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By John Pierce

Back in March, a dramatic reading of the biblical text as part of worship provided new insight (or, at least, a new phrase) for me. The Gospel lesson for the first Sunday in Lent recalled the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness as found in Matthew 4:1-11.

Jesus is tested, according to the Gospel writer, by the Devil who quotes scripture at him. The dare to jump from the top of the Temple into the arms of angels is supported by a well-chosen biblical text.

In resistance and faithfulness, Jesus counters with a biblical quote of his own.

Jesus’ response (“It is also written…”) was conveyed in the dramatic reading as “That’s not all it says…”

That phrase struck me as a good rendering of the text — and as a reminder of the shortcomings in backing one’s preconceived and/or preferred conclusions with selective biblical quotes.

I once heard that the difference between a conservative and a liberal is which Bible texts they ignore. Seems to be a lot of truth in that.

Now when isolated verses are used to proof text a personal opinion, as is often the case, a new phrase comes to mind immediately: “That’s not all it says!”

A Baptist editor recently condemned the Duck Dynasty clan for entering the wine business, remarking: “My Bible says wine is a mocker.”

Uh, yes, but that’s not all is says.

One big difference in how persons approach the ancient scriptures is not that some are selective and others are not, but that only some admit the challenges of conflicting texts and the resulting selectivity.

Interestingly, biblical truth seems to surface more clearly as a result of honest wrangling with conflicting texts that are viewed through the lens of the larger revelation (Jesus) than from certitudes and dares built on highly selective verses.

Because, often, that’s not all it says.

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