Sound Bites

As I noted in my first post, right after my twentieth birthday I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, and I have been reading and studying the Bible ever since. Certain verses in the Bible have more significance to me than others and bring to my mind a wide range of thoughts and memories. It occurred to me that these verses are similar to “sound bites” that are used in our fast-paced news world to convey important events and to make the information “stick” in everyone’s mind. Over a period of time I went through the Bible and selected those passages that have the most meaning or are the most memorable to me personally. Here is the first post about these sound bites which I hope to present along with my observations and, of course, stories.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Let’s start at the very beginning (did I just hear Julie Andrews singing?). Everything I believe starts with God. I make no apologies for my belief in him and I write with the perspective that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God who loves each one of us individually with an everlasting love. That being said, let’s look at this verse.

It’s pretty straight-forward and simple. It says that God made everything. I remember from my earliest days in Catholic school that the very first question/answer in the Baltimore Catechism was: “Who made the world? God made the world.” And another one: “Why did God make me? God made me…” There was probably more to that last one, but that’s what stuck in my mind. Someone made me, and that seemed to imply that I had some responsibility to whoever that was. I suppose that impression never left me, and it shaped much of what I did throughout my life, both good and bad.

I am also a mathematical, science-oriented kind of guy, with particular interest in astronomy and cosmology on one end, and quantum mechanics on the other end. My faith in God and my agreement with Genesis 1 does not in any way conflict with my scientific view of the world. The universe exists because God made it. Not just the physical components of it, but all the laws that govern it. God is an orderly God, as indicated by a couple verses in 1 Corinthians:

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Cor 14:33)
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor 14:40)

So how do I reconcile the story of creation as told in Genesis with what I know to be true about the age and condition of the universe? To put it bluntly, I don’t. There are any number of theological, metaphysical, philosophical, and scientific books and websites that deal with this conundrum. My thought is this: science can only provide answers to things that are physical and observable. Many definitions of scientific reasoning require that a scientific hypothesis be falsifiable, i.e., it must be able to state conditions that would prove the hypothesis wrong. For example, many scientists maintain that string theory is not scientific but only philosophical, because its adherents are unable to state any feasible experiments that could show it to be false. So science is not capable of answering all questions.

But some fundamental questions are of the utmost importance. The first question is, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Another is, “Why am I here, and what is my purpose (I guess that’s two questions)?” In Acts 16:30 a jailer asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” In other words, what can I do about my shortcomings (sin) and how do I answer to my Maker? So there are “big” questions about the universe, and there are very personal questions about individuals. The Bible has answers to many of these questions and I intend to stick mostly to the ones about individuals. So the first thing to know, the first answer, is presented in the very first verse: God made everything, including you.

There are some other interesting things about this verse and about all of Genesis. Genesis means “origin” and many of the ideas presented in the Bible’s first book are expanded upon in later chapters. The verses can also be contrasted with later verses. One of the origins described in this book is the existence of sin, “original” sin if you will. Although it begins with “In the beginning God,” Genesis ends “in a coffin in Egypt” (Gen 50:26). The Old Testament ends ominously with this:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. Mal 4:5-6

Pretty bleak.

But the New Testament begins with “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matt 1:1)
And it ends with

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all. Amen. (Rev 22:20-21)

The Bible starts with God in the beginning; it ends with a personal request for the Lord Himself to return, and a request that His grace be with you all. I always preferred the New Testament ending to the Old Testament ending – not a curse, but God’s grace, grace that is available to everyone, including you.

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Bible Geek Trivia

A long time ago I was teaching myself to program in C. I needed to write a program that would interest me so this is what I came up with. Around that time I was having a conversation with Gene Higgins, a Gospel preacher that I know, about how God sometimes called people by using their name twice. For instance, “Samuel, Samuel,” and “Moses, Moses.” Since I didn’t know how often this happened, I figured that I would write a program to find out.

I used the Online Bible, sometimes called the Winterbourne Bible, since it was the King James Version, it normalized some of the names to be consistent, and it was free. As I started to test my results, I decided to expand my search to find not just names but any double words (“Unclean, unclean,” in Leviticus 13:45). Then there were some triple words (“Holy, holy, holy” in Isaiah 6:3), some “Double pairs” (“Babylon is fallen, is fallen.” in Isaiah 21:9), and some Double triples (“line upon line, line upon line” in Isaiah 28:10). So these were my final rules:
1. From the King James Version text.
2. All words were changed to lower case.
3. Punctuation and numbers were ignored.
4. Apostrophes were eliminated, as in Gen 8:16
….. “and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives”
….. This is a Double triple since the apostrophe is ignored.
5. The ends of sentences were ignored, so matches may span two sentences.
6. Double word is the same word twice in a row, as in 1 Sam 3:10
….. “Samuel, Samuel”
7. Triple word is the same word three times in a row, as in Isa 6:3
….. “Holy, holy, holy”
….. Note that this also shows up as two Double words
….. “Holy, holy, holy” and “Holy, holy, holy
8. Double pair is the same pair of words twice in a row, as in Rev 18:2
….. “is fallen, is fallen”
9. Double Triple is the same three words twice is a row, as in Isa 28:13
….. “line upon line, line upon line”
10. There are no Triple Pairs or Triple Triples

You can see the results here.

It turned out to be much longer than I thought it would be, and I was surprised when I saw what the first result was, because I never noticed it before:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2)

It is the first Double Triple: “…and the earth. And the earth…”