Here's a pop quiz for all who believe the Bible should be taken and followed literally:
1) True or False--The Bible makes provisions for offering a sacrifice to the demonic god Azazel.
2) Homosexuals are to be: a) tolerated, b) encouraged, c) killed or d) banned.
3) Capital punishment applies to: a) those disrespecting parents, b) those committing adultery, c) those working on the Sabbath, d) those cursing God's name, e) all of the above.
4) Every year, one must take a tithe of all the land has yield and: a) give it to the priests, b) give it to the church, c) give it to the poor, d) convert it to cash and buy wine, strong drink or anything else their heart desires.
5) Who tempts King David to take a census of the Israelites? a) King Saul, b) God, c) King Solomon, d) Satan, e) b and/or d, depending on which passage you read.
6) The concept of the people owning all possessions in common "each according to their needs" is rooted in a) Marxist ideology, b) socialist thought, c) the biblical church, d) a radical 60s movement.
7) True or False--The Bible advocates sending runaway slaves back to servitude.
8) In the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, to which tribe did the brothers sell Joseph? a) Egyptians, b) Ishmaelites, c) Midianites, d) b and/or c, depending on which passage you read.
9) True or False--Charging interest on a loan is congruent with the word of God.
10) A woman--like an ox, donkey, slave or house--is the possession of a man, and thus cannot be coveted.
11) If a husband suspected his wife of infidelity, she could prove her innocence by ingesting a bitter elixir before the priest. If she survived, then she was faithful. If instead she was afflicted by the shriveling of her thigh or the swelling of her belly, then she is guilty. Men, on the other hand, could have multiple sex partners in the form of wives or concubines. This practice was/is part of a) radical Islam, b) the Christian Medieval Church, c) the Bible, d) the Pharisaic tradition.
12) How did Judas die? a) of old age, b) he hung himself, c) he fell headlong and burst open, d) b and/or c, depending on which passage you read.
13) Judas, while in the sanctuary, cast down the 30 pieces of silver given to him to betray Jesus in accordance with the Prophet a) Jeremiah, b) Zechariah, c) Haggai, d) Matthew states it is Jeremiah, but the verse quoted is found in Zechariah.
14) True or False--Two different sets of Jesus' ancestors are listed in the Bible.
15) True or False--Heaven is a place of eternal rest, where there is no more war.
Answers: 1) T - Lev. 16: 8,10,26; 2) c - Lev. 20:13; 3) e - Lev. 20:9-10, 24:16, Ex. 31:14-15; 4) d - Deut. 14:22-27; 5) e - 2 Sa. 24:1, 1 Ch. 21:1; 6) c - Acts 2:44-45; 7) T - Phm. 12; 8) d - Gen. 37:27-28, 36; 9) F - Ex. 22:24; 10) T - Ex 20:17; 11) c - Nu. 5:11-31; 12) d - Mt. 27:5, Acts 1:18; 13) d- Mt. 27:9-10, Zc. 11:12-13; 14) T; Mt. 1:1-16 and Lk. 3:23-38 15) F, Rev. 12:7
Score: If you got more than half wrong, how can you take literally that which you do not know?
Now, why would a Bible-believer like myself, who strives to live his life according to the Word of God, spend time showing that the biblical text cannot be taken or followed literally? Because of the high regard I have for God's Word.
Faith which is blind is childish, and as Paul encourages us, it's time to but aside childish things in the hope of experiencing a mature faith.
Simplistic faith leads to easy answers to complex questions. In the name of Jesus, Crusades have been launched to exterminate the infidels; women seeking autonomy have been burned as witches; indigenous people who refused to bow their knees to God and king were decimated; the kidnapping, rape and enslavement of Africans was justified; and today, the pauperization of two-thirds of the world's population is legitimized so that a small minority of the planet can consider themselves blessed by God.
To worship the Lord your God with all your mind means to wrestle with the text, demanding to see God's face, even if at times, like Jacob, one walks away limping.
Miguel De La Torre, a Cuban American, is professor of theologies of liberation at Hope College in Holland, Mich. He is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a former Baptist pastor in Kentucky. His column also appears in the Holland Sentinel.
Order Miguel De La Torre's book Reading the Bible from the Margins now from Amazon.com