As a student of history my entire life, I have always been as fascinated by what occurred in the past as what could occur in the present. There was never a seminal moment where I realized the value of history; I’ve had a healthy appreciation for it since birth. I never received a book as a child that I recall giving me that. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that since I can remember, I’ve loved placing myself in the footsteps of those who have walked before me.
From the beginning, I was engrossed in books about anything from Abraham Lincoln to the ’92-’96 US Olympic Basketball teams. My Dad recalled my having memorized George H.W. Bush’s cabinet members and I remember absolutely LOVING my ruler with all the Presidents listed on the back. I used to keep a white board in my room that I updated daily. On this whiteboard you would find a feast of useless information; I kept track of how many days I had my basketball shoes, how many days til my birthday, how many days til Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, NBA season, the Super Bowl, etc. I remember looking forward to taking Stats class in High School because I thought that it would basically be a class where kids brought their baseball cards in and we decided who had the best cards. At one point, I embarked on a journey to discover how many total HRs/RBI/SB and what the overal batting average was of all of my cards combined. Yes, I was that kid.
I didn’t just love the numbers, but what they entailed. Those numbers were meaningful, in the sense that they represented a moment in time. I have the same fascination with numbers and historical figures and dates now, although I try to keep it to a socially acceptable level on the surface.
The purpose of this post though, is not to belabor the fact that I’m a massive nerd (although check and checkmate on that, I suppose), but to point to the fact that lies behind the ministry leader’s admonitions to spend time reading the Bible. The fact is, that the Bible is not JUST inspired by God, but it also actually happened.
Unfortunately, we often read the Bible as a handbook for daily life…which in a sense it is. But labeling it as that alone is doing it a ridiculous disservice. I recently was struck by that fact again on vacation this past week. I spent ten wonderful days with my wife at her Grandma’s condo in Naples, Florida. It was an incredible blessing, and it gave me the opportunity to do something I generally struggle to find time for: read a book for fun. Well, sort of for fun. As part of my New Testament II class, Dr. Pennington at SBTS recommended that if we had some time, it would be worth our while to check out Paul Maier’s book, The Flames of Rome.
It is set during the years before and during Nero’s reign as Emperor of Rome; this time period is interesting to me in particular, as it is around this time that Paul and Peter are thought to have been martyred in and around Rome. Maier portrays the events that were occurring in Rome with historical accuracy and some necessary filling in of details based on educated conjecture, and does a splendid job recounting the Roman system of governance and the likely nature of their relationship with Christianity (at that time, thought of as a cult by much of Rome, which still held to the Roman mythic Gods).
It is an utterly fascinating work that is character-driven and well-paced, providing a balanced look at Christianity from afar in that context.
There is one anecdote within the work that struck me in particular, and brought to bear much of what leaders in ministry are trying to convey to the congregation (who sometimes views it as a chore) regarding the importance of studying Scripture. During his reign, Nero makes an attempt on his mother, Agrippina’s life. Maier notes that this occurred within the acceptable time and place that Paul could have been arriving from his harrowing journey with a Centurion escort to see his appeal to the Caesar heard as a Roman citizen.
This small anecdote reminded me of the historical vibrancy of the Bible, in this case, the book of Acts and Paul’s letters. These letters weren’t written in a sterile environment. History was occurring around them, just like what happens every day today. We take it for granted that historical events have enduring meaning, and we completely neglect that Scripture was recorded in the midst of them.
So what I’m trying to say is pretty simple. Embrace nerdity. God didn’t give us the Scriptures so that we could put them on a shelf. He gave us the Scriptures so that we could experience those “geek-out” moments when a solitary word makes our hair stand on end, and a smile creep across our face unbeknownst to us. God’s Scripture is His love. In words. To us.
So push those glasses up your nose and get cracking.