Treading softly on the meaning of the Scriptures
by Juanita Hughes
Columnist
January 16, 2013 12:00 AM | 825 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juanita Hughes
Juanita Hughes
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As children, many of us had to memorize the books of the Bible in order. I recall having a bit of trouble with the pronunciation of Ecclesiastes.

Somewhere along the way, I was told that the word meant “The Preacher,” and I was confused that it had such a strange name when we could so easily say “The Preacher.”

As years passed, I came to realize that such profound wisdom needed a special title, and the book had been given its name before the word “preacher” was ever crafted.

I really didn’t know any preachers who seemed as wise as the author of this Book. One of my favorite sections lists the seasons of life, a time for every purpose, even times for laughter as opposed to weeping. I thought of that this past week when I studied the lesson for Sunday’s Bible class.

The lesson was based on the mostly-ignored book of Habakkuk. (Bless his heart. We might read more of his words if his name were Frank or William, or even Frances or Wilhemina.)

Although the lesson was based on just a few verses, I decided to read the entire short story, and as I finished the final verse in the translation that I use (the New King James), I burst into laughter.

Surely a woman had helped with the translation. The original King James states, “He will make me to walk upon mine high places.”

In the New King James, it comes out as, “He will make me walk on my high hills.” Take your eye off the printed page, and speak it aloud. It’s now “a time to laugh.”

There is more humor in the Scriptures than one might think. But humor, like sadness, affects us differently. What might seem hilarious to one person has no meaning at all to another.

Take this, from one translation in Proverbs: “Gray (hair) is a crown of splendor, attained by a righteous life.” Since I’m now a silver-haired specimen, does that mean that I got that way through righteous living?

I must laugh at that. Not to be judgmental, but there are many folks with snowy white hair who spent very few righteous days in their lives.

Luke tells a story in The Acts of the Apostles about Saint Paul preaching in Troas. He had been preaching for hours and as midnight approached and people continued to listen from the upper story of their homes, a young man went to sleep and fell from the third story.

Now I know that this is not supposed to be a funny story, but I have to ask, Who could stay awake until midnight listening to any preacher today? I daresay that Paul was probably the only person present who was wide awake.

But according to the recorded story, apparently the incident caused everybody to sit up and take notice since Paul assured them that the young man was alive and well after he attended him.

So they ate, and Paul continued speaking until daybreak. (I must note here that the record does not state that anyone listened.) I have heard some speakers tell their audiences up front that they truly hoped to finish speaking before the audience finished listening.

Good point, and one we can all relate to. But not something Paul adhered to, apparently.

All of us, from Jew to Christian to atheist, know by now about the Ten Commandments.

We’ve seen the list in print in all manner of places from school classrooms, church sanctuaries, and courtrooms, to T-shirts, coffee mugs, and stone tablets in parks and museums.

I have often wondered about the commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” It says to me that the Ten Commandments were written directly to men. It does not say “spouse”, it says “wife.” Perhaps that’s why the commandment about the Sabbath is vague in listing those to whom it applies.

Here it only says “You” or “Thou”, then all others related to you, but excludes spouse or mate completely. I have to smile at this thought.

There had to have been one person who would prepare breakfast, dinner, and supper, clean up the kitchen three times, milk the cow, slop the hogs, dress the kids for church, rock the baby to sleep … while everybody else, hired help included, took a nap or visited with neighbors and kin.

Yeah, I know the meaning and intent, but I still have to smile.

And with a little encouragement from Habakkuk, I may just go shoe shopping.

Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.
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