The Bible: Puzzles and Premises


When I hear private interpretations of the Bible, I’m reminded of Grandma Maudie’s puzzle pounding.

When I was growing up, my family loved to do jigsaw puzzles. We’d start one on a coffee table, card table or sometimes on our kitchen table, and everyone would just sit and work on it a while, then go do other things. With all of us working together, little by little the complete picture would be revealed.

How to tell if you are a premise pounder:

  • Do I spend more time studying my pet premise than I do studying the main themes of the Bible, such as Jesus Christ and the gospel?
  • Is my premise more important to me than my relationships with fellow believers?
  • In conversations, do I feel a compelling need to teach others my findings?
  • Does it make me uncomfortable to hear anything that doesn’t support my pet premise?
  • Do I seem to always find a way to bring a conversation back to my pet premise?
  • Because of my intense study on my pet premise, do I consider myself an authority on the topic?
  • Do I spend most of my Bible time on obscure areas of the Bible that could have many different interpretations?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, you may be a premise pounder. Try putting your premise aside and focusing on the main and plain things of the Bible.

Finding the right piece to fit in the right place was not as easy as it looked. You had to match colors, shapes and sizes. If a puzzle piece didn’t fit, you would lay it aside and come back to it later. When you found the right puzzle piece for the right spot, it would go in easily and fit snugly.

When my elderly grandmother came to stay with us, she wanted to join in the fun. However, we soon discovered that working puzzles was not her forte. Grandma Maudie would try to squeeze a piece into the wrong spot and sometimes hit it with her fist to make it fit. “I know that goes there,” she’d say, but it didn’t — and no amount of pounding on it would make it fit any better.

I’m reminded of Grandma Maudie’s puzzle pounding when I hear private interpretations of the Bible. Some people believe in their preconceived premise so strongly they squeeze and distort facts to fit what they feel is right. Then they force-feed their theory again and again to anyone who will listen. They aren’t interested in hearing anything that doesn’t support what they have already determined is true. Even if their supposition doesn’t fit or mesh with the biblical context, they keep trying to pound it into place.

If a premise is sound, it will not need to be forced it into place. I respect people who can just lay a premise aside and focus on the pieces of the puzzle that do fit. If what they believe is true, when other parts of the puzzle are in place, their piece will fit.

We all know there are gray areas of the Bible, but perhaps that is what God intended. It can produce a healthy dialogue and exchange of ideas among Christians. However, the old phrase “the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things” still rings true. Any study that takes you away from the main focus of Jesus and his love will not be productive in the end. Some of these speculations are interesting, but may need to be laid aside until more of the picture comes together. God is the only one who knows how all the puzzle pieces fit snugly into place.

Author: Barbara Dahlgren

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