When I was about 8 years old, I used to listen to the 1974 recording of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as I went to sleep. As a result of that, and also because my family went to see the Bill Kenwright production every time it came to Belfast, and also because my P5 teacher loved the music and played it to us in class, I can still recall the lyrics almost perfectly—and I can list the twelve sons of Jacob as long as I can sing the song in my head.
In one dramatic point, Joseph hides a precious object amongst his brothers’ things and then claims that one of his brothers has stolen it from him.
This evening I was reading Genesis 44, which is where this story is told in the Bible. It is told a little differently there.
And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. (Genesis 44:2, KJV)
For some reason, I noticed the cup was silver. That’s funny, I thought. Most translations have it as a golden cup. I looked at a range of translations, and it was a silver cup in all of them.
I knew there were differences between the story in the musical and the story in the Bible, and I have read Joseph’s story many times, but it wasn’t until tonight that I realised the cup was silver, not gold. The musical had influenced me and the way I read and understood the Bible. This is a very minor example of culture influencing understanding, but it really got me thinking: how many other ways do we misunderstand the Bible because of our culture? We talk about Adam’s apple, yet Genesis doesn’t tell us what type of fruit it was, and we usually think of the shepherds and wise men attending the birth of Jesus, whereas the wise men arrived quite a bit after the birth. What other misunderstandings are there?
This shows why it is a good idea to read and re-read the Bible when it comes to doctrine. It isn’t enough to rely on our memories of what the Bible says. Our memories are fallible, and we all read the Bible with the influences of our culture.