The other evening while emptying the dishwasher and puttering around the kitchen, I clicked through some local radio stations and settled on two gentlemen who were going through a study on Revelation. Specifically, they were working their way through Revelation chapter 6 which covers the famed four horsemen of the apocalypse. I have no idea whose these two guys were and I only listened for perhaps ten minutes. What struck me about their conversation was that they twice said, “well, obviously” and went on to explain how their particular interpretation of the imagery in these passages was perfectly clear and, well, obvious. For example, they read Revelation 6:2 which states:
I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
They discussed how most people believe that the “bow” described here is a weapon; as in a bow for shooting arrows. Having a bow and arrow at your side when you head out to conquer seems like a pretty natural interpretation in this context. Plus, according to the concordance I reviewed the original Greek word “toxon” supports this meaning of bow as well .
These two gentlemen took a different path and said this “bow” was the type made from fabric. Okay, maybe it is a bow made from fabric rather than wood. Maybe it is not a weapon of war. My issue here is not so much with their interpretations, but their use of “well, obviously” to preface their statements. This is a pretty commonly employed logical fallacy in Biblical interpretation. It was number 15 in James Sire’s list in his book Scripture Twisting. The goal is to close all discussion, and quite frankly, make you feel dumb for even thinking about disagreeing with them.
When we read the Bible, we certainly want to work to discover the true meaning of the text. And, there is a true meaning because God is the perfect communicator. However, that does not mean it is always easy given our limited and sin-riddled brains. But, be on the lookout whenever someone uses words like “well, obviously” or “everyone knows” to explain their interpretations of difficult passages. That should raise at least a yellow flag of warning that perhaps they are just trying to scare you into not asking questions.
And besides, everyone knows that the term “bow” in the passage obviously refers to the front of ship. 🙂