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OPINION

Brevity Is the Soul of Truth

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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I have a theory about truth: The number of words needed to support an idea is inversely proportional to the amount of truth it contains. Whether it involves climate, guns, immigration or anything else, the pattern is pretty distinct. Here’s an example. 

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Anyone who has spent an appreciable amount of time reading the Bible knows it includes some pretty scandalous stuff. These tales teach us lessons based on how they are interpreted. Most Christians interpret stories of bad behavior as examples of man’s universal sinfulness, and how they offer hope for all humanity that, regardless of how awful our sins are, we may still receive forgiveness by the grace of a loving God, through earnest repentance and faith that Jesus Christ died to save us from that sin.

Others interpret biblical stories of conduct unbecoming in a manner designed to impugn Christianity and those who practice it, or to corrupt scripture through wordy sleight of hand. Such is the case with a lengthy item in the Daily Beast entitled, These Sex Workers From the Bible Were God’s Favorites.

This essay by academician and author Candida Moss examines the Bible’s occasional references to prostitution. Citing the stories of Tamar and Judah from Genesis; Joshua’s spies and Rehab of Jericho; and the woman anointing Christ’s feet in the home of Simon the leper, Moss spins an elaborate, protracted yarn. She concludes, “The genealogy of Jesus­—which omits the docile wives and virtuous homemakers in Israel’s history—is a tacit indictment of slut shaming writ large.”

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The takeaway in this judgment suggests that promiscuity is not so bad and that discouraging it is hypocritical. And when such a conclusion is delivered by an esteemed professor of theology at a British university, well, only a dullard could possibly question its veracity. But verbose speculation on millennia-old events masquerading as academic debate is intellectually lazy and dishonest. Moss’s account of these Bible stories appears to reflect most of the facts described in scripture, but the conclusions are flawed. 

Nowhere in the Bible is promiscuity endorsed or encouraged. Prostitution and promiscuity are acknowledged as realities of society during the time of Jesus and long before, but teachings in both the Old and New Testaments are unambiguous about the nature of promiscuity and why we should avoid it. 

The first letter of Paul to the Corinthians is most succinct: “Flee from sexual immorality.” Not only is this sound advice, it demonstrates the simplicity of truth. Truth does not require a couple thousand words to illustrate; four will do quite nicely.

Paul had the same message for the Romans. In his letter to them, he wrote, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality.” Same goes for the Christians in Ephesus, to whom Paul wrote, “Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you.” Lest we forget, Paul’s letter to the Galatians warned that, “the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,” are no way to inherit the kingdom of God. 

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The book of Hebrews, written for Jewish Christians scattered beyond Palestine, counsels readers, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

King Solomon and other wise writers of the day had plenty of advice for men on the subject in the book of Proverbs. “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes.” Proverbs takes a poetic approach in alerting men to the dangers of promiscuity noting, “The lips of a forbidden woman drip honey and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end, she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two edged sword. Her feet go down to death.” It reads like a 3,000 year old ad warning against VD or STDs or whatever they’re calling it these days. 

No Christian I know denies the existence of Bible stories that mention prostitution and promiscuity. But every Bible-believing Christian I know understands the absurdity of claiming that scripture delivers “a tacit indictment… writ large” in reminding people that promiscuity is a bad idea. 

From Genesis through Revelation, we are instructed to avoid sexual immorality. Whether man or woman, married or unmarried, Christian or Jew, we are consistently taught - in 25 words or less - the truth about how the path of promiscuity is fraught with trouble. Untruths, on the other hand, require many words, sometimes thousands, to deceive and convince us that something we innately know is wrong, isn’t all that bad.

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William Shakespeare observed, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” But brevity is also the soul of truth. If somebody needs a couple thousand words of convoluted text to make their point, it’s probably the wrong one. 

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