The "Exceptional" Bible
(Presented at the National Day of Prayer, May 1, 1997, Bradford County Courthouse. A slightly shortened version (~900 words) was printed in the Towanda Daily Review on Jan 5, 1998.)
(This is dedicated to two men: William Tyndale, burned at the stake in 1536 for the first English translation of the New Testament; and Giordano Bruno, a Dominican priest, burned at the stake in 1600 for his defense of Copernicus.)

It is difficult to select representative readings from the Bible. There are popular and well known verses that have made their way into common language and literature, while others have remained obscure and are seldom quoted or referenced.

Exodus 20:13 - "You shall not murder," or more commonly "Thou shalt not kill."

However,

I Samuel 15:3 - "Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys."

"Thou shalt not kill" seems clear—don't kill. Yet, according to the Bible, God orders not only the destruction and murder of the Amalekite men and women, but also their children and infants. Maybe, just maybe, the adults deserved to be punished. Yet slaughter and obliteration seem excessive. But why the children and infants? Apparently, there are exceptions to "Thou shalt not kill."

Matthew 5:7 - "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

However,

Numbers 31:17 - "Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man."

Here, according to the Bible, Moses is ordered to "Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites." The Midian men were shown no mercy perhaps because they deserved none. Next, "women who had slept with a man" were also ordered to be murdered. Then, according to the Bible, the remaining virgins, probably young adolescents, were then subject to the whims of those that had just murdered their parents. Apparently, there are exceptions to the order to "Show mercy."

Luke 6:31 - "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

However,

Isaiah 13:15 - "Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives ravished."

"Do unto others . . ." -- The Golden Rule. Yet those that may have deserved death are killed quickly by the sword, while their innocent infants are beaten and left to die slow horrible deaths. The women, after watching the murder of their husbands and the slaughter of their children, are then savagely raped. Apparently, there are exceptions to the golden rule.

Leviticus 19:18 - "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself."

However,

Psalms 137:8 - "O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us—he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks."

The "Daughter" may have been the most wicked and evil person to have ever lived. Yet, according to the Bible, whoever repays her by beating her infant against the rocks will be happy. Apparently, there are exceptions to "do not seek revenge".

Jeremiah 31:30 - "Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—his own teeth will be set on edge."

However,

Deuteronomy 28:53 - "Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the LORD your God has given you."

According to the Bible, the sinners will devour their own infants. Apparently, there are exceptions to only the guilty being punished.

Colossians 3:19 - "Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them."

However,

Deuteronomy 25:11-12 - "If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity."

According to the Bible, you should love your wife, but you should brutally amputate her hand if she should inadvertently touch your assailant's "private parts" while trying to defend you. Apparently, there are exceptions to treating your wife with love and tenderness.

The previous verses depict the authors of the Bible as vengeful and sadistic. There are no circumstances other than insanity that explain the orders given, and no justification whatsoever for those that carried out the orders. There are, however, passages that seem not to belong among those that sanctify violence and murder—passages that celebrate the beauty and passion of human relationships. For example:

Song of Solomon 7:6-9 - "How beautiful you are and how pleasing, O love, with your delights! Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, "I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit." May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine. May the wine go straight to my lover, flowing gently over lips and teeth."

There are passages that offer help.

Matthew 5:42 - "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

There are passages that dictate tolerance.

Matthew 7:1-2 - "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

And passages that order humility and preach privacy.

Matthew 6:6-7 - "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words."

Ecclesiastes 5:2 - "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few."

I've been reminded that there are passages in the Bible that reverse the previous two about private prayer, and that condone public prayer. Apparently, there are exceptions to almost every passage and command in the Bible. It can be described as a most "exceptional" book. But do read the Bible. Except, take what you read not with a grain of salt, but with the whole shaker.

Reverend John L. Ferri
Church of the Profit($)
Towanda
jlferri@epix.net


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