Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Of Priests and Ankle Ropes

Although it may seem hard to believe (sarcasm meter of "full" here), we Christians sometimes believe things that aren't true. Then we proceed to teach them to others, whether it's from the pulpit, in front of a class, or in a Bible study. I know I have.

Case in point: Priests who were to serve in the Holy of Holies (once a year) in the Jewish Temple tied a rope around their ankle. Why would they do that? Because if they died while they were in the presence of God serving Him, they could be dragged out by the other priests (who were forbidden to enter the Holy of Holies). This was done in order to guard and recognize the awesome holiness of God. Nice story. Interesting tidbit. Goosebump-inducing. Makes you look like you know a lot about Jewish culture and customs when you mention it in a Bible study.

One small problem - it's not true. There's little, if any, evidence for it. In fact, no one quite knows where this idea came from or how it got started. I discovered this by accident when I was researching archaeological evidence for the New Testament. This website had this article which gives the details. It's the biblical form of an urban legend (a story that gets passed off as true, but isn't).

We all need to be more careful when pass things like this on to other people. We don't need made-up stories and "facts" to convince ourselves or others of the truth of Christianity. We look foolish when we use false stories or interesting "facts" to make a point (even if it's a good one).

God is a God of truth (Jer. 10:10-11). As His people, we love the truth and speak the truth (Deut. 5:20; Eph. 4:25). By doing so, we imitate Him, make Him visible, and put Him on display. In other words, we glorify Him (1 Cor. 10:31; 1 Pet. 4:10).

So, "be careful out there," as they used to say on "Hill Street Blues."

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