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Bible Studies/an interesting one


QUESTION: In Romans 9:19 it states, "One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[h] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?"

Yet at the same time in 2nd timothy 2:20 it states "In a large house there are not only articles of gold and silver , but  also of wood and clay; some for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purpose, make holy, useful to the master and prepared to do any good work."

Does this latter verse mean we can change what seems to be the "Fate," of the first verse which sounds as if God uses us for whatever purpose regardless if we try to be good

ANSWER: It is always risky to "cherry pick" a passage or two, then compare it to another "cherry picked" passage or two, to then come up with a conclusion of really what you think the two mean.

For example, in the first, the passage gives one the idea that man is like clay, and that God can make of that clay whatever he wishes.

In the second, the crux of those passages is that if man cleanses himself of the ignoble, he will be as god had wished ---an instrument of good work.

What you need to remember is the  historic times in which these were written.  These were brutal times, with no such thing as civil rights, nor even literacy.  "Might was right" pretty much describes the ancient world.

The message really was to lessen the "might" part, and convince people to be kind.  And you will see that if you read more of the first passage... both those passages before it and after it, as well as passages before and after the second one you cited.

So often readers are not aware of the historical context in which any of this was written.  And we forget that 90% of the ancient world was illiterate. True, most all Jewish men could read the Torah, (The Old Testament) but even more likely each had it memorized.  (Women were not educated, nor was their family tree even bothered with.  Most were treated a bit better than a good cow..... usually).

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: You didnt give me an answer at all, what is your opinion of the question.

I have no OPINION of these passages, nor of your question..... say if you are asking me if those passages  are or are not true or if they conflict. (Most everything in the bible conflicts.... You can find passages where God drew a circle, and the earth was a flat circle, immovable and on pillars.  Clearly this conflicts with reality, doesn't it?) My grad training in religious studies  is as a scholar, not as a believer!!!

There are two ways to study the bible....

1.  Devotional, where one cherry picks the Bible to find cute, nice, and comforting passages by which one can live one's life.( And then as you have found, there appears to be a conflict.)

2.  Historical/critical, where we search for previous writings that were taken from other early tribes/civilizations, and see how they were changed when incorporated into the belief structure of a different ancient civilization.

Historians don't make judgments of whether they like or dislike a passage or if their OPINION of the comparisons are true or not. Those are left for the readers who read ancient writings to decide if THOSE WRITINGS have value for THEIR lives....i.e., those reading passages for devotion rather than in a historical context.  

Two very different endeavors, with two very different outcomes.

I study ancient civilizations, and their writings.  And trace stories  in their literature to their ultimate source.  It is not my position, as a scholar, to have an OPINION of their truths or non-truths.

As a hint for yourself, take the Bible for what it is.... the musings, history, legends, myths, stories, and fantasies  of a bronze age  illiterate tribe in a time of zero science.


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Elisabeth DeWald


My major in college was History, and I minored in biology, zoology, math, and chemistry. Most of my life I have been on one side of a desk or the other. My specialty is New Testament, in particular, The Gospels.


When I lived in Chicago, I was able to audit classes in Religious Studies, at the University of Chicago's Divinity School. The Academics were in Bible History, Early Christian History, Comparative Religion. I could not enroll..... I had no BS at the time. But all the men teaching there were friend of my then husband, who had just finished all of his Ph. D work, and they at the Divinity School liked him so much that they hired him. I was always interested in why people believe as they do, so these friends---- professors and colleagues of my husband--- invited me to join their classes. I did all the work, turned in all the papers, attended all lectures, and learned lots of things all trained theologians learned. The course work was NOT devotional.... it was Historical/Critical, where one wishes to find out, "where did this story come from?" and "why was this or that important?". In the devotional style of biblical study, one searches for comforting phrases. That is never stressed at any Divinity School beyond any BA or BS. This is how Princeton's Divinity School works, how Harvard's Divinity School work...all of them. If one wishes the devotional approach, one goes to the Moody Bible Institute.

I have a BA, and an MA

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