Originally created 02/05/01

Bible is no forecaster of oil prices

So, the price of gasoline is rising and David Sisler (letter, Jan. 21) claims that's exactly what the Bible foretold in Rev. 6:6. Perhaps some numbers will help.

The consumer price index (CPI), the inflation measure reported every month in the media, shows that motor fuel (gasoline) was cheaper in 1999 than in 1990 and cheaper also than in 1981.

Meanwhile, inflation-adjusted personal disposable income, i.e., the purchasing power of after-tax income, increased by 16.7 percent between 1990 and 1999 and by 44.3 percent between 1981 and 1999.

In a word, home fuel and motor fuel costs have been falling while average after-tax incomes have been rising smartly. (The data for 2000 will be out in February 2001.) And don't forget that price is not just a matter of supply, but also of demand. Driving gas-guzzlers also drives up gasoline prices.

Moreover, despite Mr. Sisler's claim, the "oil" in Rev. 6:6 does not refer to fuel oil, but to olive oil (Greek: elaion), at least according to my Greek Dictionary of the New Testament (in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance) as well as to the reference material included with my copy of my Bible.

Of course, the very context of the verse refers to food items, not to transportation.

To the literal-minded ("The next time you pay inflated prices for gasoline ... remember things are unfolding exactly as the Bible said they would. You can trust the Bible"), here's a challenge. Have a look at Numbers 3: 22, 28 and 34 and add the figures together. Then compare the result to Numbers 3:39. The Bible says the sum is 22,000, but somehow I get 22,300.

The purpose of the Bible (and other religious writings) is to impart wisdom, not literalness. After all, God also endowed us with reason.

Jurgen Brauer, Augusta

(Editor's note: The author is associate professor of Economics at Augusta State University, College of Business Administration.)


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