It's been almost 30 years since Debbie and I, as school girls, began the great debate. Over the ensuing years, we have each stood firmly on what we believed to be true. There was no compromising, moving on or being reasonable.
One night all those years ago when I was hanging out at her house, which I did a lot in those days, I commented, "Did you know that Solomon was black?"
We were always playing Trivial Pursuit and Bible Trivial Pursuit so I had come up with this new piece of knowledge from Daddy's sermon the previous Sunday. He had preached about the equality of races and pointed out that the wisest man that God ever made was black. She swirled her head in complete shock. Her eyes grew wide and firmly she said, "Solomon was not black."
"Yes, he was." I marched over to her Bible, picked it up and read from the first chapter of Solomon where he had written, "I am black but comely." I read on where he talked of being deeply tanned by the sun.
Now, that I take the time to think back, it really was pretty extraordinary that two young girls would get into such a deep theological discussion. After all, has the color of Solomon's skin ever crossed your mind?
She argued her point. "David was his father and David was red-headed and ruddy complexioned."
"But Bathsheba, his mother, was Egyptian." Plus, most importantly, I believed that if my daddy said it, it was true, especially when it came to the Bible because he read and studied it every day.
"Listen, I respect your daddy and I've learned a lot from him about the Bible but he's wrong on this."
So, the multiyear, multi-generation debate began. She and Daddy even debated it while I would just sit there and nod in agreement with Daddy. I let him fight the battle for me. Still, she did not waiver.
When Daddy died, I inherited the debate and have, thus since, carried on valiantly. It's been a vigorous battle of wills and knowledge. It's been energetic because Debbie is a great intellectual and I am a great know-it-all, some would say a great smart aleck. But I have stuck to my guns. Daddy would be proud.
The debate would rear its head at the oddest times, such as the other day when Debbie brought it up and, again, we started it. I quoted the scriptures verbatim. "This is exactly what Solomon wrote."
Suddenly, she had a new piece of ammunition, one she had not used previously. "But he wasn't talking about himself. He was talking about a woman."
A few days later, I decided it was time to get serious with my research. I pulled out every translation of the Bible that I have. Now, as I have stated on numerous occasions, I am a reader of the King James Bible. I love the language.
I sought help from a King James study Bible and the New Living Translation and learned, lo and behold, Solomon did write it but Debbie was right — he was not referring to himself. I pulled Daddy's Bible — a Scofield Reference King James — and saw why he believed that because there were no notes otherwise. Solomon may have been black but that is not the scripture that proves it.
After decades, the debate was about to come to an end. I called Debbie and said, "I'm running the white flag up the pole."
First, she asked for me to hold on while she got a recorder and then she said, "The humbleness of you lately is truly amazing."
It's bittersweet as the great debate ends. Even the victor was sad, saying, "It was so much fun."
We agreed, though, we would carry forth with the "hyphenated" debate, a disagreement that has lasted a mere 20 years.
Stay tune for more on that.
Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of several books, including "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.