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Things you think you really know

BY THE REV. DR. CLAY SMITH
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 3/15/19

Everyone knows that Adam and Eve ate the apple and got thrown out of the garden - right? Actually, nowhere in the Bible is a specific fruit named. John Milton in 1644 said it was an apple after French and German artists had depicted apples on the …

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Things you think you really know

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Everyone knows that Adam and Eve ate the apple and got thrown out of the garden - right? Actually, nowhere in the Bible is a specific fruit named. John Milton in 1644 said it was an apple after French and German artists had depicted apples on the Forbidden Tree (personally, I think it was a guava).

Everyone knows that "God helps those who help themselves" is a verse in the Bible - right? Actually, those words never appear in Scripture. In fact, the whole thought is contrary to the message of Jesus. Other "verses" not in the Bible: "Charity begins at home," "Cleanliness is next to godliness," "God works in mysterious ways" and "This too shall pass."

Everyone knows that Jesus was born on Dec. 25 - right? Actually, the Bible never tells us a specific date. Dec. 25 was decreed the official day to celebrate Jesus' birth by Pope Julius I in 350 AD.

Everyone knows that Jonah was swallowed by a whale - right? Actually, the Book of Jonah tells us he was swallowed by a "great fish." If this sounds like a fish tale, I've read stories about fish big enough to swallow other fish the size of man. This is one reason why I think noodling for catfish is not a good idea.

Everyone knows there were three wise men - right? Actually, the Bible never tells us how many wise men there were, or their names. It only tells us they brought three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Everyone knows the Bible says "Money is the root of all evil" - right? Actually, that's not what the Bible says. 1 Timothy 6:10 says, "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." Money is amoral - meaning it is neither right nor wrong. It's what we do with money and the meaning we attach to money that counts. One man can save his money and sin because he's greedy; another man can save his money and be right with God because he is being wise. This requires some serious self-examination.

Everyone knows that Satan has red skin, a tail, horns and a pitchfork - right? Actually, there is no physical description of Satan anywhere in the Bible. We do know he was an angel, and we know angels have an impressive physical presence, but that's about it. Our common image of Satan doesn't rise until the Dark Ages, when it was assumed the old Roman gods were evil spirits. Satan began to be portrayed as a darker depiction of these gods.

Everyone knows that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because people there were gay - right? Actually, there's a lot more to the story. It is true that the men of Sodom demanded Lot hand over the angels who were visiting him, and it is true that they wanted to rape these men. It is also true that God had decided long before this incident to destroy these cities. Why? Genesis tells us they were wicked, which meant they no longer cared about right or wrong. All they cared about was their own agenda. This might make us pause just a moment to ask if our own country cares about right and wrong

Everyone knows that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute - right? Actually, we are only told that seven demons were cast out of her. There is no mention at all of her being a prostitute. Pope Gregory I in the 6th century assumed that seven demons would be the equivalent to the seven deadly sins and made the leap of imagination. Preachers have been doing this ever since.

Everyone knows that when a person dies, he or she becomes an angel - right? Actually, there is nothing in the Bible that even hints that people become angels. Angels are a different order of being than humans. It sounds like a comforting thought, but God already has all the angels he needs.

Just because everyone "knows" something doesn't mean it's true. Depending on someone else to tell you what is true is like depending on someone else to take your medicine for you. Life just doesn't work that way. You are responsible for your own spiritual journey, for your own understanding of truth.

So, dig in. Read. Reflect. Ask questions. You may find out that what you know is not worth knowing. Maybe, just maybe, you will find the truth. If you know the truth, Jesus said, it will set you free. That's something everyone needs to know.

Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church.