Ashley Reign has a post over at ranker.com listing a number of things found in the Bible that are both true and…well…not so true. Since I like interesting things and I found the list interesting I thought that I would share it and make some comments on some of its more less-than-honest claims.
The post begins positively, as Ashley writes,
Whether you believe it to be the word of God or merely an interesting piece of ancient literature, chances are that you’re familiar with the collection of books known as The Holy Bible.
Finally, someone who recognizes that the Bible is not one book. As I said, the post says some true things, and when someone gets something right, kudos to them. Skipping down a sentence in the introduction of the article, Ashley continues,
As familiar as the sight of a Bible may seem, whether it be on your bedside table or in the drawer of every hotel room you’ve ever visited, we’re willing to bet that there are some surprising things in the Bible that can still blow you away.
Here we’ve gathered a collection of everything from controversial bible verses to little-known facts about Biblical figures that are sure to give you a killer conversation starter or two. We’ve attempted to assemble a non-biased collection of fun Bible facts that will spark your interest, whether you’re a hardcore believer or the most resolute skeptic on the block.
Whenever someone says “non-biased” just expect some bias and move on. As I said, this won’t be exhaustive by going through the entire post point-by-point, but it will respond to or note either significant errors or interesting facts. With that in mind, the post stumbles right out of the gate, stating something that is both true and false at the same time.
In point one, titled, “Unicorns Are Mentioned Not Once, but Many Times Throughout the Bible”, which is an interesting claim in itself, Ashley writes,
Though most modern translations have since replaced it with other words, the King James Version uses the term “unicorn” a staggering number of times.
Well, the King James Version has a number of issues when it comes to its translation methodology, both in the source from which it translates, as well as the fact that it often transliterates certain words or orders of words, such as the word “unicorn” directly from the Vulgate. Even then, the word, or its plural form, bicornis, appears only a handful of times, as compared to the claim of a “staggering number”, the article itself only lists 8. Yes, eight in total.
There is an interesting video that responds to this, posted above, but the issue is that, if you read this post from the other week, you already see several problems. Douglas Mangum, in this article, notes,
Unusual words sometimes present problems for translators. In the early 17th century, the study of Hebrew by Christian scholars was still in its infancy. Unlike today, translators could not look words up in a Hebrew dictionary. The meaning of an unknown word was found either by asking a native speaker, or by studying the word in context and venturing a guess. In the case of a biblical word, scholars could have referenced other ancient Bible versions to discern how ancient translators understood a word. At the time theKJV was produced, the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate were the most well-known ancient versions.
The biblical writers weren’t referring to some mythical, horse-like creature, and assuming that is both ridiculous and irrational. The Lexham Bible Dictionary entry, written by Mangum on “Unicorn”, which cites his article, notes,
[The] word basically means “one-horned.” Early translations of the Bible into English used “unicorn” for the Hebrew word רְאֵם (re’em), which refers to a kind of ox (e.g., Job 39:9–10). The identification of the רְאֵם (re’em) as a one-horned animal likely derived from the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Bible. The Septuagint translators sometimes used the Greek word μονόκερως (monokerōs), also meaning “one-horned,” to represent the Hebrew רְאֵם (re’em) (e.g., Num 23:22; 24:8; Deut 33:17; Pss 22:21; 29:6; Job 39:9). When Jerome translated the Vulgate, he used unicornis and rinoceros for רְאֵם (re’em). The translators of the King James Version then used the English word “unicorn” for רְאֵם (re’em) (Psa 92:10; Isa 34:7; Job 39:9–10), following standard English usage for the time.
File under “interesting quirks of language”, but Ashley has engaged in largely a misrepresentation of the facts.
Point 5 is also interesting, and titled, “Your Mental Image of God May Actually Be of an Ancient Canaanite Storm Deity”. Ashley writes,
“Much of our modern day imagery of God as an old man with a long beard was originally borrowed from an ancient Canaanite storm god who was also known as El (God), Il, or sometimes Latipan.
He was known as the Father God of a pantheon of smaller Canaanite gods, and was often depicted as a wise old man with a long flowing beard whose throne sat on top of a mountain surrounded by clouds.
Let’s keep in mind that the books of the Bible came into existence at a specific point in time and so it reflected a common worldview with its neighbors, especially in the context of cosmology. Wesley Crouse, in his LBD essay on ancient cosmology, notes,
The biblical authors generally demonstrate a common cognitive perception of the cosmos with their ancient neighbors. Thus, an understanding of the cosmologies of the cultures surrounding ancient Israel and Judaea provides insight into the biblical writers’ contexts.
So, within that historical context, we find similar images being used. Mountains, valleys, rivers, and all manner of features are given great theological weight. The common mistake, going back the Frazer’s The Golden Bough, is to assume that just because there are common images and themes shared across cultures that are somehow not true of the biblical God. Further, Michael Heiser notes in his book The Unseen Realm, a book which works through the images and themes that the Hebrew writers use, that,
[The] biblical writers adopt and then repurpose material found in the literature of other (pagan) cultures—in this case, Ugarit—to exalt Yahweh and to slight lesser gods. The Hebrew Bible has many examples, but they are obvious only to a reader of Hebrew who is informed by the ancient worldview of the biblical writers. (p 372)
God—and this is Heiser’s argument, which I think is compelling—in inspiring the authors of the Bible would want them to use the images and themes that had theological freight in their time. He would not want the writers to use anything that didn’t have meaning to the original audience that was being spoken to. Now this causes something interesting to occur in people looking backward into history: we, especially in light of presuppositions regarding evolution, can see this wrongly. We can see the common elements and themes and make glaring generalizations about the nature of those beliefs, and in doing so attempt to leverage arguments that reinforce unbelief. However, closer inspection of the evidence reveals something entirely different, which is something that Heiser discusses more fully in his book.
Now, point seven is something that, if people aren’t paying attention to that they can miss what the underlying argument actually is. Titled, “‘Biblical Marriage’ May Not Mean What You Think,” the accompanying graphic, seen below, attempts to sow confusion where none actually exists.
It’s ironic that the term “biblical marriage” is thrown around so much these days, because it appears to have been coined by folks who may or may not have actually read the Bible.
Taken literally, the term far from specifies the marriage of one man and one woman, as you’ll see in the list of marriages above – all of which are both mentioned and condoned in the Bible. Biblically speaking, God actually seemed surprisingly open to working with various cultures’ ideas of what marriage should be.
Back in 2015 I addressed this very argument, demonstrating rather conclusively that it confuses description with prescription, committing some of the very same errors in facts and reasoning that are found in the Obergefell decision. I can’t fault anyone for not knowing about these arguments, because I’m just a simple, country blogger with less than 300 followers (thank all of you very much, btw) who isn’t into self-promotion and who doesn’t generate much controversy, except in the com-boxes of other blogs. If anyone finds themselves confused about what “biblical marriage” is, please check the first link in this paragraph.
Point 13, demonstrates something that is true, but the fact that it is true, can be easily misunderstood and abused, because its title recognizes something important: “Not Every Part of the Bible Was Intended for Everyone.”
Though some people believe that every word of the Bible was intended to be taken literally and obeyed by everyone for all time, the Bible itself couldn’t contradict this idea more.
Several verses are linked to support this fact. And yes, it’s very true, not every part of the Bible was intended for everyone at every time; however, all of Scripture is for everyone at every time. Let me explain.
There were things called covenants, and these covenants were made with specific people at specific times. These covenants had conditions that defined how certain things were to be done, and the time periods that they were to be done in. Not all elements of the covenants applied to everyone. However, there are some covenantal elements that seem to be for all people at all times because they serve to elucidate the character of the God who made them. We would call these principles, perhaps they could even be called categorical imperatives. It should suffice to say that there are some things that everyone agrees ought not be done, the only way that these universals can be appealed to is if there is a God whose image and likeness humans bear and are responsible for. That means that one ought to be extremely careful, and not go beyond what has been declared to have “passed away” and what is still very much intact, which takes us to the final point in this rather long post that I intend to address.
Titled, “Jesus Christ Had Nothing at All to Say Against Homosexuality,” point 21 declares,
That’s right, as much as divorced politicians blame homosexuality for destroying the institution of marriage, Jesus never once spoke out against gay people. He preferred, it seems, simply to refer to them as “people,” just like everybody else.
Well, aside from the false category of “gay people”, this is true, but it also can be said to be false. Again, going way back to another post from 2015, I demonstrated that this claim is a fallacious argument from silence: Jesus didn’t address specific point X, therefore Jesus had nothing to say about X; in this case “point X” being homosexuality. Now, I could take that frame of an argument and insert things like abusing spouses and children, using a particular drug, or just about anything, and if there’s no specific discussion, then I have to conclude that Jesus was “cool” with it.
To quote myself from the post linked in the immediately preceding paragraph, after making an argument from the gospels themselves, I write,
[From] the available evidence, we are forced to conclude that Jesus held to a normative view that permanent, monogamous, heterosexual relationships is the purpose of human sexuality and held to the biblical position that homosexual behavior is an abomination and a sin and that those who engage in it are subject to the judgment of God according to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, along with many other sins. (emphasis and links added)
Yeah, that’s how a Christian refutes that particular argument.
There are a number of particularly interesting points in the list that should prompt one to further study, simply because they’re interesting. But as always believers, keep thinking, and keep that thinking biblical.