beauty of scripture

Finding Hidden Beauty

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Math holds an inner beauty that can both be seen on the surface and also deepens as you dig into its underlying structure.

I’m a math geek. I went to college for Aerospace Engineering. I’ve been to Apple’s WWDC programmer’s developer conference twice for apps that I wrote. I studied cryptography for fun. Yeah. Bring me to your next party.

But you don’t need an engineering background to appreciate some of that beauty.

Hidden Natural Beauty

A few days ago, it was Pi Day and math became cool for a moment. Pi is the number that you always get when you divide a circle’s diameter by it’s radius. No matter the size of the circle it’s always the same.

And I’m sure you have seen the beauty in fractal images, or a thing called the golden ratio. This spiral shape is seen in everything from sea shells to sunflowers to subatomic particles to galaxies to the anatomy of the human body. It is an underlying, perfect ratio.

That we were designed by God, finding these hidden truths like the golden ratio should come as no surprise.

But I am stopped in my tracks when I see that math revealed in nature. It is pure beauty.

The Beauty of Scripture

This will likely get some pushback from those who have not read the bible with an open mind, but there is much beauty in the bible’s writings.

For one, this is a collection of 66 books written over several thousands of years, and yet, has one underlying theme. It has one story arc. It has one central character. Jesus Christ.

In addition to the difficulty of people alone trying to pull off an achievement like this, there is the micro level of beauty in the writing.

Not only do you see truths written about, but you see them written in a beautiful form. Many of the writings use chiastic patterns. A chiastic structure is one where you start with a point, move to a second point, then a third. Then you come back to your second point and finally your first.

A few great examples of this can be seen in the Gospel of Mark.1

A. The Parable of the Sower (4:1-9)
B. The Secret of the Kingdom (4:10-12)
A. The Parable of the Sower (4:13-20)

A. Jesus and Jairus’ Daughter (5:21-24)
B. Jesus and the Suffering Woman (5:25-34)
A. Jesus and Jairus’ Daughter (5:35-43)

A. Jesus and the Twelve Apostles (6:7-13)
B. John the Baptist Beheaded (6:14-29)
A. Jesus and the Twelves Apostles (6:30)

A. Jesus and the Fig Tree (11:12-14)
B. Jesus at the Temple (11:15-18)
A. Jesus and the Fig Tree (11:19-21)

A. The Chief Priests and Schemes (14:1-2)
B. Jesus Anointed (14:3-9)
A. The Chief Priests and Schemes (14:10-11)

And once you get into the details of an individual parable, you’ll recognize how the story has it’s own chiastic structure. Mark isn’t the only one doing this either.

One of my favorites is in Ephesians 2, where Paul is talking about grace. We begin walking dead in our trespasses, and end up walking in the good works God has prepared for us. There are actually several depths within Ephesians 2, which bring out so much more beauty in God’s Word.

The Beauty of Greek

Unless you are a language geek like me, and have studied ancient languages, this will look, pardon my pun, Greek to you.

Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.
μακάριοι οἱ πενθοῦντες, ὅτι αὐτοὶ παρακληθήσονται.
μακάριοι οἱ πραεῖς, ὅτι αὐτοὶ κληρονομήσουσι τὴν γῆν.
μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην, ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσονται.
μακάριοι οἱ ἐλεήμονες, ὅτι αὐτοὶ ἐλεηθήσονται.
μακάριοι οἱ καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ, ὅτι αὐτοὶ τὸν θεὸν ὄψονται.
μακάριοι οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί, ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ θεοῦ κληθήσονται.
μακάριοι οἱ δεδιωγμένοι ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

There is so much beauty in this. For starts, it is Matthew 5, also known as Jesus saying the Beatitudes. But you’ll notice another layer. There are so many similar parts laid out.

For instance, imagine you are on the hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee and you are listening to Jesus teaching. He used several mnemonics in this teaching to be sure those listening would remember it. The first two words are the same for each. That sets up the pattern. “Blessed are those” or “Happy are those” is a typical translation.

For the first four lines, the third word starts with a “p” sound. The next line has two words that begin with “el” sounds in quick succession. The next lines have a “ka” sound. Then two “deh” sounds.

This alliteration helped those Greek-speaking Galileans (yes, they spoke Greek around Galilee)2 to recall what Jesus was saying.

There’s much more going on here too, which Dr. Peter Williams discusses in his talk3 about this in much greater depth. I’d highly recommend setting aside a bit of time to watch his presentation.

Beauty from God

The best part is you can both study about this, and simply meditate on God’s Word. Spend time with God in the pages of the bible. It is how he has chosen to reveal himself to us, and like letters from a long lost relative, you can grow so much in your relationship with Him by spending time in his writings.

It is in the pages of His Word that we realize how far from beautiful we are, stained in sin. But through the blood of Jesus Christ, He has washed us clean. We are pure and wholly beautiful in the eyes of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

No go and spend time with him in his letters to you.

  1. ‘Sandwich Construction’ in Mark’s Gospel 

  2. What Language Did Jesus Speak, 2016, Zondervan Academic 

  3. What Can You Learn From Greek?, Dr. Peter Williams, Biblical Literacy Series 

Hi. I'm Scott Sullivan, a slave of Christ and husband to my awesome wife Angie. I'm an artist and writer, living in the beautiful countryside of Lancaster, Pa.

I recently published, Searching For Me, my first memoir. It’s about my adoption, search for my biological family, and how it affected my faith. Read about it here.