In the Bible, there are often expressions that are not easily understood by us. These expressions can be so challenging that they require someone to explain them calmly. Due to our limited understanding of the cultural context of the Bible, it can be difficult to fully grasp their meaning.
For instance, the process of making shoes in the Western world and making shoes in Korea are visibly different. While Koreans typically remove their shoes at home, it is not uncommon in the West to wear them indoors. This cultural disparity highlights the difficulty in comprehending certain aspects of the Bible. Consequently, Barbara Bowen’s book “Strange Scriptures That Perplex The Western Mind” effectively captures the emotional depth within the Bible. Although the book has been available for a long time, it remains relevant today. The cover of the book is here.
The book is organized into broad categories such as difficult-to-understand aspects of the Bible, cultural interpretations, occupations and family life, feasts and fields, tombs and tents, as well as gates and burials. These categories are further divided into detailed subcategories, and the content of the book is explained within these classifications.
The author of the book speculates on the biblical content based on the life and culture of Palestine. The rationale behind this approach is the belief that the culture of Palestine has remained unchanged since biblical times. Although there are numerous categories, I will provide you with a few examples of insightful findings.
In the Bible, there is a story where someone asks to be sent to bury their father (Matthew 8:21, Luke 9:59). This story is written as a rejection, suggesting that the father had not actually died. Bowen may have observed a similar scenario in real life. Another interesting observation relates to whitewashed tombs (Matt. 23:27). By painting the tombs white, they could be easily avoided. This could be attributed to the wilderness in Israel, where better visibility could have a practical advantage.
Another intriguing point is the mention of a charcoal fire. In my own household, when our fire goes out, we often borrow a charcoal fire from our neighbors. When returning home with the borrowed fire, we carry it up to our forehead height. If the woman living next door is kind, she will fill the brazier with a charcoal fire. Placing the charcoal fire on top of her head (Rom 12:20) signifies the greatest generosity on earth.
Additionally, in the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8), there is a scene where a woman loses and finds her coin and then celebrates. While she could have easily obtained another coin from elsewhere, there is a symbolic significance to this particular coin. It is given as a wedding gift from the groom to the bride and can be considered similar to a wedding ring in modern terms. The coin held great sacred value to the Jews, and creditors were not allowed to take it. This coin could have served as a source of financial assistance for a widow in times of need. Through these explanations, several questions find a resolution.
Please note that the insights provided are based on your description and may not fully capture the nuances of the book or the author’s interpretations.
The book aims to address the questions that often arise while reading the Bible, making it accessible even to those who are not well-versed in biblical studies. The author has structured the book in a way that allows readers to easily access the Bible itself for further exploration. This approach aligns with your initial expectation of finding clear explanations and resolving your queries.
However, it is unfortunate that some parts of the book may appear outdated or lack sincerity to modern readers. These aspects can sometimes be resolved by simply examining the sentence itself. For instance, in the theme of “I give water to those who are thirsty” (Isa. 44:3), one might expect an explanation as to why water is given to those who are thirsty. However, the passage only describes the method of providing water. Similarly, when it is stated that stirring milk results in it becoming butter (Prov. 30:33), it is a natural and logical consequence.
When encountering such parts, it is natural to wonder why they were recorded in the Bible if they do not seem significant. The inclusion of these passages might serve various purposes, such as illustrating a common metaphor or emphasizing a moral lesson. While they may not hold immediate importance in the narrative, they contribute to the overall fabric of the text and can have deeper symbolic or cultural significance.
It’s important to approach these passages with an understanding of the historical context and the literary techniques employed in biblical writing. This can help shed light on why seemingly minor details were recorded and how they contribute to the broader themes and messages conveyed in the Bible.
Indeed, as the book has been translated and available for a long time, there may be limitations in terms of the author’s information and keeping up with the latest research and information. However, despite these limitations, the book still holds valuable insights and can offer a fresh perspective on certain overlooked aspects of the Bible. It presents an opportunity for reflection and deeper understanding.
Approaching the book with a mindset of reading and reflecting on one topic at a time, whenever you have spare moments, can be a beneficial way to cultivate your knowledge of the Bible. By taking small, manageable steps, you can gradually expand your understanding and gain new insights into the text. Remember that the Bible is a rich and complex book with layers of meaning, so every opportunity to delve into its contents can contribute to your overall knowledge and appreciation of its teachings.
While it’s important to acknowledge any potential limitations or outdated information, focusing on the positive aspects and using the book as a tool for self-reflection and personal growth can still be a valuable endeavor.