostle Paul’s experience with his own “thorn in the side,” or in the alternative his “thorn in the flesh.”

The article Thorn in the flesh – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, explained that today the phrase “is a colloquialism used to describe a chronic infirmity, annoyance, or trouble in one’s life.  It is most commonly used by Christians.”  The term comes from Second Corinthians, Chapter 12, under the heading of Paul’s visions and revelations, starting at verse 1:

This boasting is all so foolish, but let me go on.  Let me tell about the visions I’ve had, and revelations from the Lord…     I have plenty to boast about and would be no fool in doing it, but I don’t want anyone to think more highly of me than he should from what he can actually see in my life and my message.  I will say this: because these experiences I had were so tremendous, God was afraid I might be puffed up by them; so I was given a physical condition which has been a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to hurt and bother me and prick my pride.

(The Living Bible translation, emphasis added.)   Wikipedia noted that Paul didn’t specify the nature of this physical “thorn in the flesh,” and that through the centuries, “Christians have speculated about what Paul referred to.”

However, if Paul had lived in modern times and had tried to advance his message through a blog like this one, he may very well have been referring to that *&%*@% babyliss spam that keeps coming back like a bad case of [fill in the blank with the expletive of your choice]!!!

See also Paul’s Thorn In The Flesh – Article – Andrew Wommack Ministries, which began:

This thorn in the flesh that Paul mentioned has been used and misused by Christians to justify submitting to nearly any problem that comes along.  Satan has twisted this passage of Scripture to deceive many, many people into believing that God would not heal Paul, so how can they expect to be healed?  Let us examine this closely and find out exactly what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was.

That brings up another future topic, about how “the Devil can cite Scripture for his use.”  (See The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose | EnglishClub, quoting Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Act 1, scene 3.)

But before that, let’s discuss the concept of Karma.  See Karma – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which defined it as the action, work or deed of an individual, and “also refers to the principle of causality where intent and actions of an individual influence the future of that individual.”  (Or in the alternative, “the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.”)

Back in May I published On spam and “angels unaware”.  Briefly, I “caused a major firestorm” by attempting to “share his Blog by way of a older-person singles-group email list.”  I waxed poetic on that experience showed how it was better to be open-minded, and how even something as bad as spam might illustrate the concept of “entertaining angels unaware.”  I then noted:

[U]nsolicited email – also known as “spam” – [] certainly does present a major problem for all internet users. (See Unsolicited Bulk Email: Definitions and Problems.)   But from that a general principle might be gleaned:  While most unsolicited emails present a problem, that doesn’t mean some of them don’t also present an opportunity.

But now – after being victimized by thousands upon thousands of unsolicited, mostly-Babyliss spams – I think I was probably wrong.  I now I fully agree with the words of Mister Kurtz:

“The horror, the horror…   Exterminate all the brutes!!”


The upper image is courtesy of  

The lower image is courtesy of  See also Kurtz (Heart of Darkness) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and In Heart of Darkness, what does Kurtz mean by his final words …    (Mister Kurtz was a central character in Joseph Conrad’s novel.)