On today’s date, Oct. 4, in 1883, the world-famous Orient Express left Paris, France, on its maiden run for Istanbul.
By merely performing its duty of providing the most luxurious travel accommodations possible for a train, it became a must experience for generations of the elite of Europe. More so, after the 1934 publication of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” its ubiquitous fame as a necessary travel experience for any person desiring celebrity status spiraled worldwide. Christie had often desired to make the trip and enjoy all the amenities it offered. Thus, in her most famous novel, she never withheld even the most minute descriptions of the train’s décor, furnishings and service.
But, alas, some of our most cherished suppositions simply are not as valid as our belief in them. An explanation of that statement is due, but a higher priority must come first.
Many a time we have heard someone quote the Bible, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” But try to find it. You will locate it in Samuel Butler’s poem “Hudibras” not the Bible: “If matrimony and hanging go, By dest’ny, why not whipping too? What medicine else can cure the fits, Of lovers when they lose their wits? Love is a boy by poets stil’d, Then spare the rod and spoil the child.”
Of course, the Bible does admonish parents to “Train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it.” However, if a reader still insists upon using the “rod,” further Bible study is still needed. Biblically, a rod was a shepherding device used to guide wandering sheep, not to punish them.
Other favorite examples for the things-we-assume-the-Bible-says category include, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” “This too shall pass,” “Pride goeth before a fall,” and “God works in mysterious ways.”
However interesting, even true they may be, none of them are in the Bible. The first, having to do with personal hygiene, is a phrase coined by John Wesley, evangelist and founder of Methodism. On the matter of pride, the Bible actually says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” And as for the mysterious nature of the Lord’s manner of accomplishing his will, that adage will not be found in the Bible text but in William Cowper’s hymn “God Moves in Mysterious Ways, His Wonders to Perform.”
One can go on and on with teachings attributed to God but are not in the text itself — no whale swallowed Jonah, the Bible does not enumerate the wise men as being three, and Genesis does not say that Satan took the form of a serpent so as to tempt Eve into eating the forbidden fruit are more examples.
But back to the Orient Express. If one were to read “Murder on the Orient Express” a little more carefully, he or she would discover the plot occurred on the lesser-known Simplon-Orient Express and not the renowned Orient Express. The elevated fame of the Orient Express resulted from millions of readers failing to concentrate on Christie’s details.
Believing an assumption does not make it become true. Such errors can only be corrected by more attention to the reading.
So it is with the truths of the Bible. We may honestly believe that we are well educated in its precepts, but all of us could benefit from a little more careful study.
Hope to see you in Sunday school.