Bible Myth #23

We all know the story.

Saul persecuted the early Christians until, in a flash of light from the sky, God knocked him off his horse. He heard a voice call to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And who was speaking? “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” And that’s how Saul turned from tormenting Jesus Followers to being their foremost missionary.

But there’s one detail in this tale that is wrong. A mistake. The Bible never says it. Yet we have retold this error over and over. What’s amiss?

There was no horse. Acts 9 doesn’t mention it. What about the other two times in Acts that Paul tells his story of meeting Jesus? No horse. Maybe it’s in one of Paul’s letters where he gives a bit of his life story? Sorry. No horse. Even reputable writers like Thomas Cahill perpetuate the myth.*

Why do we keep insisting on a horse? No doubt something is at work here similar to the adage about repeating a lie often enough that it becomes the truth. But there may be another reason. Religious artists over recent centuries have depicted Paul with a four-footed friend, Caravaggio chief among them. So the image fixes itself in our minds.

Admittedly, not much hangs on whether Saul rode a mighty steed or even a bedraggled burro. No decisive doctrine is cast down. No historical record is blinded.

What it does tell us is that we must read the text. And read it carefully. Just because we think the Bible says something, doesn’t make it so. Even if we’ve heard it a hundred times, we need to read slowly, ask good questions, pay attention, write down what we see, be quiet, and listen.

If we do, we might even hear the voice of Jesus.

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*Thomas Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills (New York: Doubleday, 1999), p. 123.

Bible Myth #17: Who Rejoices in Heaven?

Who rejoices over one sinner who repents? We all know the answer. Or do we?

When the Pharisees complained about Jesus hanging out with irreputable tax collectors and sinners, he told them three stories. First, the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to find the one that’s lost. Then the woman with ten coins who searches for one. Finally, the father and his two sons.

At the end of the second story, after the woman finds her coin, she asks all her neighbors to celebrate with her. Jesus concludes, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

So who is rejoicing?
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A Lukewarm Interpretation of Hot and Cold: Revelation 3:15-16

“Because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” This verse from Revelation 3 certainly must rank as one of the most misused in the Bible. In the last month alone I have heard two speakers give it the same incorrect interpretation.
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The Most Misused Verse in the Bible

We read it in devotional books. We sing it in church. We meditate on it in our quiet times. God’s command in Psalm 46:10–“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Unfortunately, the verse has nothing to do with what we usually think it does–being quiet before God, not being frantic and busy, or maybe getting ourselves ready to hear a sermon. No, it’s not about any of these things. This is a verse which has been violently ripped out of context time and time again. What does it really mean?
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When Smart People Say Stupid Things

I’m always amazed when very intelligent people say very stupid things. But it’s happened again. This time it’s in The Grand Design, the latest book by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge for thirty years, a chair held by no less than Sir Isaac Newton, himself no slouch. Mlodinow has his own pedigree to be proud of. So what did they say?
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Murder, Apathy and Urban Legends

Kitty Genovese was murdered in Kew Gardens in Queens, New York, forty-eight years ago today. It rocked the nation. The New York Times article about the incident famously began, “For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.”
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When Smart People Say Stupid Things

I’m always amazed when very intelligent people say very stupid things. But it’s happened again. This time it’s in The Grand Design, the latest book by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge for thirty years, a chair held by no less than Sir Isaac Newton, himself no slouch. Mlodinow has his own pedigree to be proud of. So what did they say?
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History with Attitude

Lies My Teacher Told Me is one of the funnest, most informative rants I’ve read in quite a while. James Loewen is ticked at the stupidity of American history high school textbooks, and he has reason to be.

One 1990-era textbook offered this whopper: “President Truman easily settled the Korean War by dropping the atomic bomb” (p. 320), which has so many errors in it I hardly know where to begin.

But there’s more. Lots more. The textbooks are wrong when they say that . . .
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