Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Laughing With, Not At

Last night I was blessed to spend the evening playing a Bible quiz game with some friends.

I'll take my first digression to state that the actual game we played was Bible Challenge, published by Faithkidz. I highly recommend it. Although I urge you to support your local Christian bookstore whenever possible, if you want this game and just can't get it locally, it's item # 00920 from Christianbook.com (who also sell it for less than SRP).

It's your standard board-plus-question-cards quiz game. The rules that come with it are too vague for my liking, but the rules sheet explicitly recommends that you come up with your own rules variations to suit your group. If you've ever played a quiz game before (e.g., Trivial Pursuit), that won't be difficult.

This is not intended as a full review / critique of the game, though, so I'll move on to my second digression. Or is this a subdigression within my first digression?

No matter. Onward.

Although most people would call this a "Bible trivia" game, I don't like that term. "Trivia" means "stuff that doesn't matter." Scripture matters - all of it. Even if a passage may seem to be completely irrelevant to you right now, there are two important qualifiers in this sentence: "you" and "right now". Different passages speak loudest to different people at different times.

This is not to say that there is no such thing as "Bible trivia". The chapter and verse divisions are later additions to the original Hebrew / Aramaic / Greek text, and are not generally considered to be divinely inspired. And, although I'm sure (or I hope) that the translators of each version prayed strenuously for guidance, I would not necessarily consider the exact phrasing of specific English (or other modern language) translations inspired either.

So, some examples of what I would rightly consider Bible trivia would be questions such as "How many chapters are there in book X", or "How many subjunctive clauses are used in the New Living Bible translation of Zephaniah?"

Most of what people call "Bible trivia", though, actually involves the body of the scriptural text itself, and so is not trivial at all.

The manufacturer of the game even seems to acknowledge this principle - there's a marketing tagline printed on the box: "Some knowedge is trivial, some is eternal." I was disappointed to see that they describe it as a "trivia game" on their website in the link above.

There were four players: me, my wife, and a husband-and-wife couple, both pastors. All four of us are fairly well versed in Scripture, so none of the games were blowouts, which made playing much more enjoyable. We played four times. My wife and I each won once, and Mr. Pastor won twice. Mrs. Pastor was in a dominant lead for most of each game but overtaken at the last minute each time.

This is really all preamble to my two favourite funny bits from the evening. Time for another digression.

Some people, and I've been maybe-something-other-than-blessed to spend time with a few of them, don't like people having fun during Bible study or similar Scriptocentric discussions / activities (like playing a Bible quiz game). Making jokes in those situations can get you any reaction from stony silence to open rebuke, and I've been on the receiving end of both for alleged irreverence. (I'd defend myself against the charge, but that would be a whole other digression that the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome precludes my pursuing at the moment.)

Nobody who was here last night was one of those people, so although we all hold the Bible in the utmost esteem as the word of God, we were still cracking lots of jokes and generally having a pretty boisterous time. Jesus came that we may have life more abundantly. Don't be afraid to laugh.

Anyway, here's the question-and-answer combo that got the biggest laugh last night. (The correct answer was given after the laughter died down.) Remember, it was a Bible quiz game:

Q: "Who did Ahab blame for the drought in Israel?"

A: "Moby Dick."

(Feel free to take a look at I Kings 18:17, preferably including reading the section around it to get some context, for the actual answer.)

The other high point came when a question about Jude led to a brief tangential discussion of that book. It was suggested that if you wanted to distill the book of Jude down to its core theme, that theme would be, "Don't make it bad." It was also noted that reading the book of Jude can be tedious because the last several pages just repeat, "Na, na na, na-na-na-naaaa" over and over.

These things seemed really funny last night (alcohol was definitely not a contributing factor). Maybe I'll read this all again in a few days to see whether that remains the case.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the bannister at the bottom of my house's staircase.

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