Bible Quiz

This past Wednesday I was on a committee conducting an oral examination of a young man to determine if he should be a licensed minister within our church’s consortium and within the State of Ohio.  During the process of questioning and evaluation there was discussion as to whether a person being licensed as a minister should be able to list all of the books of the Bible by memory.

I claimed that naming the books of the Bible by memory was unnecessary for a theological exam of a minister within the Christian faith.  Not surprising, I was in the minority with this position…but I have my reasons.

What do you think?


~ by Dave Smith on May 1, 2009.

6 Responses to “Bible Quiz”

  1. Once again you prove to be a raving heretic. Okay, I’ll bite—what are your reasons?

  2. lol. really? how about making every pastor know every zip code that their church could possibly interact with. or the name of every school principal within a 10 mile radius. or the name AND location of every city and country that they have missionaries in. heck…how about the name of every country in the world, cause that’s our mission field. how about having to know the top 5 social struggles in their church community. and then in the neighborhood(s) their church community interacts in.

    Biblical knowledge without application is dead. I’ve never known a Bible without a table of contents. I’ve known too many pastors with Scriptural knowledge but poor application. i’m pretty sure the heart of the Scriptures is more important than the name of the book that it’s found in. Yes…we need to know our Bibles…but some sort of BIble quiz drill is foolish if you think it’s going to provide the litmus test for ability to minister.

  3. I agree with jdh about as much as it is possible to agree with someone.

    On a list of priorities, knowing the books of the bible by heart is about as inconsequential a question as I’ve ever heard for licensing. Wow. Compared to all the issues JDH listed, it hardly matters at all.

    IMO, it’s more important to understand the content of the Gospel (not which chapter and verse you can find it in, necessarily — especially in light of modern tech) and to be able to synthesize that content across verses, chapters, and books so that the person has a holistic understanding of Scripture and its content.

    And I’m with Rich: what were your reasons?

  4. I am on board with the does not matter crowd. I could teach a kid to memorize those books in a matter of days but it would not make them any more ready to be a pastor.

    I think I know where those kinds of subjective standards come from as we struggle at my office trying to figure out which interview candidates “get it” and we end up using completely arbitrary standards in an effort to form objective opinions.

    I would rather have a pastor that possessed incredible relational skills and deep spiritual knowledge constantly flipping back to the table of contents to find where Hezekiah (i can’t spell it…no pastorship for you!) than one that can sing me the books of the Bible song

  5. A few things to know: 1) the exam is strictly to license a minister and within my faith community this first step deals primarily with theological knowledge and understanding. 2) following a licensure exam there is an ordination exam usually 2-years later to focus more on the practicality of pastoring, whereby a person is than ordained as a pastor (vs. licensed as a reverend)…semantics I know. 2) the licensure exam deals with all the basic theological components of systematic theology, and the “books of the Bible” discussion came up during the bibliology section.

    My reasons are nothing earth shattering. I guess I would rather want to ensure the person has a basic framework of God’s storyline and can fit the pieces together vs. knowing inconsequential facts. I think they should know Amos is a book in the Bible (and a person) and not a planet or body part…but I am fine that they don’t necessarily know it is after Joel or forgot there was a Hahum.

    I had to look up what Nahum was after just to write that statement above, so you know where I mentally stand on the issue (I have learned them before, but always forget)…so maybe my position simply stands to compensate my own weakness.

    But then I was thinking today…If I had a doctor working on me and he didn’t know all of the parts of the body, would I wonder about his competency?

    That may be comparing apples and oranges…but just a thought that got me feeling guilty again when I stumble in reciting the prophets and keeping Paul’s letters in order.

  6. But then I was thinking today…If I had a doctor working on me and he didn’t know all of the parts of the body, would I wonder about his competency?

    Well, I suppose if the various books of the bible are analogous to surgical tools, medicine, etc, then the role of the pastor would be to diagnose whatever’s wrong and cure whatever ails.

    I’m guessing that’s not how you envision being a pastor.

    And FWIW: In my view, the bible’s not a tool to fix people. Instead, it’s a narrative that functions to frame the world for us and guide us through our own journeys.

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