A Classic Mistake of Bible Reading

I both love and hate question time.  I am not quick on my feet and sometimes it falls flat.   But on other occasions it is where people are really learning…and so am I.

Last week we had a question time and someone asked about an illustration that I had used.  It was the old classic to describe the holiness and access to God.  The High Priest was only allowed into the Holy of Holy section of the temple on one day and he had a rope around his ankle to drag the body out if the holiness of God burned against him.  Catch the mistake?

The question was asked, “Did any of the high priests actually die?”.  My answer was not to my knowledge, but talked about the story of Uzzah in 2 Sam 6, where he was struck down by God’s holiness after touching the ark.

At afternoon tea, someone casually mentioned that the story of the rope around the ankle was a myth from the middle ages.  I was sure that Hebrews mentioned it.

So I read the Bible.

“But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.” (Hebrews 9:7 HCSB)

The high priest does indeed only enter the holy place once a year.  But there is no mention of rope and an ankle and…well anything.  More research and blogs shows that this is indeed a myth.  It was a myth first found in writings called the Zohar, which is connected with Kabbalah, around C13 A.D., several centuries after the temple had been destroyed.

Lesson: Read the Bible and know what it says, rather than what you think it says.