One of the split sermons we had at services yesterday was one that struck me as particularly interesting in its approach because it indicated something I have long tended to find as a worthwhile approach to research, and that is namely the way in which there is a lot of information that one can find implicit within one’s reading that is not always necessarily consciously recognized by the reader. And by drawing attention to things that are implicit in someone’s writing, one can recognize a great deal of information and data that serves valuable conclusions in bolstering one’s research that evades those whose understanding of the texts in question is of a limited or superficial nature.
I have previously noted that Luke, the author of Acts and a Gentile associate of Paul, made frequent use of time markers in his account of the Acts of the Apostles that includes a great many references to the Sabbath and Holy Days. While most of these references pass by the attention of those who do not themselves know these days or follow the behavior of the apostles and Luke in observing these biblical festivals, they represent a goldmine of implicit information that people can use to demonstrate the worship practices of the early church. Those who read Acts may note the way that Luke comments on Paul basing his travels around the Sabbath and Holy Days, determining to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost, which makes his travels from Corinth just after the Days of Unleavened Bread a matter of some urgency, as well as his cautions about the dangers of traveling in the Mediterranean Sea after the Day of Atonement (referred to as “the Fast”).
What I found particularly striking about the message was the conclusions that the speaker, a relatively recent speaker and a serious-minded deacon, drew from this body of evidence. Specifically, the author noted that the pattern of religious travel that we have documented in Acts where people traveled to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Pentecost specifically (as we see noted in Acts 2 as well as the latter part of Acts with Paul’s own travels) implies the existence of a secure religious calendar that allows for such travel to take place, which strongly implies a calculated calendar that is accessible to religious people and not something that depends on local conditions in Jerusalem that can then shift dates unpredictably and have to be communicated verbally to those in outlying communities. The speaker did an excellent job in demonstrating the ironclad implications of the religious practices that we have recorded in Scripture and in exposing some of the less credible ideas and speculations of those who have their own calendar ideas that are grounded not in the Bible and in the practice of the Church of God but in their own desire to distinguish themselves and separate themselves from others.
Even more than the specific uses of such implicit information, I cannot help but be impressed at the use of such information as a means of providing the basis for solid and useful biblical research. There is a process at hand here. First, one has to know the Bible well enough to recognize the threads and structure and logic of the writers of the Bible. Once one can discern this hidden logic that shows a coherent perspective and approach, then one can draw from this logic the implications of this logic on our own practice and help us to check our own tendencies to want make ourselves and our own thinking the center of our faith and practice. In understanding the implicit logic of the Bible, we become educated by the Bible in deep and fundamental ways that then allow us to better grasp what the Bible means for us even in areas where it is not explicitly detailed.