David Bruce: Bible Anecdotes

The Bible contains stories of giants such as Goliath, so many people believe that giants once walked the earth. In the mid-1800s, a man named George Hull decided to help that belief along. He and a business partner, H.B. Martin, hired a couple of sculptors to make a “giant corpse” from a 5-ton block of gypsum, then Mr. Hull used a darning needle to make hundreds of holes resembling pores in the gypsum. He then buried the “corpse” in a farm located in Cardiff, New York, and a year later he hired two workers to dig a well where the “corpse” was buried. Of course, they unearthed the “corpse,” and of course Mr. Hull made money exhibiting it. Even after Mr. Hull admitted that it was a fake, people still came to look at it. Even today, people come to look at the fake. In Cooperstown, New York, a popular exhibit of the New York State Historical Association is the “Cardiff Giant.”

According to Deuteronomy 24:19, if you reap your field and you forget a sheaf, you are not permitted to go back to your field and get it; instead, you have to leave it for the poor. A Hassid was conscientious in his life, and for many years he did not forget a sheaf in his field, but one harvest he forgot a sheaf and he rejoiced because he had the opportunity to obey a command of God. He told his son to prepare a great feast: to sacrifice one bull for a burnt-offering and another bull for a peace-offering. His son wondered why his father was so happy about forgetting a sheaf in his field, and the father told him, “All the other duties of the Torah come to us by paying attention, but this one comes to us by inattention. All the earnestness and good intentions in the world will not bring us the merit of this deed, only a moment of forgetfulness.”

During her rule, Queen Mary I of England persecuted the Protestants. Benjamin Franklin’s great-great-grandfather was a Protestant under her rule, but he continued to read the Bible even when doing so was forbidden. He kept the Bible strapped underneath a covered stool, and when he wanted to read it, he stationed one of his children to serve as a lookout, then he turned the stool over. Whenever the child said that an officer of the crown was coming near, Benjamin Franklin’s great-great-grandfather would immediately hide the evidence of his Bible reading by turning the stool right-side up.

Harry Smith, a line coach at the University of Missouri, was desperate for a win after three straight losses (and was under pressure from the alumni), so he made a vigorous speech to his linesmen, telling them, “You’re letting the other team shove you all over the field. You’ve got to beat them to the charge, and when you hit them, try to knock them into the stands. Remember, the good book says, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’” A linesman objected, “I was taught that the Bible said, ‘Love thy enemies.’” Mr. Smith replied, “That’s what it used to say—the alumni changed it.”

Preacher Will D. Campbell does not suffer fools gladly. He once met an up-and-coming Southern Baptist, with whom he discussed a proposed expansion of the federal death penalty. Mr. Campbell asked him, “You do believe in the Commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ don’t you?” The man replied that he did. Mr. Campbell then asked him, “Surely you are opposed to this death penalty expansion?” The man replied, “Absolutely not. We sent a letter to the White House in support.” Mr. Campbell then told the man, “You are a hypocrite and a jackass.”

“What is the point of the Genesis story of creation? What was the author trying to say? Well, the Bible intended to give a religious lesson, not a science lesson. The seven-day story of creation is just a way of making the point: God created the universe with wisdom, care and order. If science determines that the universe actually evolved over millions and millions of years, there is no conflict with the Bible.” — Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D. and Roman Catholic priest, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.

In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, young Tom wins tickets each Sunday by reciting a few Bible verses — the tickets, when numerous enough, can be exchanged for a plainly bound Bible. Mark Twain’s Sunday school had the same system except that the tickets entitled a child to borrow a religious book from the Church library. In his later years, Mr. Twain claimed that he won his tickets by reciting the same five Bible verses each week.

Many of us read the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, in which the Pharisee says, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as that publican [tax collector]. I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all that I possess.” Unfortunately, when many of us read this, we think, “Thank God that I am not as that Pharisee.”

A homophobe once said to lesbian comedian Judy Carter, “You can’t be gay and be a Christian.” She replied, “I must have a misprint in my Bible. It doesn’t say, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, except homosexuals, should not perish but have everlasting life.’”

Ellen C. Waller, a Quaker, asked the children in her class to check and make sure that they had the Revised Version of the Bible, from which she was teaching. One child said that she had the wrong version of the Bible, because it wasn’t “Revised” — it was “Holy.”

Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts could be immensely insulting when speaking about Ulysses S. Grant, who once said about him, “The reason Sumner doesn’t believe in the Bible is because he didn’t write it himself.”

“It’s still a mystery to me how godly people can tithe their income, give to the poor, read the Bible, pray, love folks, and let God run every fiber of their being except how they treat black people.” — Jerry Clower.

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