My wife and I took Saturday off for a quick trip to southwest Arkansas, a chance to see the changing leaves in the Ozarks. The hills were ablaze. The change in scenery was invigorating. We celebrated the zenith of our trip eating dinner at Queen Wilhelmina State Park with a view of the Ozark hills in the distance.
We struck up a conversation with a couple from Oklahoma. He was a semi-retired math teacher. When I mentioned I was a minister, the conversation changed. I have seen this happen many times. But this one was a bit different. Fire entered his eyes as he told me of his recently purchased assault rifle, his membership in the NRA and his commitment to the right to bear arms. He then proceeded to explain how Jesus identified Barack Obama as the Anti-Christ. His reasoning was based on an interpretation of Jesus’ statement in Luke 10, that He saw Satan fall like lightening from Heaven. He had seen a wildly popular video on youtube and was convinced.
“If you read it in Hebrew, the original language,” he said, “you will find that the words Barack and Obama are the words he used.” I listened to him waxing eloquent about the evils of our President for a few moments, as if he were rallying recruits for a revolution to reclaim our government, before informing him that the passage he quoted was written in Greek, not Hebrew. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. The New Testament was written in Greek.
The wind had been robbed from his sails and the fire in his eyes dimmed a little. But his mind was made up, and something as trivial as a mistake about the language wasn’t going to dissuade him. After all, he explained, he had read Strong’s Concordance. After I got home I looked it up. The video he had seen admits the text was written in Greek, but does some fancy foot work mixed with a little imagination to reconstruct Jesus saying, “I saw Satan as baraq ubamaw.”
It was a reminder to me that we get ourselves in trouble when we build our beliefs on obscure and questionable interpretations of the Bible, especially when we go to great lengths to make the Bible say what we want it to say. Whole denominations, sects and cults have been created around disputed passages. We need to build our faith on the clear and plain sections of Scripture. The most obvious and apparent meaning is almost always the right one. The Bible was not meant to be a puzzle or an obscure book that only the most educated or imaginative could figure out. The Bible was given to us so we could discover the important answers to the meaning and purpose of life, and, most importantly, so we could have a relationship with God that changes us to reflect His character. If we want to know what the character of God looks like, we need only look at Jesus without trying to reinterpret what He said.