Have you ever heard someone say, “the devil is in the details”?
Some people say it’s the inverse of, “God is in the details.”
What is meant by “the devil is in the details?
One definition I saw explained the phrase by saying, “small errors may add up to big trouble.”
The “Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings” by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996) shows this phrase as a variation of “God is in the details – Whatever one does should be done thoroughly; details are important. The saying is generally attributed to Gustave Flaubert (1821-80), who is often quoted as saying, ‘Le bon Dieu est dans le detail’ (God is in the details). Other attributions include Michelangelo, the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and the art historian Aby Warburg. ‘The Devil is in the details’ is a variant of the proverb, referring to a catch hidden in the details. ‘Governing is in the details”and ‘The truth, if it exists, is in the details’ are recent variants.
So, who is most likely to say it? Those who are detailed or those who aren’t?
As one who deals in details–or has to deal with details–both in administration (not fun) and in the study of the Bible (great fun), I find it interesting how people respond to details. )It’s similar to statistics –since anyone can use and misuse statistics.) We tend to like the details when they are in our favor and ignore them when they are not in our favor. But can we have it both ways?
While there is much to say about details in administration–I’ll refrain from venting.
But when it comes to the study of the Bible, the little details often make a big impact. And for that reason, maybe the phrase, “God is in the details” is more appropriate.
God gave us everyone word and therefore we should care about the details.
Just off the top of my head, I thought of three passages where the details matter (and there are hundreds more):
2 Corinthians 5:14 the little word “for” has the meaning of substitution–that’s very significant
Galatians 3:16 Paul focuses on the fact that in “seed” is singular
Even in Bible translations, the little details can cause big problems, for example the “wicked bible”–which dropped the word “not” from Exodus 20:14