BibleGateway.com is a website with about 22 Bible translations on line. Back in 2009, they thought it would be interesting to find out what the most popular Bible verses are, so they examined a (relatively) small sample of 25 million Bible-passage searches during March and April of that year. They say that this was not a straight popularity contest, because if it had been, only five scriptures would have come up in the top 100. Two of the five are not listed in their top 100, apparently because they are chapters, not verses. We will read them as 1a and 1b. I think you’ll be surprised – as I was – at some of the verses that made the top 100.
From now until mid-July, we’re going to count down the most-read Bible passages on BibleGateway.com. You and I are context readers, however, not proof-text readers. We will read each one of these most-read verses in the context of its passage. When two or more verses are in the same passage, we’ll read them together under the more-popular countdown number. I checked against the 2009 Lectionary, and the survey results do not appear to me to be tied to the Lectionary.
John 13:31 – 14:6, Countdown #100: John 13:35 (4/9/12)
Countdown Verse #100 is “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
” Good verse, but not the one I remember from this passage.
What I remember is “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were
I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there
ye may be also.” As you can see from the italics, I learned these two verses from the King James Version. Other translators make this a question, as in the English Standard Version: “If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Just remember that the original text had no punctuation, and don’t argue with each other about it.
Either way, Jesus is telling his disciples that he’s going away for now, but he and they – and all of us – will be reunited later. Why did I make the passage cross the break between Ch. 13 and Ch. 14? Because the context of Countdown Verse #100 is about where Jesus is going and how we will get there. You know the way, because you know Jesus.
Isaiah 55:6-13, Countdown #98: Isaiah 55:8 (4/10/12)
Every so often I quote or I hear someone else quote Countdown Verse #98, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
” I have the impression that we are thinking, “God is so much bigger and smarter than we are that he really knows what’s going on.” Which is certainly true. Or maybe we think, “God’s ways are too mysterious for me to understand.” And there’s truth in that, too.
But when I read the previous verse, I get the impression that what I should
be thinking is, “God’s thoughts are not my thoughts because God is righteous and I am wicked.” And when I read the verse before that, I have the additional impression that I don’t have forever to get right with God. Seek God while
he may be found; call him while
he is near. As the great theologian Bob Dylan says, “Gotta change my way of thinking.”
Reader Comment: Isn’t context a wonderful thing? I was surprised to find that I didn’t recognize today’s “98th most popular” verse, nor the verses that followed. Isaiah 55:6-7, however, are right at the front of my brain. They also, as you noted, convey a much more relevant (and urgent, vs. 6) message. With a change to third person, the rest of the passages could be a Psalm of Praise more than prophesy.
Matthew 5:13-16; Luke 8:16-18, Countdown #97: Matthew 5:16 (4/11/12)
One of the ways to read in context is to see how two different writers view the same event, or sometimes two events that are related. For example, if you are reading about a certain king in 1 or 2 Kings, it’s a good idea to see what 1 or 2 Chronicles has to say about him. If you are reading one of the prophets, figure out which king he was preaching to, and read about that king in Kings or Chronicles.
The three Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – report on roughly the same portion of Jesus’ ministry, i.e., mostly the Galilean ministry. Matthew records the Sermon on the Mount, but Luke records the Sermon on the Plain; these two sermons are so close in time and have so many similarities that many scholars think they are really just the same sermon, differently packaged. (I don’t agree.) Countdown Verse #97 is from Matthew: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
” Jesus explains the same parable just a little differently in Luke: “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”
Matthew 22:23-46, Countdown #95: Matthew 22:37 (4/12/12)
Now, I totally agree that Countdown Verse #95, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind
,” is a wonderful, important verse. If everyone would memorize it and live
by it and by the next verse, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” the vast majority of the world’s problems would be solved overnight. (Notice that loving your neighbor did not make it into the top 100 in popularity.)
However, Countdown Verse #95 is not the point of the passage. To understand the point, you must first know that the Sadducees and the Pharisees were two Jewish sects-cum-political parties that agreed only in their opposition to Jesus. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead and weren’t that interested in the Law. The Pharisees did believe in resurrection and tried to keep every tiny point of the Law. The point of the passage is that (a) both
the Sadducees and the Pharisees frequently tried to entrap Jesus into saying something that would offend a lot of people; and (b) Jesus always outsmarted them through superior knowledge of the scriptures and better reasoning.
More of BibleGateway.com’s Top 100+2
Countdown Verses #100 - #95
Countdown Verses #91 - #82
Countdown Verses #75 - #70
Countdown Verses #69 - #63
Countdown Verses #60 - #53
Countdown Verses #50 - #44
Countdown Verses #43 - #39
Countdown Verses #38 - #33
Countdown Verses #32 - #23
Countdown Verses #21 - #15
Countdown Verses #14 - #8
Countdown Verses #6 - #3
Countdown Verses #2 - #1a
Countdown Verse #1
Copyright 2012 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.
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