Here’s the remainder of my list. It was hard to choose, and I suspect I’ll think of others I wish I had included…
6. “For he will repay to each one according to his deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:6-11)
When I look at a book on Paul’s letter to the Romans, I check what is said about this verse. It is part of the irony of some classic views of Paul that this clear statement of Paul’s own view is treated as his either speaking hypothetically or adopting the argument of his opponents. But this is Paul himself working, as he does throughout the letter, to emphasize that simply being Jewish is not what God is most interested in. To capture the impact of this passage, we’d have to imagine Paul saying “For those who do good there will be glory – first to the Christian and then to the non-Christian”. Indeed, this passage has relevance to how Christians view those of other religions. If you consider yourself a part of God’s people, this passage is intended to challenge your reliance on that status, rather than encourage it.
7. “The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while” (Revelation 17:9-10)
It was this verse that brought my premillenial dispensationalist worldview crashing down around me more than any other verse. Not only is Revelation not about our present (the author’s distant future), some of it seems to have already been past when this was written!
8. “In him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28)
Because it shows clearly that the authors of the Biblical literature did not live or write in a vacuum. They read the literature of their time. They thought about things other people said. This was true even beyond the initial Jewish context (otherwise I would have used Jude’s quotation of 1 Enoch, which is also an important illustration of this point). If the author of Acts thought that there was something true in a poem about Zeus, then where might we look for insight today? Then again, perhaps Luke simply engaged in quote mining, and this verse just shows that the practice goes back a long time. I doubt that, however, since there is an intentional comparison made between Paul and Socrates by the author of Acts: both were accused of trying to introduce ‘foreign gods’. The story illustrates at the same time the need to be contextual, and the way a tradition begins to develop and evolve when it does so – and shows that to be “Scriptural”!
9. “After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has”" (Job 42:7)
The ending of Job is supposed to surprise us. God says he is happier with Job’s questioning of his justice than with Job’s friends’ defense of it. He prefers honest questioning to pious dishonesty.
10. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked” (Genesis 3:7)
This verse about the main characters in the story – Human and his wife – shows that this is a myth about the loss of childhood innocence. When I teach on this story, I ask my students when they first knew they were naked. I have yet to receive an answer. Myth is not simply primitive science; it is a way to talk about things that we cannot pin down precisely using other types of language, yet need to talk about. As a story about the first humans in history the story is problematic; as a story about us, about people in general, the story is remarkably insightful.
I hereby tag the following people/blogs with this meme: Ben Witherington, Marc Goodacre, Scot McKnight, Ken Schenck, Evangelical Textual Criticism, Iyov. If I’ve tagged someone who has already done it, please simply pass it on to someone else!