You can’t visit the state of Montana without encountering the bison. The state was home to literally millions of plains bison, as well as to the Native Americans who hunted them.
Of course, this wasn’t my first encounter with the creatures. I had, however, always called them Buffalo, and I was of the opinion that “Buffalo” and “Bison” were synonyms. My visit to the National Bison Range taught me differently…
Established in 1908 to provide sanctuary for the few remaining bison, the National Bison Range, home to 350-500 free-range bison, now serves as the central point for bison research in the United States. It was at the visitor’s centre for the range where I would learn that bison and buffalo are two very different species of animals. A true buffalo is found in Asia or Africa, while the creatures that once roamed the plains of North America are actually bison. The reason we have called them “buffalo” all these years is that when the early French explorers came across these creatures, they thought they looked like cattle and dubbed them, bœufs. This French word for “cattle” is pronounced “buff”, and the name “buffalo” was born.
What I’d really like to know is how I managed to live in North America for over half a century without knowing that the real name for these massive creatures is not “buffalo” but “bison”!
It makes me think. How many other things have I always “heard”, which actually aren’t correct? For example, I had read through my Bible many times before I actually realized that the “donkey” was never mentioned in the Christmas story. It had been a shock only a few years earlier to learn that the Wisemen and the shepherds didn’t visit baby Jesus at the same time. And the Bible doesn’t say that Adam and Eve ate an “apple” from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but a “fruit”, and nowhere does it say in the Bible that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.
There has been so much tradition mixed into our Christian education that sometimes it is difficult to know what is directly from the Word of God, and what is simply tradition. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? I mean, most of the examples I listed above are not about anything that is critical to our faith. But what if we are following as doctrine the traditions of men? Is this why we are admonished to: “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth…” (2 Tim. 2:15 NLT)? So that we will know the difference between tradition and Truth?
Take, for example, Salvation. Sure, the Bible teaches Salvation by faith, but so many of our churches make it sound like we have to “do” something to be saved. Who do we believe? The church? Or our Bibles?
Friends, what we are admonished to do is to read and study our Bibles for ourselves, and whenever we encounter something that is different from what we’ve been taught, we need to flag it. We need to do a little Bible study on that subject — something rendered far easier in our day and age by the internet! We need to find out what the Bible actually teaches!
I don’t know about you, but putting Mary on a donkey seems harmless enough. But how we are saved, now that’s pretty important to get right!
Don’t take what you’ve always learned at face value. Dig in to the Word of God yourself. Search! Seek Truth! And don’t forget that bringing us to knowledge of all truth is one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13 NLT). Never open your Bible without praying for God’s Spirit to guide you into all truth! And then, don’t be amazed when He shows you something that may be a bit different from what you’ve “always learned”!
“Buffalo” anyone? No, I’ll take “Bison” — And I’ll take Biblical Truth over tradition as well!
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, andScriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, withAnswers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
(To access the entire “The Bison” mini-series, please click here!)