Chuck (charlesofcamden) wrote,

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What a Nimrod!

You’ve no doubt heard that phrase once or twice. You may even have uttered it yourself. But it has taken on new meaning for me after leafing through a recently acquired book – Everyday Biblical Literacy: The Essential Guide to Biblical Allusions in Art, Literature, and Life. It was written by J. Stephen Lang, who I see is described as a graduate of Wheaton College, which is an Evangelical Protestant Liberal Arts college just outside Chicago. Some good friends of mine have close ties to, and even degrees from, Wheaton College, so I shall have to ask them whether they know this fellow.

I picked up this tidy tome from the Sale bin at the front of my local Barnes & Noble. It cost less than $10, which is pretty good for just about any new hardcover book these days. The book itself could be described as a Biblical trivia bathroom book, with hundreds of descriptions of Biblical terms, stories, and concepts that have become ingrained elements of popular culture and language. The book is not perfect; it contains a few howlingly inaccurate statements and could have benefitted from a more critical editor; but I come to praise this book, not to bury it, so I will save those details for another time.

The most interesting entry I’ve come across so far concerns the word nimrod; or shall I say, the name Nimrod. To quote from the book:

“Genesis 10:8-9 says ‘Nimrod… began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ He was also a great builder, establishing both Babylon and Assyria, which in time became mighty empires. His name has come to mean any daring hunter, or any bold person in general. (More recently, and no one knows exactly why, a ‘nimrod’ means ‘stupid person.’)…”

Well, I don’t know about a nimrod being a daring or bold person. I can’t say I’ve ever heard it used in that context, but I’ve certainly heard it used in the derogatory sense. Maybe I need to hang with a more highbrow crowd. If I’d ever pondered the origins of the term, I probably would have thought it was spun from whole cloth merely because of the sound of the word. In fact, I still have to think that it’s that sound, the way the word rings in the ear, that accounts for its current meaning, rather than it being any direct reference or commentary upon its biblical origins.

So this is a fun and fascinating book. I’m always interested in finding the things that tie humanity together, irrespective of our individual beliefs, and I’m always interested in revealing the unknown past and showing how it ties into what we’re doing today. And as a lifelong devotee of trivia, this book is a nice addition to my trivial life!

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