“In any case…in any case…in any case.”
I heard a professor say this transitional statement over and over throughout one of his lectures on the Book of Acts.
Why? Because, in each instance, he was discussing some question of geography or history or whatever else that had no bearing on the meaning of the text.
He would say something like, “This word may be rooted in this other word. In any case…” Or, “They may have completed this journey in 39 or 40 AD. In any case…” Or, “Scholars debate whether this author had this thing in mind or this other thing. In any case…”
This tendency to discuss interesting but irrelevant details is common in biblical interpretation. And I believe, if we’re not careful, there can be a real danger here.
The danger is we can feel that we have studied the Bible in some advanced way, that we have really done some next-level research, and yet, in chasing down these in-any-case questions, we have gotten no closer to meditating on and applying the primary point of the text. We have chased rabbits…interesting, scholarly, next-level rabbits…but rabbits nonetheless.
It’s interesting. When Jesus addressed scholars, he often had to take them back to simple things.
Speaking to Nicodemus about the basic need to be born of the Spirit he said, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things” (John 3:10, ESV)?
To the scribes and Pharisees (more experts) he said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” (Matthew 23:23–24, ESV)! Tithing mint and dill was advanced calculating, but they had passed over religion 101: justice and mercy and faithfulness. They were debating the gnats of faith and missing the camels.
So, beware of bible trivia. Beware the red herring. Beware the multiplication of words on podcasts and in commentaries.
Be meditators of the word (Psalm 1:2). Be doers of the word (James 1:22).