If you ever try and learn a topic – any topic – from just one point of view, you are in trouble. You will make mistakes that you don’t even know you have made, and that can lead to you looking somewhat silly.
One of the pleasures of formal study is that I get to raid University libraries and access information I don’t usually find anywhere else. However, I am often surprised at how badly the Bible is represented, whether it be by secular institutions or theological colleges. I have found the only way to understand David is to read, read, read and read: and that best includes studying archaeology, psychology, secular history, Jewish thought and customs and reading multiple Bible versions.
Here are a few one sided blunders which have made me go, “wow, you need to research more!” I am NOT putting them in to belittle the sources, but to remind you to study and be careful. The mistakes I have to go back and fix constantly humble me. We have to be responsible with the word of God. Differences in opinions are one thing, but bad research is quite another.
1. A particular version of the Bible, which paraphrases rather than going for a literal translation, likes to translate “David commanded” rather than “David said,” as all the others do. When you read “David commanded” several times in a chapter, he begins to look like a tyrant, throwing his weight around. I double checked the Hebrew. The correct translation was ‘said.’ Use a service like Bible Hub which allows you to check word use from many translations on one page.
2. A secular university, which will also remain nameless for reasons pertaining to slander and legalities, did a series on the Old Testament where they treated the Bible as they would treat any piece of literature: as an isolated, stand alone work. They had no understanding of the culture of ancient Israel or tribal values; they had no spiritual interest or interpretation, which was to be expected. The result was they took two pieces of Scripture with “the house of David” in them and came to conclusions which were so crazy off the bat, I was stunned. Had it been a lecture on physics, psychology or any discipline, facts would have been checked to ensure accuracy. But hey, it’s a mystical book, so no background research was done.
3. A Bible College principal on Youtube preached that Absalom’s hair was so heavy, because he sprinkled gold dust in it every day. This information came from the Roman “historian” Flavius Josephus, who was not an accurate source of information and the principal should have known that. Josephus has been accused of “exaggeration, inconsistency and sloppiness and corrupt transmission of names and numbers,” and the information he does get correct seems to be sourced from research he did with Roman archival data. Even books which publish his work directly address his errors in their introductions. [Sources: Century One and if you search for Josephus and error, you will get many, many results. He has a terrible reputation for anti-semitic bias as well.]
The cost of sprinkling gold in your hair (and the itch) does not appear to be practical. It seems that this is an area where you need to use some common sense. He also claimed that King David had an Egyptian like burial, which David simply would not have done. It was not in line with his beliefs, which are apparent in the Psalms, but that is a topic for another day… Orthodox Jewish women do wear wigs as a sign of modesty, but the Torah forbids men to dress as women, as that was undertaken in strange, pagan rituals, where processing worshippers dressed as half men, half women.
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