Many people find the Bible strange and weird. Can it apply to my life today? In an amusing conversation, author Tom French explores some weird parts of the Bible and shows how they might have something worthwhile to say to us today.
The guest: Tom French. According to his website, Tom is a speaker, writer, Bible teacher, human and animagus. He has recently written a book called, Weird, Crude, Funny and Nude: The Bible exposed.
This conversation was recorded in partnership with St Augustine's Anglican Church in Moreland.
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Bigger questions asked in the conversation
So Tom - on your website tomfrench.com.au you claim to be a speaker, writer, human and animagus. So what exactly is an animagus?
Today we’re talking with Tom French about the Bible being weird. So Tom our smaller questions to you are about ‘weird things’.
So Tom, you wrote a book which dealt with weird stuff in the Bible: ‘Weird, Crude, Funny and Nude: The Bible exposed’. It includes lots of references to crudity, farts and poos, though perhaps not so much of the unicorn kind. Can you tell us a bit about your book?
What inspired it?
So what do you think makes something weird? Isn’t weirdness just a matter of perspective?
But do you think that the weird parts of the Bible are less important or significant than parts which seem more normal?
Weird Bible story 1 - Judges 3:12-30
Well, why don’t we have a look at some of the weird parts of the Bible, and consider some of the bits of the Bible you feature in your book, ‘Weird, Crude, Funny and Nude’.
So the first weird story from the Bible we’re looking at today comes from the Old Testament book of Judges. So what happens in the book of Judges?
In Chapter 3, we meet the second of these judges and it features a guy named Ehud. Who was Ehud?
You are a fan of Ehud aren’t you? He’s described in Judges 3, verse 15 as a left handed man. This seems a bit weird - but is that significant?
Now at the time the Israelites were subjected to a foreign power - ruled by the nation of Moab under a king called Eglon. So what did Ehud do?
So what happens?
In verse 19 Ehud says, ‘I have a secret message for you, O King’. And this piques the interest of the king?
And the king sends all his attendants and servants away. Do you think that was a silly thing to do?
Then in Judges 3:21-22 the story reaches its dramatic climax where it says,
Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.
Now Tom, you think this is the most awesome verse in the Bible. Why is that?
Ehud then makes his escape leaves and what do you make of Eglon’s servants? In verse 24 it says,
After he [Ehud] had gone, the servants came. When they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, “He must be relieving himself in the cool chamber.”
So they certainly smelt something? And this is in the Bible?
Ehud then made his escape. The trusty poo diversion! Should the SAS use this in covert operations do you think?
When the servants came in - do you think they used rocks to clean it up?
Then what happens in the battle between Israel and Moab?
Why did Ehud do what he did?
So Tom, this is a fairly dramatic, but still weird and slightly gory story. So what do we make of this story?
Does it connect with the rest of the Bible at all?
How is this a picture of Jesus?
Are Ehud and Jesus the same then?
But this part of the Bible does use violence to reach its conclusion. How can we have a violent hero? Is the Bible gratifying violence?
So what can we learn from this story?
Weird Bible story 2 - Mark 14
That’s the Old Testament. Indeed most of the weird, crude, funny and nude parts of the Bible you talk about in your book come from the Old Testament. But what about the New Testament - the body of writings which follow the coming of Jesus and the establishment of the Christian church. There are weird crude, funny and nude parts there as well?
You write about a nude and slightly weird incident near the end of the Gospel of Mark. Perhaps the first ever recorded incident of streaking in world history. Can you tell us about this story? It starts with Jesus making a prediction.
Jesus was with his disciples and made a prediction about his disciples in Mark 14:27 that ‘you will all fall away’? What did he mean by this?
What happens next?
Then in Chapter 14, Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested. And then in Chapter 14: 50 we read,
50 All of them [the disciples] deserted him and fled. 51 A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
I’ve heard of streakers at sporting matches. But you wouldn’t exactly expect a nudie run at the capture of Jesus - one of the most profound moments in world history. What do you make of this?
So who was this guy?
Does it matter if this naked guy is left anonymous?
There was a prediction in the Old Testament in the book of Amos which said, “‘Even the bravest warriors will flee naked on that day,’ declares the Lord” Do you think there is there a connection to this story?
What is the day he was speaking about?
What is the significance of what’s about to happen with Jesus?
So why do people desert him, if it’s going to be so significant?
Do you find it uncomfortable at times to believe in Jesus?
Tom’s testimony and implications
So Tom, how can you believe this? The Bible contains all sorts of weird, crude funny and nude bits - we’ve looked at a couple today - so why do you still believe it even if parts are weird?
Has it made a difference to you - even though parts are hard to understand and seem somewhat weird? In what ways?
The famed atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins once said about the BIble, “To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents,” How do you respond to Richard Dawkins’ comments?
So can you still believe even if you don’t understand everything in the Bible?
The Big Question
So Tom, is the Bible too weird to be believed?