Newsweek recently ran a very long article titled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin”, written by Kurt Eichenwald. Unfortunately it wasn’t a very flattering article towards Christianity and the Bible.
The article begins by condemning a target group of Christians, stating, “They wave their Bibles at passerby,” and goes on to describe all kinds of behavior that he believes Christians ought not do, such as demanding prayer in school, gather at football stadiums to pray for the country’s salvation, worship on fallen knees, take Bible verses out of context, twist Scripture, not support climate change legislation, want creationism taught in schools, and condemn homosexual behavior.
While reading all this, I couldn’t help but wonder if Eichenwald was referring to me. I haven’t exactly violated all these “sins”, but I suppose I’m guilty of some of them. Does that make me a villain? I suppose so; after all, I don’t believe that humans are the main cause of climate change, or that legislation is needed to help stabilize the climate- as if that were even possible. Eichenwald loudly proclaiming that anyone who has ever done any of these things are “God’s frauds”. Nice fellow, huh? I can’t help but wonder how many people claiming to be Christians have ever committed one of the taboos on his list. I’d think most honest Christians would have to confess to at least one.
Another thought that crossed my mind as I read this article was, how big of a hypocrite is this guy? How many of these sins has he committed? And what kind of list of sins could I come up with to condemn those who think like him? I could roll up my sleeves and level some political jabs to mock those that share his beliefs. That’s exactly what he’s attempting… shame those Christians who behave in a way he disapproves of, while winning kudos from those who think just like him.
Needless to say I was ready to walk away from the article after the first three paragraphs. Why would I want to subject myself to his bigoted opinions and demand to keep my faith to myself, especially when he won’t do the same? Well, out of morbid curiosity, I continued reading to the very end, and I conclude that he’s in clear violation of being the very fraud he accuses others of.
Fundamentalists, evangelicals and political conservatives seem to be the ones Eichenwald opposes, and his tirade goes on and on, as if Newsweek is making it clear that they want to demonize these people as much as possible; it’s as if there’s nothing about these people that is any good. Apparently, atheists are almost as familiar with the New Testament and Jesus’s teachings evangelicals, while evangelicals hardly read the Bible at all and side with the Pharisees more than Jesus.
Eichenwald makes it clear that the Bible isn’t the book we think it is, and we lack Biblical knowledge and abuse it. So he’s on a crusade to set us straight! Yes, he’s going to shine a light on our ignorance and set us free from the bondage this revered book brings, so that we no longer banish children from our homes (as he claims we do). However he insists that he and Newsweek don’t intend to advance a particular theology, or debate the existence of God (I could argue that they do both). How nice.
With all seriousness, Eichenwald tries to convince his readers that no one has ever read the Bible. That’s absurd because I’m an ordinary person and I’ve read the Bible… whether he wants to admit that or not. But in order to make his point, he appeals to hyperliteralism by explaining that we have only read bad translations of copies, and that these copies are inaccurate. Although it’s true that we only have copies of the original manuscripts and not the originals, I disagree with his conclusion. It’s his aim to undermine the Bible, and this is where he begins. He takes great effort to explain why we can’t trust what the Bible says. He argues that: about 400 years separate the first Christian manuscripts and their compilation into the New Testament, 1,500 years passed since the Bible’s first words were written and then compiled into the New Testament, the books were recorded on broken clay, papyrus and parchment, and ink that faded; amateurs and scribes made copying errors and added or deleted text; the words were written without spaces or punctuation, and there are all types of translation errors.
He then concludes that the Christian belief of Jesus being God is the result of “translational trickery”, and that some publishers inserted their own beliefs into certain translations. Obviously, according to his scholarly research, Jesus must not be God. But he has some great hurdles to overcome if he really wants anyone to accept his claims. And that’s because there are mounds of evidence to rebut every point he’s made. I’ll address just a few.
Eichenwald is no different than any other critic who has attacked the reliability of biblical documents over the years. This has been happening for centuries. But we can be confident that we have accurate texts, and that’s because we have evidence demonstrating that the New Testament was written within a generation of Christ. According to biblical archaeologist William F. Albright, “We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about AD 80,” and he went on to say that, “In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century AD.” And Anglican bishop John A.T. Robinson wrote that he was convinced that the whole New Testament was written before Jerusalem fell in AD 70. All this testimony stands in stark contrast to Eichenwald’s claims. And, according to Millar Burrows, professor of biblical theology at Yale Divinity School, we have “an increase of confidence in the accurate transmission of the text of the New Testament itself.”
Eichenwald claims that God only spoke in whispers and riddles, didn’t convey a clear message, allowed a range of gospels to be accepted or rejected by various sects, and all this has led to the slaughter of thousands of Christians by Christians. Now there are times God spoke in riddles and parables, but he did so for good reason. He did so to fulfill prophecy, to teach truth to believers, and to reveal to us the Kingdom of Heaven. But at other times he was quite clear, and any fault in understanding is our own.
It’s also true that there has been much bloodshed in the name of Christianity, but that fact doesn’t nullify Christianity, as Eichenwald seems to suggest. The Crusades, for example, were not justifiable. Such behavior is condemned by the Bible, so those who killed in the name of Christianity were in violation of Scripture and acted contrary to their faith. The Sixth Commandment says, “You shall not murder,” so there’s no excuse for their behavior. Further, more wars and bloodshed has occurred in the name of atheism than all theistic religions combined. According to the 3 volume set of “Encyclopedia of Wars”, Philip and Axelrod demonstrate that of the 1,763 wars waged over the course of human history, only 123 have been religious in nature.
Eichenwald is on a quest to convince his readers that Jesus is not God, and he explains how all this killing shaped Christian orthodoxy and determined what books were considered Gospel. He insists that there’s no real Gospel claiming that Jesus was God, or that he was part of the trinity. But in order to claim this, he must ignore all the other parts of the Bible that do affirm the deity of Jesus and the concept of the Trinity. He fully accepts any verse that addresses Jesus’ humanity, but rejects any that affirm his deity. This is interesting because he’s picking and choosing verses that serve his purpose, twisting Scripture and taking it out of context- exactly what he condemns others of doing.
The Gospel of John clearly testifies to the deity of Jesus:
John 1:1-5: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:14-18: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”
It’s not surprising that Eichenwald rejects this, stating that those who site these verses are relying on bad translations of the Greek and sentences inserted by scribes. But he offers no evidence, just assertion. It seems as if whatever biblical text he doesn’t like is the result of bad translations and rogue scribes. But those verses he likes must be true and authentic. Unfortunately for him, the entire book of John testifies to the deity of Christ. John 8:48-58 is significant because it is here that Jesus claims to be God, even though he doesn’t spell it out. The Pharisees were arguing with Jesus about his claim to have seen Abraham, and they said, “You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham!” And Jesus answered them, “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. This is significant because back in Exodus 3:13-15, Moses wants to know what God’s name is so that he can tell the Israelites, and God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” And, “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”
It’s clear that the Pharisees understood that Jesus was claiming to be God because they tried to kill him for blaspheme.
Further evidence of Jesus being part of the trinity comes from Matthew 28:18-20, where he tells his disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, Eichenwald is either ignorant or dishonest.
Eichenwald continues with many other criticisms, including what he believes to be contradictions with the birth of Christ told in Matthew and Luke. I’ll confidently say that there are no contradictions. What he believes to be contradictions are merely two different accounts told from different perspectives. The stories have some differences, but that’s to be expected when two different people tell the same story. It doesn’t mean either one was lying; it just means that they had no reason to mention the exact same facts and not exclude a fact mentioned by the other.
He also takes issue with the two creation accounts in Genesis one and two, Noah’s ark, Goliath, and the leviathan, and then condemns Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and every other aspect of Christianity and politics he loathes, while expressing approval of homosexuality and the anti-woman agenda.
The entire article is a farce. I just hope that those who read his article would spend some time researching the truth for themselves. There are plenty of trustworthy resources available that refute every one of his false claims. Two books I’d recommend are Josh McDowell’s “More Than a Carpenter,” and David Limbaugh’s, “Jesus on Trial.”
The Bible is God’s Word, and it can be trusted in all areas. It speaks truth, starting with the very first verse. The Bible is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers to all mankind.