Sudoku theology

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I am a math guy. I have always been top of my class and in middle school my math teacher bagged me to become a scientist. At that time, I had planned to become a bank teller. I mean, I was good with numbers, so that seemed like a logical step, right? When I look back now, I am extremely thankful, that he saw the potential in me, I couldn’t discover myself yet. He was right. No surprise here. A few years later I became a physicist. But it turned out, I am not your average scientist at all. For starters, I am an extrovert. And how do you recognize an extrovert scientist? When he talks to you, he is staring at YOUR shoes. But even more, I am a peoples person. So besides examining your shoes, there is the occasional glance at your face too. I cannot only talk to you, I like it. And to make matters worse, I have interests besides physics. It is not even my main focus in life. I love my family more. I love God most. That is, why a friend and I call ourselves “not real scientists.” But yes, I am a bit more scientifically oriented than your average dude.

I like sudokus. I have a good app on my phone, where I play a game or two, when I find the time. One of the things, that fascinates me about that game, is the fact, that there is only one solution you are trying to find. (Some producers are to lazy to check and you end up with games that have more than one solution. That is annoying, I can tell you.) So any given position might seem like it has multiple possibilities. But in fact, only one number really fits. And that number is determined by the bits of information you have in the beginning. So when this nine by nine grit is properly filled, you can delete the majority of numbers, without destroying the information stored in there. So the fun of the game is, to reconstruct that information.

Besides being a physicist and playing sudokus I am a hobby theologian. I love to learn more about God, His Word, and the Plans He has for us. And I love digging into the Bible with all I got. (And man, am I thankful for the work other have done before me. Like James Strong, who numbered all words in the Hebrew and Greek version of the Old and New Testament.) I love the fact, that God’s relationship to us can be summed up in the simple statement, that He loves us. A child can understand that. And yet it takes more than a lifetime to unpack, what that actually means. Because every word of “God loves you” is overflowing with meaning.

From time to time I meet young couples, who are about to get married. And when you talk to them about there expectations and the things marriage brings, some of them basically ask for a checklist. The ten steps to a perfect marriage. And as nice as a tool like this would be, that is not, how relationships work. Every now and then parts have to be re-evaluated, adjustments have to be made, and plans must be altered. After all, relationships are alive.

The New Testament has a similar problem. It basically lacks to do lists. There are certain guidelines and “tests” you can use to evaluate things. But there is no do this, then do that so you’ll be happy. (Religion tells you to pray this prayer and bring that offering in order to make god bless you. Well, God wants our heart not our sacrifices. And He blesses us, because He wants to, not because we could make Him.) That is, why the Bible often looks more like a sudoku than a complete book. But like a sudoku, most scriptures leave less room for interpretation than it seems at first.

In a sermon the preacher talked about the last supper and the interaction between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. His take on this was, that Judas was trying to bring about the sacrificial death of Christ with human methods. The dipping of the bread in the same bowl was a gesture of intimate friendship. Like Judas knew, what needed to be done and took care of it. Jesus even told him to do so. There is just one major problem with that interpretation. It doesn’t fit to the rest of the story. If Judas was trying to do God’s Will with human means, why does Jesus say, it would have been better for him, never to be born? (Mathew 26:24-25) It cannot be a normal statement for all, who try to bring the Kingdom of God with earthly methods. Peter did that in the garden of Gethsemane, when he cut of the ear of one of the soldiers. Jesus didn’t turn around to rebuke him or better still kill him on the spot. No, He picked up the ear and healed the injured man. And further more, most of the gospels are really blunt, when it comes to the wickedness of Judas. John even goes so far to call him a thief, who stole money from Jesus. And when we read all the accounts we see, that Judas did what he did for the sole purpose of getting rich. Now, that Jesus would die anyway and the life of traveling would come to an end, he even bought a piece of land in Jerusalem. It might be, that this pastors interpretation worked reading a single account, but it fell apart with the whole Scripture in mind.

Before Paul gives us the standard introduction to the Lord’s Supper in 1st Corinthians 11, he writes a passage about men and women. Somewhere in there, he says, women should have an “authority” on their head “on account of the angles.” That Verse let to the believe, that women should wear a headscarf while praying, “authority” being interpreted as said headscarf. Sometimes in church you can see women covering their head, when it’s time to pray. (My mom calls them the headscarf mafia.) But there are a few reasons, why this can’t be right. Yes, I must admit, I have no clue, what the angels have to do there. (Some people refer to the “sons of god” in Genesis 6. And then they read sex into it. I don’t have the time to go into why that is nonsense.) But I know, from the context of the Bible, that it does not mean any type of hat. For starters it says “authority”. If Paul meant “headscarf” shouldn’t he have written “headscarf”? Then he would have to make a major point, why he goes against all of Jewish traditions here, were men were a “hat” and women nothing. (Corinth was a former synagogue after all.) And why does he only mention it once, when it is so important? And he could have explained the angels. On top of that in the letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote, we are freed from all of the law. He actually has a whole chapter (5) devoted to our freedom from deeds. And as far as I remember, he does not write “you are called unto freedom, but when you pray, ladies, you have to wear a headscarf, lest you make the angles horny.”

Every interpretation excludes other interpretations. Like in sudoku, where a certain number in a certain spot effects the positions around it. So when we read our Bible, we should keep as much the whole Scripture in mind. For as Martin Luther said, “the Bible interprets itself.” And like a sudoku, we don’t have all the information, but the underlying truth is fixed. And it is revealed by the bits we can see.

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