Are Urban Legends In The Bible?

The title/question of this article probably sounds like blasphemy to you, eh? The Bible, of course, is 100% truth without error, but what about all the things that we inadvertently identify with it? That is where we must be careful. In Seminary we referred to these things as found in “grandmom’s Bible.” There is an old story associated with the tabernacle and temple worship of the Old Testament that I always thought was true, but it appears after some serious study, that it is not true. I am sure you have heard of it and it goes like this: “The priest would leave the Holy Place and enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement for an annual sacrifice for the sins of the people. The story goes that the bells on the bottom of his robe would jingle, letting those nearby outside know that everything was copesetic. He also had a rope around his ankle, with the other end resting outside of the Holy of Holies. If the Lord struck him dead because his heart was not right, the people outside could then pull him out.” That is the story I heard from my pastor and countless other preachers through the years. I am embarrassed to say that I too, spoke on this subject as if it came right out of the book of Leviticus.
But, we live in the age of Google. I hit the world famous search engine and studied countless sources (I would encourage you to do the same), and found that this really neat story appears to be no more than a fabrication that sounds almost romantic and good to listeners. Please Google “tie a rope around priest’s ankle before he enters the Holy of Holies,” and you will have countless good hits, and you can read to your hearts’ content. The extrabiblical sources never mention this story. The historians and the Jewish Talmud likewise never mention this. It is no where to be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls or any place else for that matter. The only historical reference appears to be from a thirteenth century Jewish mystic named Zohar. That is correct— he came along with this tale thirteen centuries after the last temple was destroyed! What is more, when the priest entered the Holy of Holies, he did not wear the ephod with bells, hence if there were no bells on his gown, then there was no need for a rope. Furthermore, the scriptures reveal that a rope was not among the items that were even allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. OOOOPS! Indeed, it appears to be a mere romantic tale and we can correctly place it in “grandmom’s Bible.” What is the lesson and moral to this exciting saga? It is this: All good Christians and pastors must ALWAYS do what the noble Bereans did: Acts 17:11: “The Bereans were more noble than those believers in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES daily, [to see] whether these things were so.” It is good to be humbled and realize that sometimes we can get to being too cute. The moral of the story is also that the Bible is our measuring rod and not Aesop’s Fables!
Blessings, Pastor Steve

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