This really is an amazing phenomenon. And it seems like it applies to almost every story ever told. Just think about the Bible as it is written, and think about the way we portray those stories. You think our portrayals are always accurate? Challenge accepted.
1. Noah’s Ark – You know the story. God was going to send a flood so he instructed Noah to build a beautiful boat to preserve the existence of all animal species on the planet. We see these majestic illustrations of the ark being boarded by two of each animal. We think about the rainbow that signifies the promise that God will never send such a flood again.
But what part do we leave out? Oh yeah, God annihilated humanity. Every person and land animal on earth that was not on that boat was killed. Men, women, and children. Every living thing.
Yet, we choose to focus on the image of the beautiful images of the boat and the animals. We choose to celebrate God’s intervention in electing to save those on the boat. That is an amazing lesson that tells us a great deal about the character of God. However, it is definitely not the entire story.
2. The Nativity – You’ve seen the images and all of the little cute figurines that demonstrate exactly what it looked like the night Jesus was born. The truth is, though, we know very little about how this scene should actually look. The only Biblical description we get of this scene is in the book of Luke, and even there the details are very limited.
Basically, we know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and placed in a manger. A little while later, some shepherds found them after they were directed there by angels. Because a manger is a feeding trough for animals, it seems we have decided it had to be in a barn and there had to be animals walking around everywhere. While that is very possible, it is definitely not a Biblical fact that Jesus was born at a petting zoo.
And how about those wise men? We only see them in the book of Matthew. And if you pay attention, it is very clear that they were not in the waiting room with cigars when the Messiah was born. In fact, we read that after Jesus was born they showed up in Jerusalem asking if anybody had seen him. We are then told that they follow the star and find him in a house with his mother, but it definitely does not indicate that they were still chilling by the manger.
3. The Cross – The symbol of our salvation. The amazing, glorious, old rugged cross. We celebrate it each week and most churches have one hanging front and center. What a beautiful representation of love and sacrifice.
However, we often ignore the fact that it is an instrument of death. It was an ancient form of the gas chamber or electric chair, but with much more pain. It was the devise that was so torturous and inflicted so much pain that the term “excruciating” was created to more accurately describe the agony it caused.
In being commanded to take up our cross (Luke 9:23), we are not just supposed to rock the cross necklace so everybody knows we go to church. We are called to risk our lives daily as the first Christians did in order to spread the gospel. We are commanded to deny ourselves and make our lives about Him.
I know these images from the Bible are portrayed the way they are for a reason. For some, it may be easier to make the messages more relatable to children. For others, we feel like an image is important and we fill in the gaps where the details are not provided in the Bible.
Believe me, I understand. If it helps to spread the good news about Jesus Christ, I am usually all for it. But if we forget the true meaning behind these stories and start leaving out or changing details that are an integral part of the complete story, then we are not going to be doing any good for anybody.
These are only a few examples of how our illustrations don’t necessarily match up with the Bible. Are there any other Bible stories that you think are misrepresented?