NIV Application


Poker players are a rare breed, rough and tumble throwbacks from the old Wild West and Mississippi riverboats. ...
    Cheryl was raised around gambling, and gamblers and found herself attracted to both. "I never wanted to amount to anything, and it worked out real good." She laughed, and then turned more serious. "I don't know, I guess I liked the spirit of the people, their attitudes. You meet a lot of sleaze-balls, but overall it's a pretty interesting group of people. You can teach a monkey to play cards, but the intuitiveness and the psychology of the moves—being able to read people—is what I enjoy."
—Barney Vinson, Las Vegas Behind the Tables! Part 2241
          'Cause, son, I made a livin'
          Outta readin' people's faces,
          And knowin' what the cards they held
          By the way they held their hands.
                                             Kenny Rogers, "The Gambler" 
application of
card metaphor

There is an intuitiveness to poker that reminds me of the gift of the word of knowledge: "... readin' people's faces,/And knowin' what the cards they held/By the way they held their eyes.

" He says, "Son, if you don't mind me sayin',/I can see you're outta aces./For a taste of your whiskey,/I'll give you some advice." According to church seminar material on spiritual gifts, the "word of knowledge" is used to give information to church leadership to help them make decisions, when they're "outta aces," I suppose.

It was back in the 70's I went to a seminar series at the Baptist church across the street from my house where they helped us recognize what our spiritual gift(s) were. I figured mine was the word of knowledge with a little bit of helps thrown in. A quarter of a century later at my present church's seminar, I don't recognize it as any different except my gift has grown more mature. And as "knowledge puffeth up," I can see how it's a good idea the Spirit not giving me additional gifts besides lending a hand sometimes in someone else's work. Nothing I can be proud of.

Anyway, there is this intuitive aspect to such a gift which helps to cover for the cessation of prophecy in the church—at least from what it once was in church history. Let me illustrate: In trying to remember names I once called "Larry" by "Frank" by mistake. He said that was okay because his father always called him Frank. So now I will call him either Larry or Frank depending on what mood I am in.

A prophet in the old sense might have told him his name with the hidden meaning his father had given him. He would have had a revelation and shared it with him. If it came from God, it would be accurate. Me, I just kind of bumbled into it, and unless Larry had told me, I wouldn't have a clue.

Now, a teacher on the other hand would have a well organized mind, a memory for a lot of names—as he would be calling on them in class. He wouldn't have a clue about his pupils' hidden names; he is a teacher after all, not a prophet. And forgetting a name would be an outright error. Me, I would know some names, but not others, and in bumbling around I could stumble on a hidden name. (I've done this more than once; I'm not making it up.)

The Bible is
often its own best commentary So as far as my gift goes, I would make a lousy teacher and a dismal prophet, but the word of knowledge has its own place in the church. In a time when the ministry of the prophet has been curtailed from what it was at one time, the guy with a bit of intuition might be a godsend when we get to fuzzy places in our study of the canon.

Another reason for the difficulty in understanding the epistles lies in the fact that the author on the whole presents his material, as in Galatians, II Corinthians, and Colossians, in positive, sharply formulated, contrasted points of view, claims and counter-claims. What these are may occasionally be discerned in the form of allusions, but not with sufficient frequency and often without sufficient clearness, in most cases without verbally and precisely reproducing the positions which he is attacking. We can therefore neither discern his opponents' attitude nor entirely understand the author's opposition to it. But what does this imply? Not, in any case, that the first readers could not understand them either. On the contrary, they must have seen the precise meaning of the allusions, the answers, the cut and thrust as it were, otherwise all this writing would have been just a sorry fencing with shadows. The occasional character of these writings becomes apparent from these observations; they were struck out on the spur of the moment, they had their origin in quite definite historical situations, they were anything but 'literature' meant for the future and for general publication or essays with a universal appeal. Hence, it is really letters that lie before us, written in reply to letters from churches (I Cor. 7:1).
—Johannes Weiss, Earliest Christianity242

The teacher does well with "'literature' meant for the future and for general publication or essays and commentary with a universal appeal" which some epistles are anything but. If we are missing the other side of letters written for the occasion, we no longer have prophets to fill us in. In that case intuition becomes valuable.

Mixed Marriage and the Word of God243
Does the New Testament really forbid Christians marrying unbelievers? It seems to me that as much or more "damage"—if it is damage—has been done by the evangelical insistence that Christians only marry born-again Christians than by the denial of priesthood to women. Is it hermeneutically sound? Does Jesus command it? Did Paul insist on it? Are the texts controversial, isolated or against the main spirit of the New Testament?
—Peter Jensen "Using Scripture" in The Bible and Women's Ministry: An Australian Dialogue (Acorn Press 1990) p. 15
It is time for an answer—or at least a Bah! Humbug!. The question is: does God's word written forbid the marriage of Christians to nonchristians? It is not whether such matches are wise, or dangerous, or to be discouraged. It is not about the appropriateness of any particular couple becoming man and wife. It is simply whether, as with adultery, homosexual sex, idolatry, greed and the other forbidden practices, God has told us that a Christian must not marry a non-believer. The Standard Answer: Don't get married but do stay married. Our standard answer is that God forbids a Christian to marry a non-Christian, though if a Christian finds him/herself married to non-Christian they ought to stay together. This is based on 2 Corinthians 6:14 "Do not be mismatched with unbelievers" (RSV and NRSV) or more literally "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers" (NIV and AV), together with the teaching of 1 Corinthians 7:12-13 "If anyone has a wife/husband who is an unbeliever, and she/he consents to live with him/her, he/she should not divorce her/him."

On this view the act of entering into a mixed marriage, but not the staying together, is sin. It is disobeying Scripture.

My misgivings
The more I have thought about it, the more misgivings I have had with the traditional teaching. Here's three.
  1. The context of 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 does not support its application to mixed marriages. The passage comes in the middle of Paul's appeal to the worldly Corinthians to open their hearts to him, their apostle. (See 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 and 2 Corinthians 7:2ff.) Why on earth would he interrupt his appeal to urge against mixed marriages? The final words of the passage, "let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God." (2 Corinthians 7:1) suggests that Paul is strongly appealing to his readers to turn from their conformity to the worldliness of their society in their dealings with him. It's like Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world." Not that this means that there is no relevance to broader questions including mixed marriages. But it is not declaring it to be sin.
  2. If 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 does directly apply to mixed marriages, then it proves too much. The passage does not say "don't get unequally yoked, but if you are it's OK" but rather "don't be unequally yoked" at any time, and in the words of 2 Corinthians 6:17 "come out from them and be separate from them". If this did apply to marriage in itself then Christians would have to follow Ezra's example in the times when mixed marriages were forbidden. He made no bones about the need for the Israelites to separate from their foreign wives and children. (Ezra 9 and 10)
  3. It is 1 Corinthians 7 which explicitly excludes the married relationship from the 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 ban on defiling contacts. If, as 1 Corinthians 7:14 says, the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband, how can entering into a mixed marriage be, in the words of 2 Corinthians 6:14, a partnership of righteousness and lawlessness or light and darkness? Stupid, maybe—-but not in itself sinful?
Someone may urge 1 Corinthians 7:39 against my misgivings. "[the widow] is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord." But does "only in the Lord" really mean, as the NIV (quite misleadingly) translates, "but he must belong to the Lord"? Couldn't it more likely mean something like, "but only as is appropriate for a Christian" or "remembering that she is a Christian." If so then the caveat is not irrelevant to the mixed marriage question and may well exclude many such alliances, but is not a blanket prohibition.

What's at stake here? The authority and place of Scripture, that's what. Let us teach and advise wisely, but not go "beyond what is written". (1 Corinthians 4:6)

Looking at Weiss:

Here in the section II Cor. 6:14-7:1 in rigorous fashion a thorough breach with heathenism is demanded. At the same time it is so clearly stated that it is heathenism itself with which Christians should have nothing more to do, that Paul could scarcely have interpreted this letter as is done in I Cor. 5:11, viz. that he had only required a break with Christian brethren who act in this way.244

Neither Weiss nor I want to use the "unequally yoked" passage to countermand what Paul allows—worldwise liaisons, mixed marriages—in First Corinthians.

I make the point that the equally yoked marriage relationship epitomized by Aquila and Priscilla gets no mention in Paul's reply to marriage questions, only in the salutations at the end on I Corinthians. He makes no commentary on their marriage as such. That's consistent with Weiss:

The Second Period of Paul's Missionary Activity
    7. Corinth245
Paul then arrived at Corinth alone (Acts-18), probably because he knew that he would find companions there. He got lodging and work with a fellow countryman and fellow craftsman, Aquila. In accordance with its cursory and casual method of recording events, the Book of Acts does not disclose to us whether or not the Jew from Pontus and his wife Priscilla (Prisca in I Cor. 16:19, Rom. 16:3) were already Christians when they came from Rome, or whether they were won over to Christianity at this time by Paul. In them, at any rate, the Apostle gained true and valuable friends. Both at Ephesus (Acts 18:26, I Cor. 16:19) and at Rome (Rom. 16:3), their well-to-do home was a base of operations for the church, and when Paul's life was threatened, they intervened at the risk of their own lives; hence all the churches of the Gentiles are under obligation to them (Rom. 16:5f). His taking up quarters with a Jew proves once more that he has not renounced his mission to his countrymen in the Dispersion, but has sought out the Gentiles from the synagogue as a base. At Corinth, however, this strategy came to an abrupt end, although, or it may be because he had won for the Gospel Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, and his whole household.

If "in them the Apostle gained true and valuable friends," and "all the churches of the Gentiles are under obligation to them," why did Paul not use them as an example of marriage, if equally yoked marriages are the end-all in Christianity? He mentioned Crispus as an example of baptism (I Cor. 1:14). Why no commentary on Priscilla and Aquila's marriage?

As for the widow, Paul would ordinarily caution us concerning her per, (I Tim. 5:11-12) "But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith." If Paul is of the mind that "when they [widows] have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith," then naturally, when he tells a widow that she may marry again whomever she pleases, his saying "only in the Lord" has no more import than "only in their first faith," meaning not wantonly against Christ. At least since his "only in the Lord" statement is given only to widows, that is how we must take it if we don't want to go beyond the scripture.

It might be really helpful to look at what Paul replied to the Corinthians regarding mixed marriage and instead of trying to be a teacher examining the Corinthian letters as if they were a treatise to be expounded upon—making haphazard connections that are hard to justify—, employ some enlightened intuition as to what the questions could have been he was responding to, since we no longer have prophets to tell us. We'd start by looking at a triad.

Parallel series of three units are so common in writing, especially in formal writing, that they form a definite trait of style. Such a series is called a triad:
        To delight in war is a merit in the soldier, a dangerous
        quality in the captain, and a positive crime in the
        statesman.--GEORGE SANTAYANA, Reason in Society, p. 84

Triads are prevalent throughout the Bible, e.g. (Judges 20:10) "And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victual for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel." (Matt. 1:17) " So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations." And then we would take the triads from 1st Corinthians 7 that we are studying, with the parallel structure Paul uses.

(1 Cor. 7:17)
                                       "|But |as God hath distributed to every man,
                                        |    |as the Lord hath called every one,
                                        |    |so let him walk. And
                                        |    |so ordain I in all churches."
(I Cor. 7:18-24)                        |
|"Is any man called                     |
| being circumcised?                    |
|                |let him not become    |
|                | uncircumcised.       |
|Is any called   |                      |
|in uncircum-    |                      |
|cision?         |let him not be        |
|                |circumcised.          |
  |Circumcision is nothing, and         |
  |uncircumcision is nothing, but       |
  |the keeping of the commandments      |
          of God. [is something]        | Let every man abide in the same calling
                                        | wherein he was called.
|Art thou called being a servant?       |
|  care not for it:                     |
|but if thou mayest be made free,       |
|  use it rather.                       |
  |For he that is called                |
  |    in the Lord, being a servant,    |
  |    is the Lord's freeman:           |
  |likewise also he that is called,     |
      being  free, is Christ's servant. |
Ye are bought with a price;             |
be not ye the servants of men.          | Brethren, let every man, wherein he is
                                        | called, therein abide with God."
The major triad here ties the marital state, the penis state, and the bondage state all together, Paul advocating one's status quo in all three cases. So, first we take a metaphor which is also a triad.
In the sixties of Ferray's youth, Haiti was so poor that its largest export was, literally, the blood of its people. Every day hundreds of poor Haitians would line up outside the clinic hoping for a chance to stretch out on a wooden plank and watch a pint of their life drain from their undernourished black arms into clear American jars. When the jars were full, the grateful donors would each receive a white Band-Aid and enough money to keep him in scraps until he was strong enough to come stand in the line again. ...
    Tourism had been another cruel joke. Rather than boost the economy, as the politicians had promised, tourism had actually driven the children of the poor out into the streets to barter their hard little bodies for a few desperately needed American dollars. No one had suspected that along with their money the tourists were giving Haitians something called AIDS.
    The colonel felt a burning behind his eyes as he recalled how those same American benefactors who had so generously f___ed Haiti's children had then decreed that because of AIDS, America would no longer send tourists to Haiti or buy Haiti blood, thus managing to make "the black Bangladesh"—as one witty congressman had phrased it—even poorer.
    And all that, Ferray reminded himself, steering carefully, was mere prologue for the next betrayal: America's unilateral decision, announced with typical Yankee arrogance, to return Haiti's former leader—that little gelding of a priest who had gotten himself expelled from both his country and his church—to the presidential palace. The festive, televised restoration was accomplished by a convoy of American helicopters landing on the palace lawn while squads of heavily armed American troops patrolled the streets and an armada of American warships clogged the harbor.
—Steven D. Salinger, White Darkness247

Now, first of all blood. What is that a metaphor for?

For the Israelites, blood was understood not just as a bodily fluid somehow necessary to life but as the location of life itself. Thus it is stressed repeatedly in the Old Testament that "the blood is the life" (Deut. 12:23) and "the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Lev. 17:11).

Let's let the poor return for Haitian blood represent interference with the believer's life whereby he doesn't gain adequate recompense for the trouble he has been caused.

Now let's look at marriage.

Marriage was one of the cornerstones of ancient Israelite society. It provided social stability, strengthened family solidarity, and produced children. Held up as the ideal state for both men and women, it was often used as a metaphor for the relationship between God and Israel.
    Marriage was also an economic arrangement, as families strove to improve their status by alliances with those possessing wealth and position. It was accepted that marriages were arranged by parents, after prolonged discussion of ancestry, property, and the size of the dowry and bride price. Nevertheless, a young man or woman usually had some choice in the matter, even if only to decline a particular partner. To keep wealth within the extended family, parents tried to marry their children to relatives.

Okay, so here we have extended discussions, and presumably some bargaining over marital arrangements. Undoubtedly among the Corinthians there were some who had questions of whether they should maintain the good deal that their parents had arranged for them or "decline a particular partner" for not being Christian. Paul after answering (in the positive) another question regarding the sanctity of marriage can be expected to answer this question too, before he goes on to talk about whether virgins should start such negotiations. He'd have to satisfy them in this as a "cohesive sense of the group was essential to a successful" church.

In answer to such a question, and within their cultural framework, Paul's answer makes perfect sense. (1 Cor. 7:17) "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches." The distribution of wealth and calling within families was the life blood of marital selection.

We do have one fine example of a couple in the Bible planning to marry, where one member receives Christ and the man is told to remain in his calling as his intended's future husband with what God has distributed. (Matt. 1:18-25) "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS."

Take another Jewish couple, let the man be the one who receives Christ and Paul be the angel telling him to remain as he has been called and distributed to, and you can readily see the application where he does not put her away privily but proceeds to marry her. The new sister in Christ from Singapore who came to me with her complaint that her fellowship had forced her to break up with her nonchristian fiancé had been engaged to him for nine years. I can't really see all that much difference between her situation and that of Joseph when one of them accepted Christ. The holy child in Mary's womb would sanctify her marriage to Joseph, so of course the espoused man could take her to wife. Paul's clear teaching that the offspring of a mixed marriage being holy means that the marriage itself is holy means that the espoused mixed couple may proceed to wed.

So say keeping one's availability for marriage intact according to family place and economics is a metaphor for a Haitian keeping his blood in his veins. If we want his blood we should recompense him for it, he being poor. If a good family member has become Christian and we want him to change his plans and marry only another Christian, that new intended should be beneficial to him.

Say, Joe would be the best match for Alice except that he has a drinking problem, so we are thinking of marrying her off to someone else. Then Alice becomes a Christian and suddenly marrying a Christian is made a priority. Then Joe converts and gives up drink. We marry them and they live happily ever after. That's like a Haitian getting top dollar for his blood.

But as many are called but few chosen, we are likely to have a diminished pool to choose from if we must pick a Christian (chosen) as opposed to the larger pool of the merely called that we witness to by our lives—especially if they marry one of us.

Say, it is real important to marry sister off within the family. She has a number of eligible cousins, so no problem. Then she becomes a Christian and she is told that she must marry only a Christian. Well, the only Christian in the family is a fourth cousin who is not even a good match and has no money. Such a union is barely acceptable within the calling of her family and is the pits for distribution of wealth. To promote such a union is like giving the malnourished Haitian barely enough payment for his blood to last until next time.

Our culture with respect to marriage and courtship has undergone profound changes since Bible times which we need to factor in when trying to apply the teaching of Paul.

The individualism that has been so devoutly upheld as the basic principle of American economic life has extended to marriage. Marriage is primarily an individual matter, largely devoid of any broader social implications. Like so many other aspects of American culture, this situation may be explained in part by the continuous and pervasive influence of the frontier.
    Under Old World conditions, young people were subject to family authority in all matters, including the choice of a mate. In the New World, this authority was undermined from the beginning by the fact that the young people moved westward and left the parental family behind, perhaps forever. Husbands and wives chose each other, rather than accepting their parents' decision. Individual considerations early became the primary criteria for a happy and successful marriage. ...
    The equality of frontier democracy made it theoretically possible for almost any man to marry almost any available woman. Class distinctions were at a minimum. ...
    Life in the New World emphasized freedom for the individual in all matters — freedom to move from place to place, to rise in the social scale, and to choose his own wife from all available candidates. ...
    The democracy of the frontier was supplemented by the individualism of the large city, which furthered the element of free choice and romantic love. The family in a peasant society (and to a somewhat lesser extent in an open agricultural society) is held together by property, economic interest, and social status. In the urban community these ties are relaxed and social relations are based upon more secular and ephemeral considerations, such as physical attractiveness, economic success, and fascinating "personality." Many of these same factors bring two persons together in romantic marriage and may also serve to draw them apart in romantic divorce.
With industrialization, the declining importance of extended families fosters growing individuality and more personal choice in courtship. Therefore young people need to gain extensive experience in courtship because they will have a greater say in selecting their partner. ...
    Despite some variation, marriage concludes a long period of dating. Courtship generally begins as group dating, in which several girls and boys interact together. In time, group dating gives way to couple dating. In the United States today, courtship frequently involves a period of sexual experimentation. ...
    Sociologists have long recognized that Cupid's arrow is aimed by society more than individualistic Americans like to believe. Even today, most married couples are about the same age and of the same race, religion, and social class. This pattern is called homogamy (literally, "like marrying like"), marriage between people who are socially alike.
    Homogamy is common, first, because people of one social background tend to interact in the same neighborhoods, attend the same schools, and frequent the same recreational settings. Second, a common socialization encourages similar tastes and interests, so that we are likely to be attracted to people with the same social backgrounds as we have. Third, parents and peers often discourage marrying an "outsider."
Dating is an American invention, and it is proving to be one of the more diffusible inventions of our civilization. It is being borrowed widely throughout the world wherever American films and American soldiers are to be found. ...
    Perhaps one can blame the American frontier for too much, but certainly it was responsible for banishing caste lines. A man on the frontier came to be measured by his performance; woman, by her ability to hold her own in meeting the challenge of an untamed environment. ...
    To the influence of the frontier as a factor in breaking class barriers and institutionalized marriage forms we must add the growth of urban industrial culture and of a mobile population — all developments that have made dating, as a way of getting acquainted, a necessary innovation in mate choice. ...
    In the horse-and-buggy days, "keeping company" was standard practice. Dating as it is now known was not a part of the accepted pattern of life. Taking a girl home from church was almost the equivalent of being pinned and engaged today. The reason was that everyone knew everyone else, their families, their reputations, their economic status, their character. When young people "walked out" together, they already knew a great deal about one another. Intentions could be and were more or less serious from the beginning. A boy and girl seen together more than once were assumed to be "courting."
    Dating is a social engagement between two people for the sake of the date itself, and without marital intentions. Dating has evolved as the natural and logical product of the anonymity, urbanization, individualism, secularization, and the emancipation of young women from chaperonage that has gradually come to characterize American society. While many of the transplanted families tried to maintain what they considered the "high standards" of their rural past, this usually meant isolation and loneliness for the young people of the family. After all, a girl in a large city who was forbidden to go out with anyone she had not known for years, usually found that, in effect, this meant she did not go out at all. ...
    It is possible for a person to date through high school and/or college without ever having any serious intention to select a mate. Although potentially any date may develop to the point of serious interest, dating as such is now a part of the normal social activity of young people. By dating, they size up members of the opposite sex and extend their close acquaintance with them long before they have any inclination of choosing a partner for marriage.

In our culture we may continue mixed dating if that is what we were doing when called.

Now for the second part of the triad: circumcision.

After God commanded Abraham to circumcise (cut the foreskin of) every male descendent eight days after birth, circumcision became the physical, external SIGN of the covenant between God and his chosen people (Gen 17:14). ...
    In New Testament times circumcision was the cause of the first major controversy within the fledgling church. As Greeks and other non-Jews heard the message about Jesus and believed, some Jewish Christian leaders told them, "'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.'" (Acts 15:11). Paul argued adamantly that the gospel message required that Gentiles be accepted without converting to Judaism.

Okay, we are all familiar with that controversy. It somewhat pains me to follow it through to the end. The Corinthians were a factious, divided church. When the controversy hit them, the Jewish Christians were bound to tell the Gentile Christians to get circumcised. The Gentiles at such a factious church would necessarily retaliate by telling the Jews circumcision was a thing of the past, we are not going to slice our foreskins, it is you who should go get the operation to become uncircumcised. Yes, they were so divided.

The subject of this chapter (7) is marriage and its relatives—celibacy, divorce, widowhood, courtship, virginity, etc. The understood question at this point is what to do about relations with the opposite sex that one has some investment in that could lead to marriage with the unsaved. The advice is "as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches." Paul draws parallels to the investment one has in his denomination—-circumcision vs. uncircumcision—, and in his occupation—slave vs. free—, where in both those cases also "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called ... let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."

As for becoming circumcised or uncircumcised, those would be very painful experiences for an adult male. Look what happened to Shechem's tribe in Genesis. When they got circumcised, they were slaughtered out of weakness. Reversing circumcision is even more painful. Not seeing it described in the Bible, I quote a secular source:

    "What are you trying to say?"
    Tarphon brushed the sweat from his forehead and continued, "I'm saying that we all want you to go to Antioch ... and win."
    "I also," Menelaus replied, preparing himself for bad news."
    "But Antiochus has decreed that no contestant may stand before him who is circumcised. It would be offensive to the spirit of the games."
    In the steamy room there was silence, and the two athletes were forced to look down at the visible proof of Menelaus' covenant with YHWH. In his first days in the gymnasium Menelaus had been conspicuous because of this sign, and other boys had taunted him, for he was the only Jew who came to the place, and he had fought alone; but with his later victories had come self-respect, and the other athletes now looked upon his circumcision with the impersonal interest they might have directed toward a boy who had lost a toe. To them Menelaus was three things: a Greek, a champion, a circumcised Jew—and the first two outweighed the last. But the Seleucid capital of Antioch had seen no Jewish athletes, and there the fact of circumcision would be scandalous as a profanation of the human temple. Menelaus understood all this even more clearly than Tarphon and it was he who suggested the solution: "In Ptolemais isn't there a doctor who can cover the sign?"
    "There is, but it's terribly painful."
    "If I were able to bear the pain?"
    "Then it could be done."
    Ptolemais in those days contained some sixty thousand people, including businessmen from Rome, who sent secret reports back to their senate, and as the young athletes from Makor watched these rich and varied persons at their work they came to understand how precious Greek citizenship could be and what a treasure they would gain for themselves could they become citizens, too. Of the sixty thousand, only five thousand were citizens, some thirty thousand were slaves, and the remaining twenty-five thousand were residents possessing no rights of voting or claims to consideration by the city-state. Jews fell mostly into the latter category, but as Tarphon explained to Menelaus, "This is the essential reason why it's prudent for you to visit the doctor. For if you win at Antioch, you will be made a full citizen of Ptolemais. Only citizens can compete in the Olympics at Greece."
    "Are you a citizen?" Menelaus asked.
    "I won my citizenship in the wrestling arena," Tarphon said with pride.
    "I shall be a citizen of this city," the youth vowed and he asked the gymnasiarch to lead him to the doctor.
    In a side street, not far from the theater, an Egyptian doctor accepted the two strangers, listened as Tarphon explained, then said, "Gymnasiarch, now you shall go, for this must be a matter between the boy and me." Tarphon nodded, gripped his protégé by the shoulder and whispered, "This is the path to citizenship," and he was gone.
    As soon as the door closed the Egyptian startled Menelaus by ripping aside a curtain to disclose the marble statue of an athlete, naked and powerful. Grabbing a knife the doctor took the statue's penis in his left hand and pretended to slice it with four sharp, deep cuts, crying, "This is what we do." He was watching not the statue but the patient and saw with satisfaction that although Menelaus flinched, and blood left his face, he did not look away but kept watching the marble penis so as to judge whether he could bear the pain. Satisfied that he could, he bit his lip and waited. "Under this pain," the doctor explained, "a Jew older than you, from Jaffe, committed suicide."
    "He was not seeking the prize I seek," Menelaus retorted, whereupon the Egyptian moved swiftly at him with the knife, seeking to terrify him, but the young Jew did not flinch.
    "I think you are ready," the doctor said, "and you may scream as much as you will, for it will exhaust the pain." And he made ready a table upon which the young man would lie, and called three slaves to hold him.
—James A. Michener, The Source254

I once knew a recent convert who was forced by the ministry she attended to break up with her fiancé of nine years. Of course that traumatized her. As the song says, "Breaking up is hard to do." Paul has ordained in all the churches that we do not have to break up with our unsaved boyfriends and girlfriends upon our own conversions but may abide as we are called. The important issue is not circumcision/uncircumcision or whether one is going with a Christian or not. "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God."

But the women weren't going to be a calm sea of tranquility amidst the debate. They weren't going to stomach having their men cut up in their privates one way or the other. We have one good example of marital strife over circumcision.

(Jasher 79:1-18)
  1. And in those days Moses was feeding the flock of Reuel the Midianite his father-in-law, beyond the wilderness of Sin, and the stick which he took from his father-in-law was in his hand.
  2. And it came to pass one day that a kid of goats strayed from the flock, and Moses pursued it and it came to the mountain of God to Horeb.
  3. And when he came to Horeb, the Lord appeared there unto him in the bush, and he found the bush burning with fire, but the fire had no power over the bush to consume it.
  4. And Moses was greatly astonished at this sight, wherefore the bush was not consumed, and he approached to see this mighty thing, and the Lord called unto Moses out of the fire and commanded him to go down to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to send the children of Israel from his service.
  5. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, return to Egypt, for all those men who sought thy life are dead, and thou shalt speak unto Pharaoh to send forth the children of Israel from his land.
  6. And the Lord showed him to do signs and wonders in Egypt before the eyes of Pharaoh and the eyes of his subjects, in order that they might believe that the Lord had sent him.
  7. And Moses hearkened to all that the Lord had commanded him, and he returned to his father-in-law and told him the thing, and Reuel said to him, Go in peace.
  8. And Moses rose up to go to Egypt, and he took his wife and sons with him, and he was at an inn in the road, and an angel of God came down, and sought an occasion against him.
  9. And he wished to kill him on account of his first born son, because he had not circumcised him, and had transgressed the covenant which the Lord had made with Abraham.
  10. For Moses had hearkened to the words of his father-in-law which he had spoken to him, not to circumcise his first born son, therefore he circumcised him not.
  11. And Zipporah saw the angel of the Lord seeking an occasion against Moses, and she knew that this thing was owing to his not having circumcised her son Gershom.
  12. And Zipporah hastened and took of the sharp rock stones that were there, and she circumcised her son, and delivered her husband and her son from the hand of the angel of the Lord.
  13. And Aaron the son of Amram, the brother of Moses, was in Egypt walking at the river side on that day.
  14. And the Lord appeared to him in that place, and he said to him, Go now toward Moses in the wilderness, and he went and met him in the mountain of God, and he kissed him.
  15. And Aaron lifted up his eyes, and saw Zipporah the wife of Moses and her children, and he said unto Moses, Who are these unto thee?
  16. And Moses said unto him, They are my wife and sons, which God gave to me in Midian; and the thing grieved Aaron on account of the woman and her children.
  17. And Aaron said to Moses, Send away the woman and her children that they may go to her father's house, and Moses hearkened to the words of Aaron, and did so.
  18. And Zipporah returned with her children, and they went to the house of Reuel, and remained there until the time arrived when the Lord had visited his people, and brought them forth from Egypt from the hand at Pharaoh.
(Exodus 4:24-26) "And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision."

Here the conflict over circumcision which was between Moses and his father-in-law spilled over to his marital relations and he ended up sending her away. She was squeamish over it.
Moses first meets Zipporah at a Midianite well—an auspicious beginning, as love blossoms at biblical wells (see ISAAC AND REBEKAH and JACOB AND LABAN'S DAUGHTERS). Wanted for murder in Egypt, the fugitive Moses happens to be sitting by the well when Zipporah and her six sisters come to water their father's flock. When shepherds run these maidens off, Moses rises to the women's defense and helps them water their animals.
    Zipporah's father Jethro (also called Reuel), gratefully taking Moses in, gives the Hebrew both a job (as a shepherd) and Zipporah to marry. She bears Moses two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, still children when Yahweh calls Moses to go back to Egypt and tell the Pharaoh to "let my people go." (On the Hebrew problem in Egypt, see ISRAEL.)
    On Moses' way to Egypt there occurs one of the most mysterious episodes in the Bible. Yahweh, for some reason, tries to kill Moses, and it is Zipporah who comes to the rescue: with a sharp stone she circumcises "her son"—which one is not specified—and holds the severed foreskin to Moses' genitals (euphemistically called "feet") while saying, "Surely a bloody husband art thou to me." As a result, Yahweh spares Moses, with Zipporah reiterating, "A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision."
    Scholars today can only guess at the meaning of this primitive passage. Is Yahweh angry enough to kill him because Moses—raised as an Egyptian—is uncircumcised, and does Zipporah therefore circumcise Moses vicariously? (See CIRCUMCISION: "SIGN OF THE COVENANT.") In any case Moses, thanks to Zipporah, escapes by the skin of his feet to fulfill his biblical mission. Zipporah and her sons live with Jethro while Moses leads his people out of Egypt, then they rejoin Moses in the desert. But after that Zipporah is not mentioned again—unless complaints by Moses' brother Aaron and sister Miriam about his "Cushite woman" (RSV, NRSV) refer to Zipporah (Numbers 12). "Cushite" in its broad sense would include "Midianite"; only in its narrow sense does it mean "Ethiopian" (KJV). (If Moses has a black wife, and if that is why Miriam complains, there is irony in the way Miriam is punished by Yahweh: her skin is turned a leprous snow-white.)
    Zipporah may be the Bible's most underrated woman. Were it not for the Midianite lady's swift action, saving the life of her husband Moses, the Pharoah might never have let those people go.
(Ex. 2:11-22; 4:19-26; 18:1-6)

This is a painful subject, to take circumcision down to the level of the Corinthian debate. Their bickering over whose leader was best must have descended to the level of, "Mine is bigger that yours," or to be precise, on whether to circumcise or uncircumcise their "yardsticks" for some perceived superiority. Somehow that affected the squeamish women among them (witness Zipporah and Moses) and ultimately their marriageability.

If we take the circumcision question too theologically here, we might miss the question to Paul, should we circumcise ourselves or go through the process of uncircumcision, the women being up in arms either way?

When Paul ironically calls them 'ministers of righteousness,' we can discern the whole system of legal religion as the basis of their program. To be sure, it is certain that they did not put forward the demand for circumcision, for the way in which Paul speaks in I Cor. 7:18 of the possibility that a Christian might let himself be circumcised, shows that this matter was not a subject of serious controversy at Corinth. He could not have spoken of it so quietly and incidentally if it had still been a question which threatened the very foundation of his Gospel. So, too, the question of the imposition of the rest of the Law is nowhere raised, not even in the discussion of meat offered to idols. Furthermore, it can hardly be assumed that far-reaching legal demands could still be made on the Gentile Christians in the name of Peter, after he had yielded to Paul at Jerusalem on the question of freedom from circumcision and later on had rejected the extreme Judaistic requirements.

Paul's only reply could be (I Cor. 7:18-20) "Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called." You would think that circumcision had nothing to do with marriage until you read about Zipporah—and then even the experts puzzle over that—unless they read a bit of the book of Jasher. But then you'd also think like the politicians, that bringing tourism into Haiti would not affect the demand for their blood. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The tourists introduced AIDS to Haitian prostitutes and that contaminated the blood supply and terminated the market for it. If being a Christian man means he has to mutilate his penis, he might find himself unwanted as a mate by the squeamish women in Corinth.

A modern application that I have made is that if one is forced to go through the trauma of breaking up with an intended, he might find himself emotionally unprepared to enter serious relations with someone else, even a Christian. A broken spirit and a bloody penis are both unattractive.

For the third part of the triad, about servitude, let's see if we can't figure out the question Paul was addressing.

A servant was one who worked as a household domestic, messenger, guard, or attendant. One of the most common Hebrew words for servant is also translated "slave." ... Maids could bear children on behalf of their mistresses. When Jacob's wife Leah could no longer conceive a child, her maid Zilpah bore two more sons for Jacob, and both babies were considered legally to belong to Leah.

A maid converting to Christianity and finding herself still in bondage to her master—bearing his children for him—might start comparing herself to a Christian freewoman and have some questions for Paul. A manservant might have some questions too.

(Exodus 21:1-6) "Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever."

Okay, say I am a Hebrew servant of another Hebrew. After two or three years of work he provides me with a wife who gives me a child or two. After six years my servitude will be complete and I may go free in the seventh, but the wife and child are to remain with my master. However, I have the option of making myself his bondservant forever, in which case I stay with my wife.

During my time of servitude I convert to Christianity. I have all kinds of family values. I also have some questions. Do I remain a bondservant forever in order to stay with my wife and children or do I accept my freedom after six years? You know, it would be really handy to have an apostle to ask my question to.

(I Cor. 7:21-24) "Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."

Of course, he is addressing just such questions, because how else could using the opportunity for freedom, otherwise to remain in one's calling be anything except Hebrew-Hebrew servitude where one normally is freed (sans wife the master provided) in the seventh year?

Paul in general treats the church as entirely Gentile (I Cor. 12:2), only occasionally (7:18) considering the Jewish minority which certainly existed. It was quite predominately composed of the dregs of the population, the lower elements which were without culture and social importance; slaves and laborers were in the vast majority; it was in fact the kind of population one would expect in a sea-port town.

Paul occasionally considered the Jewish minority which certainly existed, and the population was composed mostly of slaves and laborers. So what would becoming a Christian mean to a Hebrew servant, who had a wife provided by his Hebrew master, and who in the course of things would be set free in the seventh year, leaving behind his wife and children with his master, unless he at that time made himself a bondservant forever in which case he would remain with master and family? How could that question not have come up with the other marriage-related ones?

I am not saying my own commentary here applying the scriptural remaining in one's calling as being free in the seventh year because God has liberated us for him is the most direct one we could find, but it does have relevance: that just as God's grace can operate in two different ways for free and bond, so can it operate in two different ways for both mixed and unmixed marriages, and just as being Christ's freeman takes precedence over the supposed many objections of the brethren regarding the servant wife he has left behind, so the liberty of mixed dating and/or mixed marriage takes precedence over the vocal objections of the brethren.

The NIV by treating Paul's letters as some treatise that he wrote for the general public, mixes up some concepts that were not written to go together, and so the translators rewrite the expected requirement that a widow not marry wantonly against Christ to say something Paul never intended, but it goes along with the thinking of the more than nine out of ten Christian thinkers who get it wrong anyway. In the middle of this the NIV completely reworks the concept of virgin marriages to statements addressing modern situations. Thus the NIV's teaching on marriage matters is in large part worthless, and since recognizing an authority in spiritual matters would mean I had agreed that the NIV rules well in family matters, I must reject it spiritually as well.

Now, picture the reaction of my fellow Christians when I have been meeting with them a few years, they know my wife and children, and they know my master. Come the seventh year, I leave my position as servant, and my wife and child stay behind. I am a single brother again.

You think the brethren will just say, That's nice? No way! They will be up in arms telling me I can't do that. They will be quoting the Bible, quoting church fathers, quoting "experts," quoting their pastor. I would be snubbed and publicly ridiculed.

Or maybe not, if they understood the custom, but today I would be. It would be like the yankees reinstalling the president of Haiti, so would the brethren be up in arms. But his people and his church did not want him. Well, the servant doesn't want to stay in bondage and God says he may be free, so who are we to deny him that? See Jeremiah 34 for an example of Israelites trying to return properly freed servants to bondage. God didn't like it!

I'd like to say this situation doesn't apply today, but you'd be surprised. All I am applying it to here is the way Christians get totally up in arms about a Christian who does mixed dating or mixed marriage. Man, they come at him from every side and will completely overwhelm a new convert who doesn't understand the scriptures or his marvelous freedom in Christ.

The two passages they will use, about marrying only in the Lord and not being unequally yoked, do not justify their forcing a new convert to break up with his intended or stop mixed dating. Instead, to force them to break off their current relations with the opposite sex could hurt them, hurt them to the point of suicidal depression. That is why I refuse to give credence to the NIV as being a form of God's holy word, because to do so would be to contribute to its effect when Christians quote it as an authority to break people out of their callings, where it mistranslates Paul to have him against entering mixed marriages.

To remain in one's calling means not making a play to leave it; it means to "know when to fold 'em," as the most intelligent men in town would wisely do all around the table.

Let's take knowing when to fold 'em back to its scriptural form, (Prov. 30:29-31) "There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going: ... and a king, against whom there is no rising up." There is no rising up because he knows when to give in to his subjects. The enemy is at the gate of his castle, and the king will not be able to withstand him forever. If he surrenders, he has spared bloodshed, and this he must do if the situation actually calls for it, in which case it will "go well, yea, [be] comely in going."

Four Years Earlier ...
Penwyth Castle
Cornwall, England
May 14, 1274
SIR ARLAN DE FROME PULLED UP HIS DESTRIER and raised his mailed hand to halt the thirty-two men behind him, experienced and hard, mercenaries all. Horses whinnied, dust swirled, and Sir Arlan smelled fear. Maybe it was churned up in all that dust, or maybe it was in the very air itself. Sir Arlan was familiar with this smell and he liked it, particularly when it poured off a man who had something Sir Arlan wanted.
    Sir Arlan saw it in the faces of the men who lined the ramparts of Penwyth Castle, the tidy hold that would soon be his. The town Penwyth, nestled in the shadow of the stone walls of the keep, quickly became deserted when the people saw him coming. He hadn't let his men stop to loot. After all, it would become his village soon. The keep itself stood solid as the granite of Cornwall's cliffs, atop a rise that looked toward the sea off Land's End, a barren hunk of land that stood between Penwyth and enemies from the sea come to attack England. It was a keep of great strategic value, and Sir Arlan Knew in his bones that King Edward would be delighted to make him the heir, once, naturally, he already had Penwyth in his grasp.
    Penwyth Castle—would be his by conqueror's right. Once the girl was his wife—what was her name? Something strange. Lady Merryn, that was it, a silly name, romantic, a name the bards would doubtless sing ringing verses about. Once he married the girl, it would be another encouragement for the king to make him the Penwyth heir. There would be none to gainsay his ownership. He would take the title of Lord de Gay of Penwyth. And why not? His own name, given to him by a bastard father who'd hated him, held no prestige, no power. But Arlan de Gay—it was a good solid name, with at least four generations of steadfast reputation backing it up. It sat well. Sir Arlan smiled. The old lord wouldn't be alive that much longer, now would he? He wouldn't really want to stay around, would he, now that the next generation had arrived?
    He had no intention of razing Penwyth, since it would soon belong to him. He didn't want to kill the soldiers or the servants or the serfs who worked within the keep walls, only as many as it took to make others believe that he was indeed now their master and they owed him their lives.
    He looked around the fertile green land, at the flourishing crops, and smiled.
    Sir Arlan hoped the old buzzard who was sitting in the lord's chair had a lot of gold hidden away. Those men whom he couldn't entice to remain with him, he would have to reward or kill. He wanted no looting, no excessive violence.
    Aye, there was naught but an old man, an old woman, and a young girl. Fourteen was the age he'd heard, an excellent age for marriage, ripe enough for the marriage bed, young enough that after a couple clouts to the head she wouldn't ever think to flout him or his wishes. It was good.
    He looked up to see a score of faces lined up along the ramparts, staring down at him. He'd heard rumors about all the soldiers here at Penwyth, but he'd discounted them. He would soon see.
    He motioned for his lieutenant, Darrik, to ride forward to present his terms. Darrik had a magnificent voice, hard and deep, and it would carry all the way to the sea beyond Land's End.
    Arlan nodded to him.
    Darrik called out: "Lord of Penwyth, soldiers of Penwyth, tenants one and all. There is no heir to Penwyth. Sir Arlan de Frome agrees to wed with Lady Merryn de Gay and to entrust unto himself, as heir, the welfare and safety of all Penwyth lands until such time as Lord Vellan de Gay dies. Then Sir Arlan will become Lord of Penwyth.
    "No one will be harmed if the drawbridge is lowered and we are allowed to enter in peace."
    "Well done, Darrik," Arlan said even as he smiled at all the outraged shouts, the loud murmurings, men leaving the ramparts, doubtless to run down to tell Lord Vellan that there was a lion at the gate.
    A bit of time passed—not much, but Sir Arlan was an impatient man. His destrier fidgeted as his master grew more agitated.
    He spoke to Darrik in a low voice.
    Darrik shouted, "Open the drawbridge or your blood will be forfeit!"
    Another bit of time passed, and then came the loud winching of the wrist-thick chains as the drawbridge slowly lowered over the brackish water, deep and stagnant, and a good dozen feet wide. It was happening, just as he'd wanted it to. It was a sign from God.
    Never was a keep so easily taken. Sir Arlan led his men over the wide wooden bridge, looking upward at the portcullis that, in times of war, could drop down, its pointed iron bars embedded deeply into the earth, or spearing into an enemy. They rode through the outer court, narrow and thick-walled, through a double set of open gates into the inner bailey. Scores of people had gathered there, all of them still, staring at him and his men, children clutched to parents' sides, animals quiet and wary, heads raised, as if scenting the danger. Everything was normal, it seemed to Arlan, except for the silence. Well, silence wasn't a bad thing—it showed respect for the new lord.
    There wasn't much dust for the horses to kick up in the inner bailey. Arlan smiled when he saw Lord Vellan de Gay standing on the bottom stone stair of the keep. His granddaughter stood behind him, nearly out of sight, but he glimpsed her peeking around her grandfather to see the man who had so easily taken their keep. Her soon-to-be husband. Aye, it was good.
    Lord Vellan didn't look away from the big man, covered in chain mail, who was riding straight at him. At the last moment, Sir Arlan pulled his powerful destrier to a halt not six feet from Lord Vellan.
    "My lord, I am Sir Arlan de Frome of Keswick.I am here to save you from marauders who would raze your keep and kill all your people."
    There was a frozen moment of silence, then, "Doubtless I am blessed that you came to save me," said Lord Vellan.
    An impertinence, but Sir Alan let it pass. He was an old man and old men had their pride, even when they had nothing else. Sir Alan said, "You have need of an heir, my lord, and your granddaughter has need of a husband. You now have both standing before you."
    "My son died but a fortnight ago," said Lord Vellan. "You made good speed to get here."
    "Aye, I did. I wanted what was mine. Where is my future wife?"
    Lord Vellan said, "Before you see my granddaughter, Sir Arlan, before you announce that you are here to become my heir, I feel it only fair to warn you."
    Sir Arlan laughed. "Warn me?" "Warn me about what?"
    Lord Vellan said, his voice lowered just a bit, "For hundreds of years, this land, all the different fortresses that have stood here, all have been protected by a curse fashioned by the ancient Celtic Druids. These Druid priests held the honor and safety of this land dear. Never in the hundred years that this Penwyth fortress has stood have these lands been invaded and taken. Indeed, none of the fortresses that existed on this site in the past fell to an enemy. They weathered and fell on their own over the centuries. But no man brought them down, because this place was protected by the ancient Druid curse."
    "The Celtic Druids? Those blood-covered monsters died out hundreds of years ago, old man. I have no fear of any Druid priests or their prophecies. You only claim that none of the fortresses built on this site were conquered. You have no proof that this is the case. Aye, I think you are lying, old man, and it angers me."
    "I am not lying, nor am I speaking of an ancient prophecy. I am speaking of a curse. There is no curse more potent than a Druid curse."
    Sir Arlan heard some movement behind him, nervous movement by some of his men, the superstitious fools. He said, his voice loud and laced with scorn, "I have heard of no such curse. A curse from the Celtic Druids? That is nonsense, and you know it. I will not be frightened away by this stupid tale."
    "Few have heard of the curse, that is true," said Lord Vellan. "But that doesn't make it any less real. Would you like to hear the curse? It has come down whole and pure through countless centuries of strife and chaos."
    Sir Arlan dismounted and handed the reins to one of his men. "No, I don't wish to hear any blasphemy. I care not about a curse that doesn't exist save in your ancient brain. We will come inside, I would inspect my new great hall. I would meet your priest, for I wish to be married before the sun sets. Where is the girl?"
    A skinny child, dressed in boy's trousers, a loose woolen shirt, hair scraped back in tight, thick braids, stepped around Lord de Gay. The old man grabbed her arm, as if to hold her back, but she shook him off and stood straight and tall in front of Sir Arlan.
    "I am Merryn de Gay."
    "And I will be your husband come nightfall," he said, reminding himself that she was still a child, and surely she would improve with age. He walked up the steps and looked at her more closely.
    She wasn't at all appetizing. But as long as he could fit himself between her skinny legs and breach her maidenhead, nothing else mattered. Sir Arlan didn't have any problem at all with this scrap of humanity becoming his bride. He doubted a gown would make her any more toothsome, since she had no breasts or hips to draw attention, not a single curve on her small child's body. On the bright side, he didn't think she could get any worse.
    "Aye," he said, after looking at her, "I will be your husband by eventide. You may address me as 'Sir Arlan' or 'my lord.'"
    "I will not address you as anything. You are an intruder. If we hadn't let you in, you would have been perfectly satisfied to kill everyone. You are here to claim what was my father's and is now mine. Go away or the curse will kill you. The Druid priests who placed the curse owed a great deal to my ancestors."
    Sir Arlan heard his men speaking quietly behind him. He said, "I care not about such nonsense. There is no curse, or if there is, it is as meaningless as a goblet of wine that disappears quickly down a man's gullet."
    She said very softly, leaning toward him so that she wasn't more than an inch or two from his face, "It is really a very simple curse, Sir Arlan. If you don't leave, you will die."
    "Ah, so long ago Druid priests knew of you, Lady Merryn? Mayhap they saw you in the dead eyes of one of their sacrifices?"
    "Mayhap," Merryn said.
    Lord Vellan grabbed her hand and nearly threw her behind him. He had rich white hair and an even more luxuriant white beard that cascaded down his chest to come to a point just above his wide leather belt. He yelled, "Listen, all of you. Sir Arlan may dismiss the ancient curse, but it is quite real. The Witches of Byrne, who are descendants of the Druids, have blessed it. They have claimed this land to be held apart from violence and strife. Aye, for hundreds upon hundreds of years Penwyth has been protected by forces mightier than a few paltry men astride horses."
    Lord Vellan heard a man ask, "What is the curse?"
    Lord Vellan shouted, "You see my granddaughter, her red hair, her green eyes? She is the image of an ancient priestess who once lived on this site hundreds upon hundreds of years ago. The story goes that an enemy came to that ancient Penwyth and claimed both her and the fortress. The Druid priests collected here, outside the wooden fortress walls, and pronounced the curse. The enemy died a dreadful death, Sir Arlan."
    More murmuring voices. "What death? What happened?"
    "The enemy fell into a cesspit and strangled to death on waste and rot, all his men looking on."
    "You weave a ridiculous tale, Lord Vellan! A cesspit with his men not aiding him? There is no damned curse!"
    Lord Vellan smiled. "Listen, all of you!

     "The enemy will die who comes by sea.
     The enemy by land will cease to be.
     The enemy will fail who uses the key.
     Doubt this not,
     This land is blessed for eternity."
    "What key? What key is there to use? What is this, old man?"
    Lord Vellan shrugged. "I simply recite the ancient curse to you. If there is a key, its meaning is long forgotten. But you come by land, Sir Arlan, and that means you will die if you do not leave peacefully."
    Before Sir Arlan could spit, Lord Vellan called to the men grouped behind him, "I do not know how he will die because no one has ever before taken Penwyth, but Sir Arlan will die unless he leads all of you away from here at once. Will the rest of you die as well? I don't know."
    Sir Arlan didn't spit. He knew his men were frightened; perhaps he felt a niggling bit of fear himself, but it didn't matter, and so he threw back his head and laughed, loud and deep. "That's it, old man? That's the stupid curse? I heard nothing about your precious granddaughter in the curse."
    Lord Vellan shouted, "This is the rest of the curse. Look at my granddaughter, and know it is true!

     "Maiden's heart, pure as fire
     Maiden's eyes, green as desire
     Maiden's hair, a wicked red
     Any who force her will soon be dead."
    There was utter silence. Lord Vellan saw that Sir Arlan's men were afraid. Good. He said, "It is simple and straightforward, Sir Arlan. Two parts of it. What more need you?"
    Merryn said, "A curse should be simple because men are required to understand it."
    Sir Arlan raised his mailed hand, his fingers closed into a fist to strike that insolent child's face. No, he would hold to his control. He smoothed out his hand. He was the one with the power. Aye, he had the strength, the might of his men, all loyal to him—or they'd better be. "I see," he said. "And you pretend that you are a witch, Lady Merryn? You believe that this curse was prepared especially for you? Or all green-eyed witches with red hair throughout the years?"
    The girl shrugged and looked at him as if he were dirt beneath her boy's boots.
    Merryn said, "There is a girl in every generation who has red hair and green eyes, going back to the beginning of time."
    He said, "Nonsense. You have no way of knowing that."
    Lord Vellan said, "It is true that none of it is written down. The curse has passed down over the years until at last my grandfather wrote it down so it would never be lost. Had it been lost, why, then you would have done what you have done, and died, without due warning."
    Sir Arlan laughed again. He stood very close to Lord Vellan de Gay, on the same step. They were the same height and that surprised him. Lord Vellan was an old man, shoulders rounded, thin as a snake, aye, even scraggly he was, despite all that thick white hair, and he should be bowed over, no taller than Sir Arlan's armpit. But no, the old man was staring him in the eye.
    Sir Arlan said, "I am now your heir, Lord Vellan. I am not your enemy to take Penwyth from you. Will that please the curse makers? Aye, your goodwill toward me will result in your remaining the lord of Penwyth, at least its figurehead, for perhaps longer than you deserve. Aye, I will let you live, let you continue to drink your fine wine and pretend to power over the souls who work and live at Penwyth, but know that I will be the one to rule, and this girl here will be my wife. And King Edward will be pleased."
    Lady Merryn de Gay said to the man whose face wasn't unpleasant, whose breath wouldn't fell a horse, "If you do this, sir, you will die. My great-grandfather told my grandfather that the Druid curse came from the sacred stone circle that stands in the plains of southern Britain. I know no more about it."
    "Enough! Go and have your ladies make you resemble a female. And have a wedding feast prepared. I want all in readiness by the setting of the sun."

Okay, that does not seem to be an auspicious start to a marriage, those four years ago, so let us see how it turned out.
Penwyth Castle, Cornwall
May, 1278
"And what did your men think when at four different times in the past four years, landless knights have come to lay claim to Penwyth?"
    Lord Vellan said, "They thought it absurd to fight. They thought it efficient to let the curse deal all the blows for them. And so it happened as we all prayed it would. All of them, dead by the curse, and all of us still here."
    Bishop said slowly, "So you allowed all the invaders into the keep? You offered no resistance at all?"
    "No, I did not. I opened the gates, welcomed them, warned them. None of them went to his death without due warning. I read each of them the curse to be certain they understood. I entreated them to leave and take their men with them. When they refused, I provided them fine hospitality. I wanted none of our people hurt as many are in the rage of battle. I wanted no siege." Lord Vellan shrugged. "It is unfortunate, but none of them believed me."

I would think there is a lesson in there. In the story of fiction the Druidic curse, strengthened by the witches, is very powerful and lasts indefinitely even if people don't believe it and even if they don't even understand it. Well, in the tradition of contrasting comparisons, we may say that what the Apostle Paul ordained in all churches, (1 Cor. 7:17) "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches."is the word of God, strengthened by the prophets who back then could explain its full import, which is definitely more powerful than any Druidic curse we could imagine. Even if we don't understand it all, and even if some don't believe it, this what has Paul ordained in all churches is still in effect. We don't have to emotionally traumatize the new convert by forcing him to break up with his intended or whatever; just as the lord of the manor could lower the drawbridge and trust in the curse to protect him, so we remain in our callings and trust in the word of God.

Okay, let's take another example of knowing when to fold 'em. I sometimes go to some free church sponsored meals around town. Last Thursday I was eating my dinner at a table with a couple vegetarian girls, real peaceful types, don't believe in corporal punishment for children. Suddenly at a table across form ours a man hit a woman. The church leaders who were singing on stage said some words to him, another fellow had some choice words, some blows were thrown, the leaders escorted him off the premises, while the vegetarians got up and went to the far side of the room to avoid the fight. When they returned they heaped praise on me for my wise course of action.

Did I tell off the fellow? No. Well, did I help escort him off the premises? No, didn't do that either. Did I scoot away from the area? No. Well, what did I do? Why I was busy masticating my food. Didn't bat an eyebrow. Knew when to fold 'em. Didn't get involved.

Way I saw, it the guy was not especially big, but the girl is nicknamed Amazon, for a reason. She is bigger than the biggest guy in the place. If a guy wants to start hitting women, he might make an easier selection. Furthermore, he explained, and she confirmed, right away, that he was her brother. Ah, it was some kind of family thing. And he was leaving right away, and she was acting docilely chastised—a big change from her usual snotty demeanor, even to me on one occasion. I was impressed with her good spirit all of a sudden.

The two leaders stopped their gospel song to say, "Not in here!" Well, it was just a family thing and he was leaving anyway, and what about the girl's snotty attitude she has in here which was being corrected? At any rate, their remark only drew attention to the situation and one of the regular drunks seeing it chose some ill considered remarks which netted him a couple slaps before the guy continued his exit. The two men from the stage jumped down to escort him, and the two women at my table got up to avoid the fight.

What fight? There was no fight other than the one everyone else was creating. Even getting up and away from the area helped define it as a fight in the cleared space. My best response was just to stay seated and chew my food. I was the hero.

The uprising doesn't make the king look good. If the two men had simply continued playing their guitars and singing, it would have been a situation going well.

Likewise, to eliminate the men's TLC group after I had something going down with the publisher of the book we were studying (same publisher for the NIV) only helped define an incident where the comely response is not to bat an eyelash. He was her brother. Sometimes brothers do that, and there might be a reason. At any rate she was bigger, and me taking on Zondervan is reminiscent of David and Goliath, a challenge for even a prophet, and all I have is the word of knowledge, and in this case the goods on them.

Okay, let's try an example of a policeman who does well to not enforce the law he sees someone breaking. In my library book a policeman is after a serial killer. One of the victims whom the bad man drugs as a perverse ritual gets brought paralyzed to the hospital by the perpetrator. The cop wonders why the man passed by two closer hospitals to bring her to this one. He discovers by looking at the sample of her blood taken on arrival which contained the same sedative that the anesthesiologist used on her later which would have masked the earlier dosage, that he might be the criminal. It was someone with medical knowledge, and it turns out that he didn't have a good alibi for any of the murders. That plus a lot of circumstantial evidence convinces him, but he has nothing solid and must drop it.

Then one night the vegetable girl, who can communicate only by blinking her eyes at letters on a chart, remembers something the perp said just before she went under and she starts to spell it out for the cop. She gets to SLEEPYHE... when the cop rushes out of the room. He has remembered that a previous year when he had his ulcer operation, the same anesthesiologist had said, "Goodnight sleepyhead" just before he went under. He knew he was right and dashes off to make the arrest.

Well, it turns out that it was the anesthesiologist's son—who'd had a couple years of pre-med—who was the bad guy, and who had been leaving clues to try to implicate his father, as he knew when his father wouldn't have an alibi and also various other circumstantial evidence, and he looked enough like his father to fool the eyewitnesses, and he drove the same car as his dad, in fact his dad's old car. His father used to say the thing about sleepyhead at bedtime, and he had picked it up. Anyway, the cop doesn't know all this, but as he arrives to arrest the old man, the son is staging a kidnap at his father's door to implicate him, and the cop spots him and takes off in hot pursuit, only he doesn't have his radio with him.

The beat and the speed increasing and rain lashing the windshield, and Thorne's hands on the wheel guided solely by the movements of the two red lights ahead of him. His eyes fixed on those two red lights, which flash as the Volvo brakes suddenly, like the eyes of some sleek, dark monster, which roars and is away from him quickly as the Volvo jumps traffic lights and he has no choice but to do the same.
    From the corner of his eye he sees the blue and red of the traffic patrol car to his left, and a thousand yards farther on the second one pulls out in front of him.
    The last thing he needs. A pair of f___ing black rats, working in tandem.
    As Thorne slowed down, hammering his fists on the steering wheel, he watched the eyes of the dark monster ahead of him get smaller and smaller.
    When the constable, a fat f__k with a pockmarked face and a walrus mustache, finally sauntered up to the Mondeo's passenger door, the first thing he saw was an ID pressed hard against the window. The first thing Thorne saw when he removed it was the smug look the constable gave to his colleague in the patrol car: look what we've got.
    Thorne took a deep breath. This was going to be interesting.
    The walrus made a casual winding motion with his forefinger. Window down. Thorne counted to three and wound down the window like a good boy.
    "Detective Inspector Thorne. SCG West." There was no recognition. Thorne certainly hadn't been expecting a tug on the forelock and a polite "On your way, sir," far from it, but this was going to be a bad one.
    Age-old animosities. Uniform and plainclothes. Anyone and Traffic.
    "Fifty miles an hour plus, through a red light, in pissing rain. Not clever, was it?" The estuary accent trying its very best to drip with sarcasm.
    "I'm in pursuit of a suspect," said Thorne flatly. The constable turned casually to watch the traffic disappearing into the distance and smiled, the rain dripping off the peak of his cap. Thorne tried to keep his temper. "I was in pursuit of a suspect."
    "You were driving like a twat."
    Thorne was out of the car, the red mist ready to come down. "Is this how you normally deal with members of the public?"
    Another sly smile, another glance to his mate in the car. "You're not public, are you?"
    Thorne stood, staring straight ahead, the rain running down the back of his jacket. He thought about the killer's first note again. He thought about Anne lying across leather seats, unable to move. Bishop was probably playing classical music ... F__k, they'd probably be there by now.
    Jesus f___ing Christ...
    "Have you been drinking, sir?"
    "What?" Starting to lose it.
    "Simple enough question. You f___ers obviously think you're above the law—"
    Thorne grabbed his jacket, spun him around, and pressed him hard against the car, sending his cap tumbling into the gutter. From the corner of his eye, Thorne could see the other one step out of the patrol car. Without even turning to look, he shouted through the rain, "I'm a DI, now get back in the f___ing car."
    The Walrus's mate did as he was told. Thorne turned his attention back to the man himself, leaning in close, the rain beating down on the two of them, nose to nose at the side of the road. Passing cars honked their approval, the drivers of Brixton pleased to see a copper getting what was coming to him from an innocent motorist.
    Thorne raised his voice just enough to make himself clearly understood over the noise of the rain, spattering off the PC's reflective plastic coat. "Listen, you fat, scabby arsehole, I'm getting back into my car now and driving away, and if you so much as raise an eyebrow, you'll be pissing blood for a week. That was a threat. The next bit is an order. Are you following this?"
    The walrus nodded. Thorne released his grip but only slightly. "This is an instruction, understand? Get back into your car right now and get on your radio. I want you to contact someone at Operation Backhand out of Edgware Road. You need to get hold of DC Dave Holland..."
—Mark Billingham, Sleepyhead261

I seem to have stumbled over ancient animosities, the kind where prophet is pitted against teacher and I happen to be using an intuitive approach. At any rate, I cannot convict Zondervan on a hunch, but at the men's TLC group I caught the publisher in a real fault—against Walt Disney—and I was after them. The excellent response from the traffic cop was to tell him to carry on, and likewise from my church where in fact the preacher had early written to me saying this church was my church which I could use to fulfill my needs, here I needed but a local church to witness my complaint after the two (men's TLC) witnesses per Matt. 18, and the grass-roots church being the main witness of which we're just a part.

That was not problematic—save for the overreaction of closing down a TLC group. It is the second part that concerns me somewhat, that he needed backup. I had asked my preacher to use the old versions in the traditional service, but he felt it best to keep mostly with the NIV. Fine, but I still cannot in good conscience treat it as God's word.

So what happens is I've been trying to help a new convert get settled into good Christian habits, visiting him from time to time at his home, explaining how to read the Bible a little bit every day, starting in the gospels. Just basic stuff. He has only ever read the King James Version all his life, and it is the only Bible he understands, so he has told me, which is fine with me, and he's had me toss out a lot of Bibles people have given him which he doesn't want, from Today's English Version, to the NIV, to the New World Translation. All well and good.

Then the other day at fellowship time he shows me a NIV someone had given him, which he thinks he likes and he wonders what I think. I recommend against it, but he seeks an elder's second opinion and then is flustered because I had not given him the same advice as his elder. At this point I want to key it down and go over it, but the woman sitting next to us pipes up for the NIV and there is no quick and easy way to redeem the situation.

What I had wanted as backup was for the preacher to continue using the traditional versions at the traditional service. First of all if the brother were more exposed to the KJV, he'd be more inclined to continue liking it. If he said something about the NIV, I could point out that you still use the KJV in the traditional service, so perhaps he should continue with that familiar version. Then if he asked the elder, I am sure he could point out that the NIV leaves out a lot of stuff. This is no secret, and I am sure he is aware of it. On one of the local gospel stations the speaker remarked that people refer to the NIV as the "Non-Inspired Version" because it leaves out so many verses. A sister mentioned one case in particular to him in class, from her interlinear Bible. And if a woman sitting by us overhears, she might remind herself that she is not supposed to be teaching men, but to keep her trap shut and ask her husband at home. Then I would have retained the guy's confidence, but without backup I can't do much.

As a third example of knowing when to fold 'em, take Rush Limbaugh. He gets on people's cases produces commentary against groups he doesn't care for. He has whole skits worked out to mock them, many deservedly so. A while back he was really ridiculing the politically correct thinking about American Indians. Funny and insightful.

Then somebody wrote him a letter saying that while the politically correct thinking about Indians is sometimes ludicrous, the Indians themselves in this country have gotten a pretty raw deal, and his diatribes are only making their case worse. He read the letter to us on the air, agreed with the premise, and stopped his spiels on the subject. He knew when to fold 'em.

I am thinking about that Singapore student. She was a weak member of society. Being a woman she started out with not much power. She was here in America trying to adjust to a new culture, and she was distracted by all her studies. She became a Christian. Paul had ordained that she remain as she was called, engaged to a fellow for nine years, planning on marriage. The ministry she was a part of convinced her to break up with her fiancé after they showed her in the New International Version where Paul said a widow could only marry someone belonging to the Lord. That made her do it, albeit reluctantly.

If we continue to honor the NIV, we share the guilt for such travesties. Rush had plenty of subjects to lay into; he didn't need to make the Indian's plight worse. We have all kinds of Bibles that leave Paul's sayings more or less in tact. Why go to the NIV?

I can't figure it out, and ultimately the preacher is answerable to God, and I'll just struggle as best I can with a real Bible, but if I don't get backup, there are a lot of little things I won't be doing.


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2003, Earl S. Gosnell III

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this paper--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright in most cases, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.

I have used material from a number of sources for teaching, comment and illustration in this nonprofit teaching endeavor. The sources are included in a notes file. Such uses must be judged on individual merit, of course, so I cannot say how other uses of the same material might fare.

Any particular questions or requests for permissions may be addressed to me, the author.

Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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