Articles Archive -- Topical Index -- Textual Index

by Al Maxey

Issue #830 -- October 2, 2021
Mythology ... is an intuitive form of appre-
hending and expressing universal truths.

Arnold J. Toynbee [1889-1975]

Behemoth and Leviathan
Biblical Monsters: Myth or Reality?

Charles Kenneth "C. K." Williams (1936-2015), an acclaimed American (although of Russian descent) poet, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in the year 2000, made the following astute observation: "The world of myth is always just behind us ... we keep groping back with our foot for it like first basemen." Actually, it is more apparent with the runner who has made it to first base, and who is then tentatively inching away from the safety of first base, but always with a "foot back" ready to flee to safety. We humans love our legends and myths, and more often than we might like to admit, the line between myth and reality becomes rather blurred. We do not have to look very far to find examples of the fact that the foundational roots of some of our cherished convictions and strong beliefs are mythological in nature, and it is hard for us to step away from them: our feet are always reaching back to that "safe" base of belief. The traditional, popular views of Satan and Hell are just a couple of good examples. There is very little basis in Scripture for some of what we teach about these two, yet there is ample affirmation for our views in ancient pagan myths. Jesus Himself even tapped into some of those myths in His parable of the rich man and the poor beggar named Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31; see my study of this in Reflections #28). There is nothing wrong, by the way, with someone employing such legends and myths to convey certain aspects of ultimate truth. I deal with the justification of this practice, which Jesus used, in my article titled "Quoting Non-Canonical Texts: Is it a Sin to use Extra-Biblical Texts in our Preaching and Teaching?" (Reflections #575). This methodology not only uses these extra-biblical texts, but also some of the myths and legends contained in them (as noted and illustrated in the above article).

There is a danger associated with the use of such myths, however, for if we are not careful, these myths themselves can in time become our reality, which some too often promote and defend to the point of fanaticism. Needless to say, when this happens, the promotion and defense of actual truth and reality is greatly impaired. Senator James William Fulbright (1905-1995), an American politician, academic, and statesman, observed, "We are handicapped by foreign policies based on old myths rather than current realities" [a speech before the U.S. Senate on March 27, 1964]. Although a people's legends, fables, and myths certainly play a role in their cultural, societal, and spiritual development, they must never be confused or conflated with objective realities and eternal truths. There is a distinction, and that distinction, when blurred, can be disruptive and even destructive. This especially holds true when we narrow our focus to spiritual truths and realities. As previously noted, the Bible does indeed make use of figurative language, symbols, fables, shadows and types, and now and then even myths that have some connection with the non-Jewish and non-Christian peoples and cultures of this world. All of these can be effectively employed to convey God's Message to mankind; they can indeed be parabolic in both form and function. Yet, care must be exercised in their use. With this in mind, I wrote a couple of articles that could prove helpful here: "Figures of Speech & Thought: Creative Communicative Building Blocks" (Reflections #356) and "Challenge of Figurative Language: The Rules and Guidelines for Interpreting Figurative Language in the Scriptures" (Reflections #360).

In this present study, I want to take a look at a couple of strange creatures that are mentioned in the Old Testament writings, for they have been the source of much confusion over the centuries. Were these creatures real, or were they mythological in nature? Even to this day, biblical scholars are divided on the matter, and speculation abounds. The two "creatures" are Behemoth and Leviathan. The animal named Behemoth appears only one time in the Bible: Job 40:15, although that word itself is used a number of times in the OT writings to describe a general class of animals. The Leviathan appears by name six times in the Bible: Job 3:8; 41:1; Psalm 74:14; 104:26; Isaiah 27:1 (twice). Behemoth and Leviathan appear together in God's dialogue with Job (chapters 40-41), with lengthy descriptions given of each creature. Except for the passage in Isaiah's prophecy, all biblical references to these two animals are found exclusively in just two of the OT books of Hebrew poetry: Job and Psalms. Let's notice each of these creatures and the Bible passages in which they are presented to us. [NOTE: For a similar study, in which there is some debate between myth and reality, you might like to read my article titled "There were Giants on the Earth: Who were the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4?" (Reflections #439). I think you'll find this topic quite interesting.]


As the book of Job draws near its end, we find Job and God in a dialogue with one another, although it proves to be rather one-sided! Job had some questions for God, as well as a few complaints. Understandably, he was not overly pleased with how life was going for him, so he went to the source of his life: God. He wanted some answers! Instead, he got a powerful message from his Creator on some of the finer points of Divine Sovereignty. God points out to Job some of the wonders He has created, which He managed quite nicely without the help or advice of Job. In a word, the Lord God was reminding Job who was in charge. Job's place in all this was not to question or reprove God, but to trust God. That's a hard lesson to learn, not only for Job, but for each of us as well.

As God pointed out to Job some of His creative work, He said, "Behold now, Behemoth, which I made as well as you" (Job 40:15a). God then gives a description of this animal in verses 15b-24, after which He brings to Job's attention yet another mighty example of His creative power and divine sovereignty: Leviathan (Job 41:1), an animal that God then describes in quite some detail in verses 2-34. "In the close of the argument, God appeals to two animals as among the chief of His works, and as illustrating more than any others His power and majesty: the behemoth and the leviathan" [Dr. Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. Following these two examples, along with all the Lord had said prior to them, Job finally gets the message!! "Therefore, I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6).

Who, or what, is this creature known as "Behemoth"? (We'll look at "Leviathan" separately below). "The identification of this behemoth has always been a great difficulty with commentators. The word in Hebrew is really the natural plural of behemah, which means domestic cattle" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 4, p. 70]. The intensive plural in Hebrew "signifies cattle in general, as distinguished from all wild or carnivorous animals" [Dr. Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 3, p. 185]. There are a number of places in the OT writings where this word appears in the plural, and it's almost always translated "cattle" or "beasts." In this verse (Job 40:15), however, it appears as a singular, which is most unusual (although a few commentators believe it should be regarded as a plural here as well). "Here the singular ending has an intensive force meaning the beast par excellence; that is, the beast becomes a monster" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1050]. In other words, this word is being used as a singular noun, which seems to rise above the general nature of the plural ("cattle"). Thus, this word clearly refers to some specific creature. The verbs and pronouns that follow in this passage are also singular, "hence modern critics almost unanimously regard the word here as designating some particular animal" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 7 - Job, p. 642]. Over the centuries, scholars have speculated on the identity of this "beast," with such possibilities as the rhinoceros, the elephant, the mammoth, the brontosaurus, and even large swine being suggested. The vast majority, however, believe the term refers to the hippopotamus, which is reflected in a few versions of the Bible (although most versions simply read "Behemoth," leaving the term untranslated):

"The hippo was certainly known in biblical times" [The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 511]. Some of the ancient Jewish scholars believed that Behemoth, like Leviathan, was one of "the great sea monsters" fashioned on the fifth day of creation (Genesis 1:21). Other Jewish scholars suggest that only Leviathan was created on day five, while Behemoth was created on day six among the "cattle" (Genesis 1:24) and the "beasts of the earth" (Genesis 1:25), and just before the forming of man (vs. 26f). Our text (Job 40:15), in the view of some, seems to link this creature to the creation of man: "Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee" (KJV), thus implying, they suggest, that this creature was created on day six along with man. Behemoth, then, if we accept that it is in fact the hippo, is a powerful, and at times brutish, beast. Few men, and few animals, will dare to confront or challenge it. Yet God wants Job to know that this beast is no match for Deity. God has full control of even the most fearsome parts of His creation. He is Lord and Master of all, which was something Job needed to understand.

There are several lessons we can glean from this text, but I especially like the thoughts shared by the following commentators, for they make some rather interesting, and certainly unusual, points about our Creator. "Behemoth is big and strong. But he is stupid and brutal. When he opens his cavernous jaws and his dull eyes appear over them, set in a mountain of black, shapeless flesh, he is positively hideous. The gravity of his unconscious attitudes of supreme ugliness has almost a touch of humor in it. We begin to wonder how the Divine Artist who shaped the graceful gazelle and gave the perfection of motion to the swallow could have fashioned the ugly and clumsy hippopotamus. Perhaps one object was to show what a poor thing bulk of body is in comparison with brains. The young man who is more proud of his biceps than of anything else belonging to him may see his ideal humiliated in the behemoth!" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 7 - Job, p. 653].

It also may show that God has a sense of humor, for some creatures are indeed "comical" ... yet, He made them, and He loves them, and He cares for them. "Without the hippopotamus we would lose another example of God's loving grace for an undeserving creature. With Job, we learn to laugh and cry when we realize that there is some of the ugly and useless in each of us!" [Dr. David L. McKenna, The Communicator's Commentary: Job, p. 304]. We humans tend to place great value on outward beauty, yet "beauty and function are not the conditions of God's grace" [ibid, p. 303]. God sees past all the "ugliness" and "uselessness" we too quickly find in one another, and for which we judge and condemn one another. If God can love and find beauty and purpose in Behemoth, then take hope: He can love and find beauty and purpose in you and me as well. What amazing grace!


In Job 41, as God continues His message to Job, the Creator introduces a second powerful and fearful creature: Leviathan. This entire chapter consists of a lengthy and poetic description of its nature and physical characteristics. I would encourage you to pause here and read this chapter. It is quite interesting, and if there is any one message that we should take away from our reading of this chapter, it is "the thought that Leviathan is far too powerful for man to handle" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1050]. The greater thought, however, is that this creature is not superior in power to our Sovereign God! NO part of God's creation is greater than He is. HE, and He alone, is in complete control. Job needed to grasp this truth, for he was being tempted to believe that perhaps his afflictions were beyond God's ability to remedy. Just because God permits at times, for His own purposes, our trials, temptations, and tribulations, this in no way negates His sovereignty. He is still on the throne, regardless of how things may appear to us. Behemoth and Leviathan may appear monstrous and unconquerable to us, but they are not so to God.

Many scholars feel, for example, that Leviathan may be in view in Ezekiel 29, where God had a message for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. The Lord likens him to "the great monster that lies in the midst of his rivers, that has said, 'The Nile is mine, and I myself have made it'" (Ezekiel 29:3). With great power often comes great arrogance. Both Pharaoh, as well as this river monster, regarded themselves as "lord of all." They were in charge; they ruled supreme. Nobody could remove them. God makes it clear in the verses that follow that they were about to receive a rude awakening: "Behold, I shall bring upon you a sword, and I shall cut off from you man and beast. And the land of Egypt will become a desolation and waste. Then they will know that I am Lord. Because you said, 'The Nile is mine, and I have made it,' therefore, behold, I am against you" (vs. 8-9). Neither world powers, nor river monsters, nor kings or presidents, nor Behemoth or Leviathan, nor that great dragon Satan, can prevail against God. Job needed to hear this. So do we today! Paul speaks to this great hope we have in Him in Romans 8:31-39 (go read it; it will bless you!).

But, back to Leviathan. "With descriptive overkill, God introduces Job to the biological details" of Leviathan [Dr. David L. McKenna, The Communicator's Commentary: Job, p. 305]. This is one of the most extensive descriptions of any animal in the Bible. "This horny, hostile monster is described in Job 41 as uncatchable, unfeeling, untrustworthy, unmanageable, unplayful, undesirable, unhospitable, and unethical" [ibid], and God uses this beast "to symbolize the forces of evil that exist for one persistent and malicious purpose in the universe: to oppose the will of God" [ibid, p. 304]. Job had decided to confront God with his questions and complaints, yet in doing so he was confronting a force far too powerful even for Leviathan. So, "just who do you think you are, Job?", God seems to be asking. I love the way The Message has rendered these first few verses of Job 41: "Can you pull in the sea beast, Leviathan, with a fly rod and stuff him in your creel? Can you lasso him with a rope, or snag him with an anchor? Will he beg you over and over for mercy, or flatter you with flowery speech? Will he apply for a job with you to run errands and serve you the rest of your life? Will you play with him as if he were a pet goldfish? Will you make him the mascot of the neighborhood children? Will you put him on display in the market and have shoppers haggle over the price? Could you shoot him full of arrows like a pin cushion, or drive harpoons into his huge head? If you so much as lay a hand on him, you won't live to tell the story. What hope would you have with such a creature? Why, one look at him would do you in! If you can't hold your own against his glowering visage, how, then, do you expect to stand up to Me? Who could confront Me and get by with it? I'm in charge of all this - I run this universe!"

The word "Leviathan" is believed to be from Arabic (as well as Hebrew) words meaning "to twist, coil, weave" and "monster," thus it refers to a "coiling, twisting monster." In the Septuagint (the ancient Greek OT) and Jerome's Latin Vulgate, this word is translated "dragon." This certainly fits well with the view held by some that Leviathan is that ancient serpent and dragon known to us as Satan. Leviathan is "used, without doubt, for great potentates, enemies and persecutors of the people of God" [Joseph Benson, Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, e-Sword]. "The church has many enemies, but commonly some particular one proves more formidable than the rest. Those malignant persecuting powers are here compared to the leviathan for bulk, and strength, and the mighty bustle they make in the world, and to dragons for their rage and fury" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. Like "behemoth," scholars have differed over what animal may be in view here (although some scholars believe there never existed in the real world any such creature; it was simply a creature found only in ancient pagan mythology). Two of the more popular views is that it refers to a whale or a giant python, although these have largely been rejected by today's biblical scholars. The most likely creature in view here is the crocodile, with some versions of the Bible even using "crocodile" rather than "leviathan" in the text of their translation.

In the ancient mythologies of a number of peoples and nations, one will discover this great twisting "god of chaos," this enormous primeval serpent or dragon that the gods had to do battle with and defeat in order to bring order out of chaos, thus allowing them to form this beautiful physical creation (the heavens and earth) that we now enjoy. In these legends, however, it is believed that one day this monster would escape from its chains and again bring chaos upon the universe (and particularly on earth), and that the gods ultimately would be forced to do battle with it again to preserve their creation and to restore order. These myths sound very much like what we read in the Scriptures: God, in His act of creation, brought beauty and order into existence, yet will one day "war against" the "god of chaos" to bring about the new heavens and earth, where the great dragon will finally be destroyed. "These ancient pagan myths concerning Leviathan were familiar to the Hebrews of the Old Testament. The Scriptures used the name known to so many people and removed fear connected with it, showing God easily controlled Leviathan, who thus offered no threat to God's people" [Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 875]. "This primeval dragon was subdued by Yahweh at the dawn of creation, but it was destined to break loose from his bonds at the end of the present era, only to suffer a second and final defeat" [The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 3, p. 116].

Some ancient peoples believed that some of their mystical leaders held the power to awaken this beast and unleash it upon the world for a specific purpose. Such sorcerers would seek to commune with these forces of evil and darkness, a practice the Bible speaks out against very strongly. It is to that myth, however, that Job speaks in the early part of this biblical narrative. Job was suffering, and his afflictions had reached such an intensity that he wished he had never been born. "Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth" (Job 3:1). "Let the day perish on which I was to be born ... May that day be darkness ... Let darkness and black gloom claim it" (vs. 3-5). Job is not necessarily validating the myth that sorcerers possessed the power to awaken the beast to perform some harmful action, but rather seems to be saying, "If such persons really did have such power to awaken and commission such a monster, then let them do it to the day of my birth so that I would never have been born!" Job 3:8 reads, "Let those who curse days curse that day. Let them prepare to wake up the sea monster Leviathan" [New Century Version]. The Message translates it this way: "May those who are good at cursing curse that day. Unleash the sea beast, Leviathan, on it." "Necromancers claimed power to control or rouse wild beasts at will. Job does not say they actually had the power they claimed; but, supposing they had, may they curse the day of his birth" [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 366]. "The current mythology of the day used the term Leviathan for a monster of chaos who lived in the sea who could be aroused professionally. But to Job, a strict monotheist, this was simply vivid imagery, the use of proverbial language tailored to his call for the obliteration of that day. The figure then may be of an awakened monster of chaos who could perhaps swallow that day" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 890-891].

Apart from the book of Job, we find Leviathan in only three other places (Psalm 74:14; 104:26; Isaiah 27:1). Let's notice the latter text first. In the prophecy of Isaiah, one will find many warnings to God's people, containing both pleas to repent and promises of judgment. One will also find words of hope for deliverance and restoration if the people choose to return to their God. A good example of the latter is Isaiah 27. "In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout; and they will fill the whole world with fruit" (vs. 6). Blessings abound when nations embrace their God, and their enemies vanish before their eyes. "In that day the Lord will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent with His fierce and great and mighty sword, even Leviathan the twisted serpent; and He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea" (vs. 1). Leviathan, that "twisted serpent" and "dragon" of the sea, is seen fleeing before the wrath of the Lord, yet this beast can't outrun his fate: it will be slain by the sword of the Lord. This scene has a dual significance: it can refer to the nations that are arrayed against God's people during the time of the Old Covenant, and it can also refer to Satan and his forces of darkness arrayed against the New Covenant church. The former would be a judgment upon godless nations and a restoration of Israel, the latter would be a judgment upon Satan and his forces of darkness (their utter destruction at the Parousia) and the ultimate, eternal realization of the redemption we have in Christ Jesus when we, those redeemed by grace through faith, are ushered into the new heavens and earth.

In Psalm 74, which is described as a maskil (possibly meaning "a contemplative poem") of Asaph, who was in charge of the "service of music" during the reigns of David and Solomon, we find a heartfelt appeal unto God during times of devastation at the hands of godless enemies. In the course of this appeal there is an expressed awareness of God's power to deliver them based on His past actions to that effect. "God is my king from of old, who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth. Thou didst divide the sea by Thy strength; Thou didst break the heads of the sea monsters in the waters. Thou didst crush the heads of Leviathan; Thou didst give him as food for the creatures of the wilderness" (vs. 12-14, NASB). The specific past deliverance in view in this passage is that which the Israelites experienced when they were set free from their Egyptian bondage. Leviathan, which is here a symbol for Egypt and its godless, afflictive leaders, was no match for God. When the Lord was finished with this "monster," the bodies of those who pursued the Israelites were left lying dead in the wilderness, becoming food for the creatures abiding in that wilderness. This psalm, recognizing the power of God against the powers of darkness, is a favorite for afflicted believers in all times, places, and circumstances.

The final biblical text in which Leviathan appears is Psalm 104, "the theme of which is God's greatness in ruling and sustaining His vast creation. The form is a descriptive psalm of praise. Its theme and form are complementary to Psalm 103. Both psalms have similar beginnings and endings; indeed, both are hymnic in form. Psalm 103 praises the Redeemer-King, whereas Psalm 104 magnifies the Creator-King. This poetic version of Creation is complementary to the prosaic version of Genesis 1" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 657]. "The world of creation reveals the power, wisdom, and the creative diversity of the Lord" [ibid, p. 663]. "How many are Your works, O Lord! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number - living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and also Leviathan, which You formed to frolic there" (Psalm 104:24-26, NIV). Other translations speak of the Leviathan "playing" in the sea, or "sporting" there. The Message reads, "Ships plow those waters, and Leviathan, Your pet dragon, romps in them." I don't know if I would go so far as to declare Leviathan the "pet dragon" of God (although some translations seem to imply such). On the other hand, the passage shows God's love and sustaining care for even the most feared and ferocious creatures of the sea. Yes, even the monster of the deep receives love and nourishment at the hands of its Maker. That speaks well of our God and Father.

What many find interesting about Psalm 104:26 is that we are informed that God formed/created Leviathan "to play, frolic, and romp" in the ocean. When one thinks of "monsters," whether they be on land, or in the sea, or in the air (or even beneath the ground), we don't normally envision them frolicking about. So, what's going on here in this passage?! If the leviathan, as depicted in Job, is the crocodile, we have difficulty thinking of it as a playful, sporting, romping, frolicking creature. Drs. Keil and Delitzsch suggest that "leviathan" may well refer to more than just one kind of creature. "Leviathan, in the Book of Job, the crocodile, is in this passage (Psalm 104:26) the name of the whale" [Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 7, p. 135]. "The ships sail upon the sea, and the great sea monster Leviathan (here probably a whale), which Yahweh created, sports about in it" [The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 382]. "Leviathan may mean the whale, or any of the large marine animals. The Septuagint and the Vulgate call it a 'dragon.' Sometimes the crocodile is intended by the original word" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 3, p. 550]. "Leviathan is here probably the whale, which may in early times have frequented the Mediterranean" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 8, part 2, p. 399].

It is not uncommon, especially when dealing with Hebrew poetic literature, to find more than one meaning and application of some word or object. The point, nevertheless, remains: Whatever this creature may be, or however you and I may perceive it or fear it, it is still one of God's creatures that He created and sustains. And yes, even the most fearful and dangerous of these many creatures are given opportunities by their Creator to simply frolic and play, which is yet another tribute to the Creator and His loving care. If God shows this much love for even the least lovely (in our sight) of His creation, just imagine the loving care He has for you and me!! "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" (Matthew 6:26; cf. 10:29-31). Our Lord, in His Sermon on the Mount, has shared with us a valuable insight which serves as a powerful life-lesson: we each are of immense value in the sight of our Creator, not so much because of what we are, but because of who He is.


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Readers' Reflections
NOTE: Differing views and understandings are always welcome here,
yet they do not necessarily reflect my own views and understandings.
They're opportunities for readers to voice what is on their hearts, with
a view toward greater dialogue among disciples with a Berean spirit.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Al, would you please send me your two-CD set of "The Book of Revelation: An In-Depth Reflective Study." Please find enclosed a check for the cost of this study. Thank you!

From an Author in California:

My dear Bro. Maxey, I think that your latest Reflections ("From Biblicism to Bibliolatry: Have We Made the Bible an Idol?" - Reflections #829) is the most interesting, thought-provoking essay you have ever written! Essentially, I agree with what you wrote. For some time, I have had similar thoughts (even have related notes in my files), but I never got around to putting them in writing. Besides, I could never have expressed them as adroitly and clearly as you did. What you wrote in that article is courageous on your part, and it will probably result in some more demeaning of you as a believer, but I commend you for that article (for what that may be worth). Thanks!!

From an Author in Colorado:

First, I want to thank you for the encouraging words you offered on my own writings, which I had asked you to review for me. Second, I must say, your Reflections titled "From Biblicism to Bibliolatry," which I received yesterday, was skillfully presented, and was encouraging to me, as legalism will throw us back to the dark ages. Thanks for sharing your encouraging statements!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Lord knows, Al, you had better be prepared to take a bunch of criticism on this latest Reflections article! You just stepped on some dogmatic toes! I agree that the Bible shouldn't be viewed as a "rule book," so much as it should be seen as describing to us the heart of God. Jesus, it seems to me, had a very negative view of those who tried to make the Scriptures all about "rules," and the excessive weight of such rules that the religious leaders sought to put upon the shoulders of faithful followers. Didn't Jesus summarize all the "rules" into: "Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself"? I think there are many today who discount the "still, quiet voice" of the Holy Spirit because what He may communicate doesn't have "book, chapter, and verse." Keep these studies coming, brother!!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

That was a great article on the Bible, Al. There are extremes that go both ways, of course. I guess there always will be. Just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate your studies, and also your thoroughness.

From a Reader in Unknown:

Al, you have really put into words here a thing that I have been trying to articulate for a long time. I recently read a book called "Misquoting Jesus" by Bart D. Ehrman that discusses some of the history of the extant biblical manuscripts, and how some parties' particular views have been inserted over the years. It emphasized to me the folly of trying to build dogma from passages taken out of temporal and textual context. Since most of the history of Christianity took place when the majority of folks could neither read nor have access to the written documents, I think that the Gospel has to be something that can be taught and carried internally, summed up by the two greatest commandments, and recognizing the divinity of Christ and the sacrifice He made. The rest is just trying to walk in the good deeds set before us. Keep up the good work, Al.

From a Reader in Saint Andrew, Grenada:

Greetings Al, Thank you for this piece. I agree that the point of the Bible is to point us to God, not take the place of God. Where I am from, persons would sleep with a "special" Bible lying open (usually to one of the Psalms) next to or under their bed, so that they would be protected from evil spirits or death.

From a Reader in California:

Al, I recall that a few years ago you were being taken to task by an older individual who felt that you were straying away from "the true Word of God," and that you were starting to allow "innovations" to creep into your worship of God. I remember very distinctly that he said something that made my blood run cold! He said that "the Scriptures will save you," and he then expounded a little more on his point of view. In his admonition to you, Christ was never mentioned. Neither was God, as I recall, but I may be mistaken. The "Scriptures," however, played very heavily into his response to you. I wasn't able to find the actual Reflections article, but I remember that you and I had a bit of an exchange over it. Al, thank you SO much for giving us a much-needed reset with your article "From Biblicism to Bibliolatry." Do we value the Scriptures? Absolutely. I believe with every fiber of my being that it is God's Word given to us to let us know where true happiness and salvation lie: in Christ Jesus. Just like I value my marriage license tremendously, but value far more what it represents: the relationship I have with my beloved wife! Continue to spread the Good News of Christ, brother. I am always so encouraged when I see "Maxey" in my inbox!!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Several decades ago, I was "kicked off" or eliminated from speaking at a ladies' retreat within the legalistic Churches of Christ, because I had held up my Bible and had told the audience of women that this book does not provide salvation. Rather, it is an inspired book preserved by the Holy Spirit that leads us to the One by whom we can have salvation from our sins. I used the same passage from John that you quoted in your article. We are guilty of picking up our modern day Western industrial reading glasses and reading the Bible as a LAW manual. The preconceived ideas with which we read the Scriptures sets us up to travel a road that follows man instead of God. Until we learn how to read the Bible, we are just chasing rabbits and following them into the briars! I realize this is a strong statement, but due to many decades of living in and among the Churches of Christ, I know this is the fundamental problem that has to change if we are to bring the hope of salvation through Jesus to a lost and dying world.

From a Reader in California:

Al, I just listened to your latest Reflections (I put it on my text-to-speech app), and it is absolutely great, as is all of your work. This topic is something I have been thinking about and pondering for a long time: people who venerate the Bible. They act like just reading the Bible is somehow going to save them. I just wanted to give you a word of encouragement (not that you need it from me) to keep up the great work you are doing. Sir, you are the Josephus and the Shakespeare of our time! Your studies, writings, musings are all on the highest scholarly level, as are your spiritual applications. Your Reflections, as well as your other studies, are a treasure trove of invaluable information to all who profess to be Christians. I salute and appreciate you, Al.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

"From Biblicism to Bibliolatry" is a powerful and challenging article, my brother! I especially liked this statement from you: "Our salvation is not from the written Word, but from the living Word Himself."

From a Reader in Colorado:

Al, thank you for all you do! I've learned so much from your studies and teachings! One of these days I want to drive down to the church where you preach and listen to you in person, and then I want to shake your hand!!

From a Minister in Texas:

Al, great article ("From Biblicism to Bibliolatry"). I believe that all of us have the potential to write, speak, and share God's message of salvation as believers who are gifted by the Spirit. Our concern should be the testing of the spirits as we endeavor to help others find God in their lives. How many "humble" ministers have spoken for God by denouncing a variety of things that they personally disagreed with, which may or may not be something with which God disagrees? I like N.T. Wright's definition of sin as the idol of self that is more important than God. When our personal opinion is more important than what the Spirit, our Bible, or even Jesus Himself says, then I believe we've crossed the line. I pray as ministers we are able to discern God's guidance in our lives and leave our personal preferences behind as we try to speak God's Truth into the world. By the way, I like Wright's new book "Broken Signposts," as it posits God still calls to all people in the world with various ideals that humanity yearns for, but always seem to be dysfunctional in our world (justice, love, truth, etc.). Wright says that you and I, and all Christians, are called to help transform the world into a place where God enters and lives with His people ala Revelation 21. I really like this vision, and I might even call it spiritual guidance from God (LOL). Blessings, brother.

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