Today we email one another or send text messages back and forth. We meet online at social networking sites and dating sites, we tour the world without ever leaving our homes; we download programs and encyclopedias of information and upload pictures, videos, and music.
If the Bible were written today and thousands of years later people were working to understand what the Bible was saying, they would need to learn about and come to an understanding of our culture.
What does it mean when the Bible says that a person is become like a bottle in smoke? Are they really referring to a literal camel when they speak of a camel going through the eye of a needle?Just as we have manners and customs that are unique to our day and time, so too, are there manners and customs that are unique to the day and time in which the Bible was written.
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
To our culture this series of verses are more than a little strange but to the people in the East these words are perfectly clear.
Their bread is flat and made at an outdoor oven. Over time the stone that the dough is formed on begins to look like the bread itself. The question asked is, “Would a father give his child a stone when he wanted bread?”
Likewise, there is a scorpion that looks similar to an egg, yellowish in the middle and white on the outside, when it curls up. Would a father give his child a poisonous scorpion when he has asked for an egg?
If we, who are basically evil, can give good gifts to our children when they ask, how much more will God, who is good, give the gift of holy spirit to those who ask of him?
The Bible is an Eastern book, writ¬ten by Eastern men who thought in terms of their culture, as everyone does. Too many guess at the meaning behind Eastern manners and customs we read about in the Bible. We don’t need to guess, we need to investigate and understand. Understanding orientialisms, another term for the manners and customs of the Eastern culture, adds great insight and comprehension when studying the Bible.