Believers will accept that the Scriptures are infallible. The Psalmist said that “[…] the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). We can indeed confidently rely upon it as truth and prophecy.
Yet, do we not all encounter texts that we think are unfortunate?
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind” (Numbers 23:19). The Scriptures, therefore, have no message that is subject to change in any era, modern or ancient. Whether written in old English or new, its proclamations are current and relevant.
Yes, but there are unfortunate verses nevertheless, we think.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness […]” (2 Timothy 3:16), pronounced Apostle Paul. And referring to its prophetic accuracy, Christ confirmed this, stating that “[…] Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). The Scriptures were authored and inspired over the centuries and millennia by the same Spirit. They are Truth.
Knowing all that, can’t we still ask and puzzle? Why are some things included in the Bible; why are some things not in the Bible?
With so many prophets having been chosen and Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God, born in the flesh … walking this earth … communicating with his disciples … why could the Bible not have answered more of our questions? Why were there not more revelations in the Bible; and more of our questions answered? Why could not more proofs have been given, that would have ended some of the unproductive theological debates that have festered for centuries, or settled the modern debates over Creationism, for instance?
These questions collectively comprise our “theology thicket.” Just what texts in the Bible, were they not so unfortunate in this respect, could have led to more answers to our questions or settled the doubts of some unbelievers?
We here attempt to identify a series of just six such “unfortunate texts.”
Unfortunate Text #1: Jesus Christ, the Son of God—under whose feet everything was placed (Ephesians 1:22; Matthew 22:44); to whom had been given “all authority in heaven and on earth”—walked this earth in the flesh (Matthew 28:18). He had available to Him all knowledge. Had the disciples asked more penetrating questions, we could have benefited from more answers. After all, “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (Mark 1:22). Anyone could have asked him for further clarifications.
And yet, incredulously, we read this unfortunate text: “And no one dared to ask him any more questions” (Luke 20:40). What a lamentable text. Think of this incident: The Sadducees and spies, who had been sent from the teachers of the law and the priests, had asked Jesus some tough and tricky questions. He answered them with great insight and truth on such matters as the resurrection and what things will be like in heaven. They were awed. In response, they “dared not” ask Him more questions.
How tragic! With their familiarity of the Scriptures and various theological debates, they could have all asked some pivotal questions about many things. They did not. Their pride and disinterest is our loss.
Unfortunate Text #2: “When the Queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. “[…] she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind” (1 Kings 10:1-2).
The Bible tells us that “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29). Incredible! Imagine how many civil law and governance issues that Solomon could solve for our world today. With his great “breadth of understanding,” he could also offer great insight into the topics of science and creation.
Alas, we encounter another unfortunate text: Solomon answered all her [Queen of Sheba] questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her” (1 Kings 10:3).
Isn’t it unfortunate that the Queen of Sheba was not able to exhaust Solomon’s wisdom? None of her questions were too hard for him. Her list of questions ran out and she went back home. You the reader will most assuredly think of some questions that the Queen of Sheba did not think of. How tragic that our remaining questions could not have been on her list.
Unfortunate Text #3: A most interesting encounter is described in the book of Matthew. It is also reported by Mark and Luke. “[…] Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’” (Matthew 17:1-4).
Here we see a classic human error. Peter, seeing Moses, Elijah and the transfiguring of Christ, immediately wanted to build commemorative shrines. The King James renders his motive in this “unfortunate text” more accurately, we think: “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”
What did Jesus talk about with Moses and Elijah? Matthew 17:3 expressly says that they were “talking with Jesus.” Luke tells us that one of the topics discussed concerned Jesus’ departure. We would certainly be interested to know more of what was discussed. But we cannot know. Why? Instead of listening, the disciples were more intent upon creating buildings and works that could be worshiped and institutionalized. As it turned out, the disciples became sleepy (Luke 9:32) and missed much more of the conversation.
Peter and John both wrote epistles that are in the Bible. In none of them do they reveal what Moses, Elijah and Jesus talked about. Another tragedy for us. They were not listening! They were sleeping.
Unfortunate Text #4: The Lord said something amazing to his servant Jeremiah: “[…] he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know’” (Jeremiah 33:2-3). That is truly a great offer. Surely, there must have been a lot of “unsearchable things” that Jeremiah did not know. This text, too, is another unfortunate one in this series. Why?
If we were to judge solely from what was written in the book of Jeremiah, we must conclude that Jeremiah did not take advantage of this great offer of knowledge from the Lord. The only questions that Jeremiah poses to the Lord all concern himself and his own insecurities. For example: “Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?” (Jeremiah 15:18). Also: “Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?” (Jeremiah 20:18). These questions earned him the nickname “The Weeping Prophet.” However, we have no record of him asking the Lord about any “unsearchable things.” Another tragedy! Another opportunity again wasted.
Unfortunate Text #5: Today, the Bible is spurned as being in opposition to science. This, of course, is not true. Why then did the Holy Spirit not give us more information about the workings of his wonders and Creation?
It is one thing to discover that not one word in the Bible shows itself in contravention to the natural order of things that we know today. (We are careful here to differentiate between what are unproven scientific theories and what is fact.) For example, long before it was commonly known that the earth was round, the Scriptures acknowledged this. Said Isaiah, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers” (Isaiah 40:22).
However, couldn’t there have been more such statements made through the prophets … perhaps about nuclear atomic structure or the source of matter, for instance? Information such as this might have influenced the “scientific” views of evolution and the “big bang” theory. After all, even secular scientists are looking for the “god particle.”
God says that He was there at the beginning. Therefore, couldn’t He have provided us with more statements that would have aided us in our debates with the anti-Creationists?
The Bible only gives us seemingly symbolic perspectives such as these: “Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37:16); “My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts” (Isaiah 45:12); “[…] He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in” (Isaiah 40:22).
Couldn’t these all be similarly seen as “unfortunate texts” to the modern scientific mind? Looking for scientific explanations of the creation, they read as what seems to be only figurative language.
We must stop here and negate this perspective right away. Why? God says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? […] his understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28). Therefore, were He to have given us technical, scientific answers in the Scriptures, no one today would be able to fathom it in any case. Science is presumptuous to think that it could understand what and how God has created. “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (Psalm 102:25).
Unfortunate Text #6: We now come to the last in our “series of unfortunate texts.” To this point we have pondered Scriptures that pointed out lost opportunities for more revelation, and truths to have been made available to the saints. What we also discover is that God actually allowed a surfeit of information … in fact, bad misinformation. He “sends them” delusions so that lies will be believed. That’s what Apostle Paul said: “[…] They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).
Admittedly, this is difficult to understand. Now we have more information being made available, but it serves as corroboration to what people want to hear. The verse quoted is a statement that is consistent with our review of “unfortunate texts,” all of which deal with the matters of information, truth and knowledge.
We begin to understand that an over-abundance of truths, proofs and revelations are alone not enough to ensure that we do not go astray. The world’s popular beliefs today are not necessarily based on facts. We discover that they are in contradiction of the facts. A rebellious people will not let facts get in the way. As Albert Einstein was to have quipped: “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” The same denial of facts is shown in the Bible with respect to miracles. We are told “Jews demand signs” (1 Corinthians 1:22). However, these signs and miracles were repeatedly forgotten and the people went astray.
Thoughts to Ponder
We indeed may lament this “series of unfortunate texts” we have reviewed. Our quest for more knowledge, Biblical and scientific insight may therefore be unquenched. But did the Holy Spirit make a mistake? Were there more revelations and knowledge that we should have known? Would more revelation and knowledge have made it easier to become a Christian? Would mankind be more obedient to Christ today were that the case?
The fact is that more knowledge is available to everyone today than before. Scriptures can be studied more easily today than ever possible before, with so many free and powerful study aids being available online. Yet, what do we see? A rapidly shrinking population that holds a true Biblical worldview … and massive shifts in beliefs toward untruths, fables and the doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). Surveys reveal that Christians themselves are becoming less familiar with Scriptures.
We must conclude that more knowledge than the Bible already imparts to us is not necessary. All has been imparted that we need. Moreover, the Bible expressly acknowledges that information has been deliberately held back from us.
Apostle Paul knew a man (speaking of himself in the third person) who “was caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2) … who “was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things” (verse 4) and “surpassingly great revelations” (verse 7). But, these were “things that no one is permitted to tell” (verse 4).
The prophet Daniel asked the “man clothed in linen” how long it would be before these astonishing things would be fulfilled (Daniel 12:6). Daniel heard his answer but still did not understand. So he asked again: “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” (verse 8). Then the man clothed in linen replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end” (verse 9).
Here we are shown two instances where more information was expressly denied. Despite our curiosities, we can conclude that the Holy Spirit made sure that we would be informed of all the essentials to our faith and have knowledge of the Lord’s plans. On faith, therefore, we will lay our “theology thicket” to rest.
And that brings us to our final texts in this series.
These, however, speak to very fortunate events … not unfortunate ones. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). All will be revealed to us some day, though it may well take an eternity for us to absorb it. Says Paul, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV).