September 2, 2009

Top 10 Worst Bible Passages.

Perhaps you will disagree:
  1. "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet." (1 Timothy 2:12)
  2. "Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses." (1 Samuel 15:3)
  3. "You shall not let a sorceress live." (Exodus 22:18)
  4. "Happy those who seize your children and smash them against a rock." (Psalm 137:9)
  5. "When the men would not listen to his host, the husband seized his concubine and thrust her outside to them. They had relations with her and abused her all night until the following dawn, when they let her go. Then at daybreak the woman came and collapsed at the entrance of the house in which her husband was a guest, where she lay until the morning. When her husband rose that day and opened the door of the house to start out again on his journey, there lay the woman, his concubine, at the entrance of the house with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, 'Come, let us go'; but there was no answer. So the man placed her on an ass and started out again for home." (Judges 19:25-28)
  6. "And the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity." (Romans 1:27)
  7. "Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. 'If you deliver the Ammonites into my power,' he said, 'whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the Lord. I shall offer him up as a holocaust.' ... When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah, it was his daughter who came forth, playing the tambourines and dancing. She was an only child: he had neither son nor daughter besides her. When he saw her, he rent his garments and said, 'Alas, daughter, you have struck me down and brought calamity upon me. For I have made a vow to the Lord and I cannot retract'." (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5)
  8. "Then God said: 'Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you'."(Genesis 22:2)
  9. "Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:22)
  10. "Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse." (1 Peter 2:18)


chuck b. said...

Hey, take it or leave it. But if you leave it, you're going to Hell.

Scott M said...

I'm a Christian through and through, though never, ever been a "thumper". That being said, here's my personal favorite...

Deuteronomy 23:12-13

You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be that when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.

I just love that one...

Dustin said...

That tenth one has always been very problematic for me. Slavery? God knows slavery is wrong. Slave rape? Yeah, he knows that's wrong too. We all do, and we always have. It's not like Thomas Jefferson didn't understand this. We didn't grow that part of morality recently.

So the people who put that oral tradition to paper were, for some reason, using God's name to justify one of the worst things a person can do. When I point this out, merely as evidence that the Bible is not perfect, I always hear some bullshit about how society was different back then. So what? It's not like adultery and lying are OK today just because they are commonplace.

Dustin said...

Scott, that one makes a lot of sense. the bible was useful for people who didn't understand things like that. It's amazing to me how following it often would lead to a far lower likelihood of getting a host of diseases and emotional and family problems.

It's as though religion is a being itself, and the religions that couldn't mutate to adapt to the world didn't flourish like Judaism and Christianity did. That's why Islam is having such a violent time... you can't edit or even translate the Koran (legitimately). It's stuck forever.

Synova said...

The History ones don't count. Seriously. In ancient times life sucked. Surprise!

Women should never be in spiritual authority over men because it turns men into children and this is bad for women. (Men, likewise, should not be in spiritual authority over women who (and this is scriptural) should instruct other women.)

And yeah... sexual sins are sins against your own body and a darn good way to catch something that either rots your parts off or kills you. And?

Shanna said...

I personally think all the "so and so beget so and so" that go on forever should take up all of the worst 10 passages.

Chase said...

Ann, Ann, Ann -

As with your blog posts, quotes in the news, and the US Constitution, it all revolves around one thing and one thing only:


Say it with me: "Context". You know you do every day you teach a law claqss, Ann.

You do every time you complain avbout being misunderstood by Andrew or Glenn or dtl.

And so do we all.

Say it again: CONTEXT

The current verse numbers and divisions are not in any of the original manuscripts - "verses" are simply an expediency for modern man. They were first introduced into the New Testamant in the early 1500's.

Therefore, we are plucking out words out of (ready now) CONTEXT.

So- do we next get to have a list of Ann's 10 most "hate-filled" statements towards gays?. Toward blacks? Toward dwarfs? Because we can surely pull out segments of 5 years of blog posts to "prove" such.

Only we would be doing so out of CONTEXT.



1775OGG said...

At least you didn't criticize the Koran! They'd cut off your head, or worst, if you did that!

Of course, now you've got the Socialists reverted to thinking you're a "Saint" again!


wv: achill over from the Swine Flu!

Laura(southernxyl) said...

This one:

"I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet." (1 Timothy 2:12)

Paul isn't saying "God does not permit." He says "I do not permit". At least he didn't ascribe his misogyny (if that's what it was) to God, but only to his own preference.

The one about Abraham and Isaac though ... you know that when it came down to it the angel stopped Abraham and pointed out a ram in the thicket that he was to offer instead. This was the Son of Man being offered up by man, a foreshadowing of Jesus. Isaac didn't have to follow through on the sacrifice but Jesus did.

Lem the artificially intelligent said...

Mark 4:11,12

11 And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables,


It may also apply to liberals.

traditionalguy said...

As to #9 it is in the middle of instructions starting in Ephesians 5:21-33 that teach the Christian beliefs concerning a good marriage. Read them all together, and then submit to that teacching as a whole, or do not. It is a free world for women thanks to the Christian views that men and women are of equal value in Christ, unlike every other cult-ure and religious tradition on earth.

Wince said...

Sure, I suppose anything can be made to look bad when you take it out of context ;)

wv - "duckkpi" = pie filled with waterfowl

Anonymous said...

Leviticus 20:15
And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.

I mean, why blame the animal?


Lem the artificially intelligent said...


I wonder how these "worst 10" compare a "worst 10" from the Koran.

(Or should i sensor this comment?)

Joan said...

I'll take Slow Joe's bait.

In biblical times, anyone could be a slave. You could be a high-living nobleman one day, lose a battle, and be enslaved the next. People passed freely from freedom to slavery and back again. Please note I'm not defending this practice, I'm just describing it. Slavery was an economic condition, it was not predicated on the "innate inferiority" of one class or color of people, the way chattel slavery, as practiced here until the Emancipation Proclamation, was.

It's rather amazing that scripture would even bother to address slaves at all, much less directly, with the expectation that the words would be heard. Are there other ancient religions that cared to preach to the slaves? It seems to me that in addressing them, Peter was acknowledging them as members of the Church.

The full citation continues, "For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace."

Chase was OTT in making it, but the point about context is valid.

wv: grase -- no kidding

yoSAMite said...

Out of context they sound awful. In context they rule.

Anonymous said...

"Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses." (1 Samuel 15:3)

Amalek attacked the Hebrews as they left Egypt during the Exodus, thus they incurred the wrath of God through Saul's army.

rcocean said...

"I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet." (1 Timothy 2:12)

I kind of like this one. Too bad Pelosi isn't a Christian.

Sigh... Biblically correct - but impossible to enforce.

Jason (the commenter) said...

As an atheist, I read the bible literally and am sure most of the things written in it didn't happen. Like Chase says, look at the context of when each of its parts is written.

That said, it is a gruesome book (and I love the art it has inspired).

I do find it funny how Christian parents shield their children from all sorts of modern violence while letting them read the bible. I guess you have to be like Laura(southernxyl), ready to jump in with explanations before someone interpret the bible based on what it says. That would be the true horror for someone like her.

Shanna said...

“And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah, / And Hadoram, and Uzal, and Diklah, / And Obal, and Abimael, and Sheba, / And Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab: all these were the sons of Joktan.”

Definatley on my list.

Seriously, deciding on the "worst" quotes from the bible...that's sort of a strange list. I would also like to see the "top 10 worst islam quotes". After that we'll do Buddah. All lists will be pretty ridiculous.

Like this quote: "Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment." Job 23:9.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Joan :People passed freely from freedom to slavery and back again.

Freely? Somehow I think you don't understand the concept of slavery.

Peter Hoh said...

I guess the heartwarming story of Lot and his daughters must have just missed the cut.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I mean, why blame the animal?

I swear that sheep was flirting with me all evening...

rcocean said...

Wow, Jason I wish I was smart, proud Atheist like you. Guess if you're right its all just eternal darkness. If I'm right I'll go to Heaven and you'll go to Hell.

Sounds like a good wager.

Anonymous said...

"Then God said: 'Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you'."(Genesis 22:2)

God was testing Isaac's obedience. He passed the test.

Jason (the commenter) said...

rcocean: Sounds like a good wager.

Sounds exactly like Pascal's wager because it is. If someone could prove God's existence I would say there was a God, but Pascal's line of reasoning has been a failure, as have all such lines of reasoning. I'm not saying it wont happen, but if believers don't try coming up with new stuff it can't.

Lem the artificially intelligent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

I confess that i even enjoy the begat lists in the Gospels...It is nice to know that the history was real and that all the families by generations matter in God's eyes(even the beloved Boomers). In fact the entire Bible is a unique experience in seeing things the way God sees them. As we read it the Bible serves as a mirror reflecting back to us what God sees in us and thereby revealing how much He loves and cares for us. Sure it has harsh passages that reveals God's wrath towards those that hate Him and take out that hate on God's Chosen Covenant peoples, such as in #2 and #3 on the list. God is Love, but God is also a warrior that takes revenge.

Anonymous said...

Just a note on Psalm 137. It's an interesting Psalm. The best part is Verse 4:

How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?

That's obviously ironic, since the Psalmist is writing a Psalm in a foreign land.

The part listed here brings up the glaring criticism that is part of the list: you have to read the stuff in the context of the story.

he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks

That's not the Jews, people.

Just for fun, imagine that 2000 years from now someone is looking at an anthology of contemporary-ish literature and they single out as dastardly some line uttered by Daisy or Tom in Gatsby. Ridiculous.

Lem the artificially intelligent said...

Songs of Solomon

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine." 1:2

"He shall lie all night betwixt my breasts." 1:13

"I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." 2:3

"His left hand is under my head and his right hand doth embrace me." 2:6-7

"Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins." 4:5

Lem the artificially intelligent said...

The songs of Solomon read a little trashy now.

Anonymous said...

Jason -- You don't understand history. At all. Much slavery in human history was predicated on the idea that you could get out of it if someone could pony up money owed. People were in hock.

Joan is also correct that peoples were enslaved and un-enslaved with regularity.

Know history first, dude. Then comment about it. That's the order you want.

Ritmo Re-Animated said...

Sorceresses sound manipulative. And there's nothing weaker than someone who can't deal with others as honestly as possible.

Anonymous said...

Peter -- The story of Lot and his daughters is rather heartwarming. Here we have two young women who believe, falsely but given their desolate condition reasonably, that the only way they can continue humanity is by having sex with their father. That's quality literature, dude. Much better than Sophie's Choice.

Cabbage said...

+1 on the context bit.

Frankly, what you take out of the Bible depends almost entirely upon your views about Sola Scriptura. The current broad american cultural take -- reflecting common understandings, assumptions and beliefs about the contents and meanings of the Bible -- are probably heavily influenced by a theological view that embraces "Scripture Alone". Protestants are the oldest, largest, and loudest users of the Bible in American history, so I expect their views have the greatest effect upon how American culture currently looks at the Bible.

Anonymous said...

"Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:22)

In context, it reads:

Ephesians 5:22-33

22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."[c] 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Anonymous said...

Sorceresses sound manipulative.

I'm sure that to a smug person utterly lacking in erudition or ability to read carefully in context, it does.

Anonymous said...

One other thing to consider: when you look at the Bible, consider that the laws and admonitions are generally progressive improvements on what existed previously. You don't make law or pronounce wisdom except to replace old law or old wisdom.

Take sacrificing animals. Yeah, that's kind of senseless and antiquated. But if it was babies before that...

Anonymous said...

I Peter 2:18 on slavery.

It is instructing followers of Christ, who also are slaves, how to conduct themselves.

It in no way condones slavery.

In context:

18Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Joan said...

Seven Machos: thanks, but I strongly suspect that Jason (the commenter) was just busting my chops by using the poorly-chosen word "freely" to describe how easily people could move into and out of slavery in ancient times.

So, Jason (the commenter), to you I say: I have a reasonable understanding of the institution, but I was careless in my description of it. My apologies.

former law student said...

As a husband who enjoys harmony at home, to me 9 makes perfect sense.

And I'm no scholar, but modern Bible translations use "servants" instead of "slaves" in 10.

Freeman Hunt said...

Jason, have you read Richard Swinburne? Just curious. In my opinion, he makes a compelling case for the greater probability of God's existence.

Anonymous said...

Joan -- Freely obviously did not mean by choice. It was a silly criticism.

Stogie said...

Much of the Bible was written three thousand years ago or more and the cultural norms of that ancient time were different. Both religion and cultural norms evolve over time.

Slavery was universally practiced and unquestioned for 3,000 years -- everyone was subject to someone else and no one free. It's not useful to impute our modern standards to ancient cultures. Dinesh D'Souza does a great job of explaining this in his book "The End of Racism."

Likewise the ban on women holding authority -- it too was a cultural norm that is now obsolete.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think that if you find any actual sorceresses, people actually capable of magically controlling minds and hexing others and conjuring evils and whatnot, you should probably not permit them to live.

traditionalguy said...

Cabbage...What about Protestant understanding of Sola Fides, the fides in question being "faithfulness" to a relationship, as in the Marine motto of Semper Fides? And without scriptura how can we be faithful to the Author by obeying Him?

Ritmo Re-Animated said...

"Sorceresses sound manipulative."

I'm sure that to a smug person utterly lacking in erudition or ability to read carefully in context, it does.

And I'm sure that to a pedantic nitwit, nonetheless utterly lacking in grammatical ability, the difference between a plural, feminine pronoun in the third person and a singular, neuter pronoun in the third person is similarly quite baffling.

The "context" you mention has little to do with metaphor and the enduring value of comparative literature. Your obsession with historical details betrays an indifference to the fact that the primary value of the Bible is in its role as the foundation of the Western literary cannon. Is there also no value to Greek mythology in your constrained mind?

Anonymous said...

It really doesn't matter whether God exists. What matters is that the Bible is the best anthology of literature and instruction on how to life a moral life ever conceived by humans. The evolution and disparity and flaw within it make it that much richer.

People who criticize it (1) have not read it, which makes them sound laughable, and (2) cannot come up with a better alternative. or even an alternative that is remotely comparable in quality.

Anonymous said...

...historical details...

Yeah, those aren't important at all.

Ritmo Re-Animated said...

I think that if you find any actual sorceresses, people actually capable of magically controlling minds and hexing others and conjuring evils and whatnot, you should probably not permit them to live.

Shouldn't a libertarian, no matter how inclined she is to vigilantism, draw a distinction between the ability to commit a wrong and the act of committing a wrong?

Anonymous said...

"You shall not let a sorceress live." (Exodus 22:18)

Exodus provides the Hebrews with the laws by which they will live after leaving Egypt and while wandering in the desert.

Since the Hebrews are God's chosen people, it makes sense that God would not allow sorcery or false religions to be established and/or practiced among his people.

Ritmo Re-Animated said...

...historical details...

Yeah, those aren't important at all.

Ok. But the ability to tell the difference between the value of a text as literature and its value as a literal guide to living life outside the historical period in which it was written is.

Anonymous said...

How would we know if sorceresses are capable of magically controlling minds and hexing others and conjuring evils unless they have demonstrated the capability?

Of course, for Montana, who gets no humor, it doesn't matter. A banal mind is a terrible thing.

Anonymous said...

The Bible is all one kind of writing. To those banal souls who have never read it.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Seven Machos: Know history first, dude. Then comment about it. That's the order you want.

Like dude, I totally do know history. So there!

Ritmo Re-Animated said...

Of course, for Montana, who gets no humor...

I got the humor. I also got the distinction between making a joke and making a point.

You should try it sometime, you literalist.

SteveR said...

Its pretty easy to pick apart, for lots of reasons.

The only thing I've read from Moby Dick is "Call me Ishmal". That Herman Melville wasn't very creative was he?

former law student said...

Shouldn't a libertarian, no matter how inclined she is to vigilantism, draw a distinction between the ability to commit a wrong and the act of committing a wrong?

I always call that the "having a penis doesn't make me a rapist" test.

JAL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

MUL, Learn. To. Take. A. Joke.

Also, you imply that I'm inclined to vigilantism? I am?

JAL said...

1 Kings 18:25-27 (Contemporary English Version)
25 Elijah said to Baal's prophets, "There are more of you, so you go first. Pick out a bull and get it ready, but don't light the fire. Then pray to your god."

26 They chose their bull, then they got it ready and prayed to Baal all morning, asking him to start the fire. They danced around the altar and shouted, "Answer us, Baal!" But there was no answer.

27 At noon, Elijah began making fun of them. "Pray louder!" he said. "Baal must be a god. Maybe he's day-dreaming or using the toilet or traveling somewhere. Or maybe he's asleep, and you have to wake him up."

Always liked the detail provided in this episode.

WV = merblef
What I felt when I heard just now that Obama is going to do a Prime Time address to Congress Wednesday night.

Does this guy know how to shut up?

rcocean said...

Here's an OLD quote -nothing here to convince the bright. hip, young atheist - from Pascal:

"Endeavor then to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abatement of your passions. You would like to attain faith, and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief, and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, bless yourself with holy water, have Masses said, and so on; by a simple and natural process this will make you believe, and will dull you—will quiet your proudly critical intellect...

Now, what harm will befall you in taking this side? You will be faithful, honest, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere friend, truthful. Certainly you will not have those poisonous pleasures, glory and luxury; but will you not have others? I will tell you that you will thereby gain in this life, and that, at each step you take on this road, you will see so great certainty of gain, so much nothingness in what you risk, that you will at last recognize that you have wagered for something certain and infinite, for which you have given nothing."

Anonymous said...

I do find it funny how Christian parents shield their children from all sorts of modern violence while letting them read the bible.

Personally, I think there is a huge difference between reading about a war and discussing what happened and why, versus watching a visually graphic slasher/shooter flick whose sole purpose is to maximize gore while glorifying violence and sexually objectifying/exploiting women.

But that's just me.

And for the record, I won't be letting my daughters read Song of Solomon until they're 40. Maybe 50.

traditionalguy said...

A Sorceress was seen as a powerful source of evil spiritual powers for hire that attacked and killed people, and they were not supposed to be rehabilitated or held in Guantanamo when captured. Not that there could be any thing wrong with evil powers that attack and kill people after enchanting aloud the powers granted to them by Allah thru the Prophet Mohammed 5 times a day from the local "prayer" towers all over town.

Anonymous said...

JAL makes a great point. Much of the Bible is hilarious shit that was meant to be hilarious shit. To take the most obvious example, Esther is broad comedy. Almost slapstick.

Most people, though, insist on reading it all through black religious crepe paper. Protestants are often really bad offenders. But the atheists are the worst.

Ritmo Re-Animated said...

A manipulative sorceress at 11:08 is trying to convince me to ignore the existence of the 11:06 comment, and the 10:55 comment.

I will not speculate on what punishment should be meted out for this transparent attempt at such trickery.

Ummm... this would also be a joke. You can take it, right?

Jason (the commenter) said...

Joan : So, Jason (the commenter), to you I say: I have a reasonable understanding of the institution, but I was careless in my description of it. My apologies.

That's okay. I always have problems when I see what I think are people trying to honey coat the bible. There's no reason for the bible to be consistent. Sometimes inconsistencies arise from poor translations, sometimes they exist and need to be dealt with. There could be huge debates going on about them.

What bothers me is when you see a translation that tries to hide places where debates exist; the translator decides you don't need to know about the debate. Makes me understand the Protestant Reformation.

Freeman Hunt said...

Yes, I even laughed. Maybe even a little bit out loud.

T J Sawyer said...

Now, I'm reaching back almost 50 years to my sophomore religion class at Central Catholic High School for this. As I recall, the key to reading the Old Testament is to understand that it is mostly "ancient Hebrew religious poetry."

Of course, Timothy, Paul and Peter don't get off the hook with this excuse.

But it does seem to me that in a few European countries, quite a few Christians are well on their way to becoming slaves "subject to their Islamic masters with all reverence" - perverse or not.

Anonymous said...

There's no reason for the bible to be consistent.

Especially since most of it was written as a response in some way to what others were saying.

Ritmo Re-Animated said...

I think this has the potential to be one of the coolest threads on

traditionalguy said...

Seven...In Esther, Haman was a descendant of Amalek because Saul had disobeyed #2. At the end of Esther has #2 finally been carried out by the Jews in the nick of time. The next day when the king asked Esther if she wanted anything else granted to her, she came back with a request for another 24 hours to finish off any Amelekites they had left alive the first day.That part was funny.

Revenant said...

Here's an OLD quote -nothing here to convince the bright. hip, young atheist - from Pascal:

There wasn't even anything there to convince the old, unhip atheists (or sensible theists, for that matter) of Pascal's day. The logical fallacy in it is, after all, obvious. :)

Paddy O said...

I think these may not be the worst Bible passages, but they sure have been used in some of the worst ways to justify all kinds of stuff that wasn't the point, and to add to the rules things that even steer away from the point.

Which is sort of what Jesus said to the Pharisees.

I think the worst passage of the Bible is the one where Judas turns in Jesus to the religious leaders opposed to Jesus. That utter betrayal, for whatever reason, is sad to see. Or Adam and Eve eating the fruit. However you want to interpret this story, the concept of pursuing the wrong and incomplete so as to shorten the right and the whole way of pursuing a goal is really sad.

By the way, if you really want a good read about reading the Bible in context try Scot McKnight's Blue Parakeet He really hits on those passages about women too.

Revenant said...

The story of Jephthah is an interesting example of what "taking the Lord's name in vain" originally meant. Today people think of it as things like saying "Jesus Christ!" or "God damn it". Originally it meant simply that if you swore in the Lord's name that you would do something, you darn well better do it or else.

Anonymous said...

Trad -- One of the reasons Esther is so funny is because of the absurdity of the plot. Also, the Amelekite parts were later additions, not present in earlier editions of the Bible.

As for Judas and Jesus, I have always wondered why, if Jesus is going around talking to important people and drawing large crowds, it was necessary that Judas kiss him so that his arrestors would know who Jesus was. This has always struck me as a serious flaw in the story.

John Burgess said...

Peter Hoh: I, too, was surprised to find Lot missing. Not the fornicating with them--mistakes will happen, after all--but his tossing them to the mob to satisfy their urges.

That's colder than Abraham's attempt to sacrifice Isaac, in my book...

wv: exhadori, angelic worship

rcocean said...

My, Revenant vs. Pascal - who to choose?


C.S. Lewis vs. "Loafing Oaf".

Anonymous said...

Rev is correct. All that taking the Lord's name in vain stuff is just contract law.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

The best Bible passage, or translation, is, in the Contemporary English Version, Kings 18: Obadiah left and told (King) Ahab where to find Elijah. Ahab went to meet Elijah, and when he saw him, Ahab shouted, "There you are the biggest troublemaker in Israel!" Elijah answered, "You're the troublemaker - not me!"

The potential problem with having the '10 worst Bible passages'is that it keeps you from deriving the good from religion which is to catalyze adapting a traditional good reaction to a personal dilemna. 'Best' may mean ethical and empathetic to yourself and others. But let's take your first example. Perhaps the Timothy passage shows St. Paul confusing 'a woman' with his mother who he found too aggressive with her opinions. All the same he seems to be jogging forward to run to the broad jump of 'Wives be subject to your husbands as the Church is subject to Christ...' Now that's an interesting one. Especially in ancient times, the wife was subject to the economic fortunes of her husband, and the first part might enjoin her to love him even if he's not doing as she would prefer. Most radically, you could interpret the second part, 'the Church is subject to Christ,' in the same way. Even if you don't like what He did or really think He messed up, you should love Him anyway. More softy, it is to retain the authority of Christ over the Church and to make finding his meaning surpass the Church or people's potential rigidities. I think when people find in some contexts benefits to religion, they approach the Bible somewhat like a 'higher math problem.' When they can't solve it to their satisfaction, they don't say, 'Differential equations (or long division) has the worst problems'; they say, 'Maybe I don't have a good outline of the solution.' At the same time, that doesn't keep them from enjoying a solution to another problem.

Jason (the commenter) said...


You keep saying how proud I am, but I think of my senses and my reasoning as weak and prone to error.

This is a foundational statement of science.

As for Pascal, third choice: only people who use their reasoning and say God doesn't exist go to heaven. Everyone else gets eternal damnation. That's the jist of the problem with him, which you could have just Googled.

Chip Ahoy said...

That's a pretty good list of 10 worst passages.

God told me to tell you intervening priests tend to mess with your mind.

jimspice said...

Personally, I cannot understand how someone can accept the words of a bunch of old white guys out of hand while completely sacrificing their ability to question it. But enough about Fox news.

Ba DUM ching!

Freeman Hunt said...

Worse excuse every:

21And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?

22And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.

23For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

24And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.

"I dunno. I just like threw the gold in, you know? And then like holy cow! Literally! This calf came out. I have no idea."

Anonymous said...

Ten bucks says jimspice is old and white. Takers?

Freeman Hunt said...

Ever even.

Anonymous said...

Freeman Hunt -- Another good one is when God is telling Samuel that Saul isn't going to work out as king. The gist of it is: Look, dumb ass, you went and picked someone who happens to look like a king should look. I'm telling you to find someone who will actually be a good king.

traditionalguy said...

Seven...My speculation is that Jesus was/is not the tall, slim, handsome blue eyed guy we see in Artists works, but he was/is as it says in Isaiah: 53 a man of no special appearance, and from the way he was accused of feasting and drinking, he was probably like any other short chubby Jewish man in appearance. Only if someone had heard his words in person and watched his healings and deliverances up close and in person would one have been able to tell him apart from the crowd in that torch lit night. Anyhow, that is what the witnesses told about that night.

chickelit said...

Mediocre spirits demand of science the kind of certainty which it cannot give, a sort of religious satisfaction. Only the real, rare, true scientific minds can endure doubt, which is attached to all our knowledge.

-Sigmund Freud

Anonymous said...

No doubt Jesus got the short and chubby genes from Mary.

Paddy O said...

It would be interesting to have a discussion about each of these, but that would be lengthy.

The first one is interesting because it's so obvious about not allowing women to speak. Until, of course, it's remembered that Paul often commended women, not least of which was Priscilla, who with her husband were apparently a great teaching team. Her name often comes first when they are mentioned, which may signify her having priority or a higher social status.

C.S. Lewis had a really interesting perspective on the Psalm 137 passage:

From this point of view [i.e. that of moral allegory] I can use even the horrible passage in 137 about dashing the Babylonian babies against the stones. I know things in the inner world which are like babies; the infantile beginnings of small indulgences, small resentments, which may one day become dipsomania or settled hatred, but which woo us and wheedle us with special pleadings and seem so tiny, so helpless that in resisting them we feel we are being cruel to animals. They begin whimpering to us “I don’t ask much, but”, or “I had at least hoped”, or “You owe yourself some consideration”. Against all such pretty infants (the dears have such winning ways) the advice of the Psalm is the best. Knock the little bastards’ brains out. And “blessed” he who can, for it’s easier said than done.

Jason said...

This list was clearly compiled by someone who didn't know what he or she was reading.

Ephesians 5:22 comes in the middle of one of the most profound passages in the new testament, for example... One which has served as a bedrock for untold millions of marriages over centuries.

No, it's not one of the worst passages. Taken in context, it's one of the best.

Kirk Parker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk Parker said...

T J,

Oh no, not the "poetry" dodge.

Sorry, either you completely missed the point, or the nuns and brothers at Central Catholic were off their rockers. This (sadly common) misapprehension is the result of projecting our modern sensibilities back onto the Old Testament. Now, we tend to look at poetry as optional fillagree (come on, be honest--how many of you haven't skipped those little verse chapter headings, or embedded poems in novels, at least occasionally?) But for them it was a way of marking the Very Important Stuff. (Read Thesiger for examples of this outlook being preserved by Bedouins even in modern times.)

Seven, please remember that this all happened before photography and the mass media. The people doing the arresting might well have seen him, if at all, only across the crowded temple court in full daylight.

Steven said...

In context, 1 Peter 2:18 is followed, after a few verses on how it is good to suffer, by 1 Peter 3. That then specifically tells wives to be submissive to their husbands, even if the husband is a non-believer, "in the same way" that a slave is to be submissive to his owner.

This context then allows us to fully understand the Ephesians passage, where women are charged to be submissive. We understand that even if the husband is an unbeliever who completely ignores this command to be kind, the woman's obligation to be submissive is unabated. Indeed, her submission, per Ephesians, is to be as total as if her husband was God Himself.

So, let us look at how total the submission to God is supposed to be, by looking at, say, the example of Abraham in Genesis 22. Abraham was told by God to sacrifice his son. Abraham's submission was so complete that he actually drew the knife to kill his son, and only stopped because God gave him a last-second reversal of his orders. God then praised Abraham for his willingness to kill Issac, instead of telling him something like, "You idiot, murdering Issac would have been wrong no matter what your orders were."

So, in context, the Bible is saying that a Christian wife is obligated to commit even heinous crimes if she is instructed to do so by her non-believer husband.


Fortunately, when faced with what the Bible actually commands, most Christians retreat from it in favor of basic sanity. Which is to say, they don't really believe that it's the real Word of a real God. If only actual belief was so rare among Muslims.

Largo said...


Some translations gratuitously designate certain passages as spoken by 'Lover' and 'Beloved' -- these designations are foreign to the manuscripts. It makes the Song come across as a disjointed mash of juvenile poetry, with some occasional wisdom passages sprinkled in.

Put the words in the right mouths and with the right tone, and the Song becomes an intergrated story, with beginning, middle, and climax at the end (no dirty pun intended), with Solomon portrayed as a leach.

My favorite translation can be found here.

Joan said...

Steven, interesting interpretation you've got of 1 Peter 3, there. And by "interesting," I mean "whacked."

Here: Likewise, you wives should be subordinate to your husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct 2 when they observe your reverent and chaste behavior. (emphasis added)

This passage says nothing about mindless submission to evil. It says that women should behave in such a way as to model for their unconverted husbands how they should act.

The chapter continues: Likewise, you husbands should live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker female sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

IOW, husbands who abuse their wives are not beloved of the Almighty, and their prayers will go unanswered.

That's quite a talent you displayed, twisting something so completely from its obvious meaning.

Largo said...

replace "leach" with "letch".

wv: oparimae
anagram: Aria Poem

(I cheated, but it was too pretty).

T J Sawyer said...

On the other hand, for those who believe in literal interpretation, this must be one of the worst passages:

Genesis 1:6
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

See Wikipedia for a good explanation of the firmament.

If that is not a poetic reference based on the science of the age, there must be a lot of water up there.

Revenant said...

My, Revenant vs. Pascal - who to choose?

Me. Or Voltaire, if you prefer. :)

Joan said...

Revenant: It must be you, you're the best in this best of all possible blogs.

Is it very odd that a Catholic would say such a thing about an atheist? LOL - it's not to say I agree with you. Mostly to acknowledge your willingness to engage in the conversation, elevating it with your considerable talents.

Revenant said...

Is it very odd that a Catholic would say such a thing about an atheist? LOL - it's not to say I agree with you.

Well, whether or not you agree with me about the existence of gods, it is a fact that Pascal's Wager is logically fallacious. It assumes there are two and only possibilities:

(1): That there is no god
(2): That there exists a god who rewards the behavior Pascal refers to.

It was pointed out centuries ago that this is a false dichotomy -- the actual possibilities are infinite, rather than limited to just those two. One obvious example would be that it could be that there is a God, but he is revolted by people who worship him out of calculation rather than sincere faith. Then the people who follow Pascal's reasoning end up in Hell for insincerity.

But anyway, thanks for the compliments! :)

Largo said...

traditional guy: And without scriptura how can we be faithful to the Author by obeying Him?

I don't understand the context of your question well enough to know how or whether this applies, but:

"""(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)""" - Da Bible.

Some folk consider it a near blasphemy if chapter and verse are not supplied -- in this age of Google no less. I like to yank their chains :)

I like the begats as well.

Largo said...

For Holy Sarcasm, it's difficult to beat God's dressing down of Job near the end.

But this is one of my favorite, which goes to show that the NIV cannot be considered completely without merit (-:

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!

Joan said...

Revenant: False dichotomy is one of the easiest fallacies to spot, and I do agree with your analysis of the weakness of Pascal's argument.

It's on the whole "existence of God" thing that we'll have to continue to agree to disagree.

Largo: "It's only nine in the morning!" LOL - excellent.

MadisonMan said...

It is ridiculous to debate Biblical Passages when you're really just debating the whims of the person who translated it into English.

Shanna said...

MM, that was always my gripe when I was a kid. And still is.

Largo: "It's only nine in the morning!" LOL - excellent.

Indeed! Translations. Some of these "Contemporary" translations crack me up. I'm still partial to King James, for all it's flaws. It just sounds so pretty.

DaveW said...

Including the line from the story of Abraham and Isaac is the tell that whoever put the list together either has an agenda or a reading problem. Abraham is tested. God asks him to sacrifice his only son. (His second son by Hagar having been banished with her.) He dutifully gets his stuff together, has his son accompany him for the 3 day journey, then has his son carry the wood for the fire up the hill. At the last moment God intervenes to stop the sacrifice. It is a simple story of a man being tested by God and nothing bad ever happens.

Catholic teaching is that this is a biblical typology. It is an unjust sacrifice, during the trip Isaac (the lamb) is 'dead' to Abraham for 3 days during the journey, Isaac has to carry the wood (cross) for his own sacrifice, then he is miraculously brought 'back to life'. It is a prefigurment of Jesus' crucifixion. This and other similar typologies recur throughout the Old Testament.

The story of Abraham and Isaac is actually one of the more beautiful tales in the bible IMO.

Anyhoo, people that are truly interested and want to understand this stuff will learn these things, those that wish to attack it won't bother.

Hoosier Daddy said...

My favorite verse is about what is best in life:

Crush your enemies; see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of ze women

Its not in the bible but it works for me.

Mr. Smarterthanyou said...

Most of that crap was written by Jews, not Christians.

save_the_rustbelt said...

If you are going to cite Ephesians 5:22 you should also cite 5:21, and read the whole thing in context.

joyce said...

Tim Hawkin's favorite verse

hope this makes you smile!

traditionalguy said...

Mr Smarterthanyou...It was all written by Jews by birth or by conversion to Judaism. Christianity is a Jewish sect that admits non-Jews.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Jason the commenter:

I guess you have to be like Laura(southernxyl), ready to jump in with explanations before someone interpret the bible based on what it says. That would be the true horror for someone like her.

First, Jason, you don't know me well enough to know what "the true horror" for me would be.

Second, I'm not "jumping in with explanations before someone interprets". It's in the story that Abraham was stopped from completing the sacrifice. I didn't make that up. This is also in the Bible, in the NT: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." This is God providing the lamb for the sacrifice, as Abraham told Isaac he would. And it is God following through on the sacrifice that Abraham had to show he was willing to do, but didn't have to complete.

You don't have to get it, but you also don't have to make up unattractive motives for me having a theology that you reject.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

There's more grist for the 'awful' mill in the comments than in the ten passages listed at first. I shall attempt to enlighten a bit, rather than criticise.

Saint Luke, yes he of the Gospel, was almost certainly a slave. Physicians at that time were slaves, and it is known he was a physician. Amusingly, Luke avoided the account of the woman with unresolved menorrhagia because it rightly made physicians look rather clueless.

When we look at Paul's writing to the Ephesians about wives, context is far more than crucial -- it is of absolute importance for anything other than complete mis-understanding.

υποτασσομενοι αλληλοις εν φοβω θεου // αι γυναικες τοις ιδιοις ανδρασιν υποτασσεσθε ως τω κυριω

Sorry about the Greek, but Paul wrote it in Greek, and that matters. In most English Bibles the // indicates not only a break between verses 21 and 22, but there's usually a prominent section break at that point. It's not there, and what a mess that has caused.

Please note the bolded verb, HUPOTASS~~ in two different conjugations. Often translated into English as "be subject to," it's really a military term used as "fall into formation" or "order yourselves together."

It was also applied to a team of horses or oxen, not only in the same hitch, but well timed with each other. In our time we could also apply it to a quartet, in which the violinist sets the time so all four players are together.

A full contextual translation/paraphrase of Ephesians 5:21-22 -- which belong together -- would be:

"Let the believers (αλληλοις - same word as "angels" and "evangelical") become a well-coordinated group in the fear of God; for example, wives, get coordinated (in formation) with your husbands (own men) as much as you are with the Lord."

Paul was never conveying the idea of subjugation -- different word -- but instead offering a practical example of how in Christ "there is no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free, no male nor female, for you are all one" from Galatians 3:28

It is one of the deepest passages in the Bible, not one of the worst.

Hoosier Daddy said...

First, Jason, you don't know me well enough to know what "the true horror" for me would be.

Well for me it would have been living through Prohibition. That would have really sucked.

The Crack Emcee said...

Number One is O.K. with me.

The Macho Response

Joan said...

Bart Hall: thanks, that was awesome.

Ken Pidcock said...

Of limited interest, but relevant: Christopher Hitchens at Royal Ontario Museum. The lecture is sloppy, but he makes a couple of memorable points.
(1) In the Decalogue, only four imperatives proscribe immoral behavior: theft, murder, adultery and false witness.
(2) If we were, today, to identify behaviors that must be forcefully forbidden, we would certainly include rape, which was treated quite casually by the patriarchs.
History is a poor guide to morality.

Largo said...

I nominate Bart Hall best in thread.

And this thread is among the best I've seen in a while. Kudos for Ms. Althouse's inspiring post.

wv: gampl
anagagram: glamp. To glamp down on something. Like 'clamp', but sounds more disgusting.

Largo said...


It might fall under theft. (Cf. "to cop a feel"?)

Largo said...

For those who like their humor dry:

"And tomorrow will be like today, only more so." - Isaiah 56

Kate Marie said...

I agree with Dave W. that the story of Abraham and Isaac is one of the most beautiful tales in the Bible. It's also one of the richest, in terms of its influence on literature and theology/philosophy. Look at what Kierkegaard makes of it, for instance.

The tale certainly doesn't make us feel comfortable, but counting it among the worst passages in the Bible seems absurd to me.

Paddy O said...

Bart, I'm wondering where you heard the "Luke was a slave" information. Not saying you're wrong, I've just not run across that, and I've spent a fair amount of time in study of related stuff.

Seems to me that it's a pretty loose inference. Lots of doctors were slaves. Luke was a doctor. So Luke was a slave. That's not exactly unimpeachable logic, especially given the lack of any kind of affirmative statement of that in Scripture, which didn't seem to have a problem with discussing the status of those involved. It also seems like he had a pretty free ability to travel, and if he's a slave we'd probably have learned of a master.

I've heard that he was born of slave parents, but that's one of those later legends. Meaning I don't think we should read too much into Luke life to make particular points. Though, again, if there's more evidence or more scholarly study on this beyond the shaky syllogism I could be quite wrong.

I think your comment about the passage of Eph. 5 to be right about it being a profound, good passage. But, the reality is that this passage has been used to justify all kinds of not good, not holy, not Christ-like actions. And women have suffered for it, and society has suffered for it, and the church has suffered for it.

And a bit of that comes from people who knew the Greek as a native or semi-native language.

Which is terribly sad.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Yeah, Paddy, Luke was a physician, and at that time physicians were slaves. It's like saying a plantation worker in Virginia was a slave in 1820. I'm sure there were a few here and there that were free, but the odds are slim.

Paul, Timothy, and even Christ, however, described themselves as δουλος -- the lowest form of the four categories of slave. That was the guy who BTW washed the feet of those entering the house. Hmmm.

When Judas Iscariot (the only apostle NOT a Galilean ... he was from Kerioth) betrayed Christ, it was for 30 silver denarii (a month's wages) -- the standard price for a somewhat crippled δουλος. There's a lot more here than is first apparent.

As late as 1100 CE people still entered voluntarily into slavery or serfdom, and if you take the Biblical wisdom that "the borrower is slave to the lender" with even a bit of seriousness ... it continues to this day.

More to the point, the key thing is what we make of it all. My wife and I see ourselves as two horses in harness, and the smallest unit of God's kingdom.

Two horses in harness, if they're pulling in time -- υποτασσο -- can move 40% more that twice what one horse can move. That is the essence of Ephesians 5:22

Jeremy said...

Man, if you think #5 was bad then keep reading. He gets home and chops her up into 12 pieces and sends out the pits to the elders of each of the tribes. Wild.

I think the point is that the man is telling the tribes that this awful awful thing that happened is on their heads and is their fault because they're that wicked and they allow that kind of wickedness to exist in their midst.

Further, it's also an allegory for Christ's death (what's not?). In that an innocent is murdered by the sins of the nation so that others could be safe. Or something like that.

-The Other Jeremy

bagoh20 said...

I'm a biblical idiot so I ask:

What makes these writings and these writers gospel and not others before, during and after. What is the criteria and who decides?

JAL said...

As for Judas and Jesus, I have always wondered why, if Jesus is going around talking to important people and drawing large crowds, it was necessary that Judas kiss him so that his arrestors would know who Jesus was. This has always struck me as a serious flaw in the story.
Seven, it's clear you've been watching too much TV, reading too many newspapers, perusing TIME (or is it NEWSWEEK?) too much, and hanging out on Drudge and Althouse with her pretty pictures too much.

If Jesus wasn't particularly physically outstanding (sometimes he was able to walk out of a crowd), at night in a group of people in a culture with NO PICTURES of people, the cops might have need some help. Ya think?

WV = astrodle
A streudal for astronauts

JAL said...

There is a lot of detail in various parts of the Bible which is at the least, intriguing.

Not avoiding what is really going on is a mark of most of the scriptures. Hence the overt mocking of the priests of Baal is colorful and very real sounding. I mean, it's an example of Jewush trash talking.

People are portrayed swindling, schemeing, murdering, sacrifisiicng, serving, dying.

Historically (perhaps more in 20th century America, unfortunately) there is a rendency of the faithful to "clean it up" when it actually serves as a revealer of the hearts an works of humans. Warts and all, as they say.

What kind of God has it said of a murderer (King David) that that he was a man after God's own heart?

One who knows not only David's heart, but mine also, and has provided a way of deliverance.

hombre said...

Jason the Commenter wrote: I guess you have to be like Laura(southernxyl), ready to jump in with explanations before someone interpret the bible based on what it says. That would be the true horror for someone like her.

We have 2000+ years of excellent Biblical scholarship. Neither Laura, nor any other Christian, needs to be troubled by the belief of an atheist that he can correctly "interpret the bible based on what [he thinks] it says."

traditionalguy said...

bagoh20...The scriptures we call the new testament were collected and attested to by the Holy Spirit in men and women walking thru 300 years (7 generations)of persecution for their public identification with a faith in the claims of an executed Galilean carpenter that they believed to still be alive.

hombre said...

... in a culture with NO PICTURES of people, the cops might have need some help. Ya think?

And doesn't it also say somewhere in the NT that the streetlights were out in the Garden that night? LOL

Jeremy said...

bagoh20 - The short answer is that NT writers are all either a)original disciples of Jesus (Matthew, Peter, John, the other John, James, and Paul counts here) or b)disciples of Apostles (Mark, Luke).

The cannonization was a process that began within 50 years of Jesus' death and was more or less finished by 350AD that involved a lot of bishops sitting around talking about which writings they thought were most useful and most trustworthy.

As for who decides, that's kind of up to you. Catholics include the Apocrypha, which protestants leave out. Martin Luther wanted to ditch Hebrews and Revelation. Mainstream protestants would call the Gospel of Thomas bunk, too, but the text is out there if you want to believe it.

hombre said...


Three criteria were used in recognizing NT canonicity (4th Cent. A.D.) -

1. Was the book apostolic in origin (also per Jeremy at 12:35)?
2. Was the book used and recognized by the various churches?
3. Did the book teach sound doctrine?

The number of manuscripts and historiography authenticating the New Testament are unparalleled.

JAL said...

Sorry for the awful typos above. Hit post instead of preview. I think you can figure it out.

As for what made the cut for the Bible (Christian), several people have answered. Google "canon" Bible and you can find the history and rationale. Here's one.

As pointed out, the NT was written by people who either knew Jesus personally or were once removed (Luke). Paul is the notable exception, as his encounter with Christ occurred post resurrection while traveling to persecute Christians.

I had heard that Martin Luther objected to James being included (1200 years after the fact) as he read it as being too works oriented and seemingly short on grace.

I also had never heard the Luke-was-a-slave story. Missed that in my New Testament class ... (!)

Luke was Greek, and is the only Gentile (non-Jew) writing in the NT (and the whole of the Jewish - Christian scriptures). From the language he used (Classical Greek), he has been described as being well educated.

JAL said...

elHombre -- they were using CFLs and they hadn't warmed up enough? LOL!

bagoh20 said...

I'm a hopeful agnostic about the existence of god. Hopeful of divine justice and purpose if nothing else.

I respect and and have great affinity for Christians, but I can't make the enormous leap of faith required to believe such scripture to be divine.

Admittedly, I'm not well equipped in religious epistemology, but I'm not dead yet either and perhaps I will find it. Hopefully it won't be in a foxhole.

bagoh20 said...

"The number of manuscripts and historiography authenticating the New Testament are unparalleled."

How do you authenticate divine origin without prior faith, or even with it.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Bagoh ... look at this way. As heroic literature the Bible just plain sucks.

The heroes of the Bible were absolute schmucks. David? He schtupps this hot babe and then gets her husband murdered ... yeah, real godly behaviour. Yet Solomon came from a later union of those two.

Peter? Man, what a schlub! Yet this is the 'rock' on which Christ chooses to build the church? Yack!

Resurrection? Yeah, and who are the witnesses? A coupla a broads, all of whom were legally discounted of any value as witnesses.

If the Bible had been fabricated by guys trying to cobble together a religion, they sure as shit wouldn't have made their heroes into assholes, and their key witnesses into then-unbelievable chicks.

The weakness of it all is the best proof.

Ken Pidcock said...

The weakness of it all is the best proof.

The observation without which no scriptural discussion is complete.

chickelit said...

Outstanding posts Bart Hall!

Revenant said...

Including the line from the story of Abraham and Isaac is the tell that whoever put the list together either has an agenda or a reading problem. Abraham is tested. God asks him to sacrifice his only son.

What makes the passage horrible to many people, myself included, is that Abraham was willing to do it. I don't care who or what asks you to kill your own innocent child -- if you seriously entertain the idea, you're really fucked up.

MadisonMan said...

Yes, and what message does this send to the kid? My parents love me, but they'll kill me if someone powerful enough asks them to.

traditionalguy said...

MM...You would want to read the parable of the Prodigal Son to the kids along with that one. The hardest item in the Bibles revelation tool bag is to accept that God has wrath and kills people for sin, but the loving heart of God provided a substitute to die in our place.

Paddy O said...

Bart, where do you get the information that most all physicians were slaves equivalent to a plantation worker in the South? Again, I'm not arguing, more asking because that seems a really broad brush I'd not heard. My understanding was slaves were often used as doctors, but by no means were all doctors slaves. Here's something I found real quick on the subject.

I know this is a pretty minor quibble in a thread with significantly more substance to add, but most everyone (including you) are adding such great substance already, I'm happy to poke at what's particularly new to me.

In regards to the Bible and slavery. It's always interesting to hear that the Bible "supports" slavery or the church always has. Sure there were churches that did, and preachers that did, but there were churches and preachers who supported all kinds of rather not-Biblical stuff. A substantive part of Christian history has always been dedicated to helping those in bondage, and releasing them when possible (i.e. the book of Philemon). The message to the slaves in Scripture wasn't about supporting slavery, after all the biggest story in the Old Testament, the story by which God defines himself, is about releasing slaves from their bondage.

The last letter John Wesley wrote sums up, I think, the right response to slavery from someone who really took Scripture and their relationship with God seriously. Written to William Wilberforce:

Balam, February 24, 1791

Dear Sir:

Unless the divine power has raised you us to be as "Athanasius against the world" I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be fore you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by that circumstance that a man who has a black skin, being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a "law" in our colonies that the oath of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this?

That he who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things, is the prayer of, dear sir,

Your affectionate servant,
John Wesley

Joe said...

2 Kings 2:23,24

23 And [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. 24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

* * *

Then there's the old goody: Leviticus 15:

16 And if any man's seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even. 17 And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even. 18 The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even.

19 And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. 20 And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean. 21 And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. 22 And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. 23 And if it be on her bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even. 24 And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Ya know, Paul gets kind of a bad rap. He was a Pharisaic Jew. He was a Greek. And he was Roman citizen. Rather unusual combination.

He was also from Tarsus, the absolute centre of high-end leatherwork in the ancient world. The Greek word usually translated "tentmaker" is actually "leather-worker." Given where the guy was from, he made Gucci purses and shoes, not a bunch of flippin' tents.

Now, for the Jews of that era, everything was about light and dark. The Pharisee Paul would have been steeped in that culture.

For the Greeks, however, it was all about knowledge, not light. Paul was also a Greek.

And the Romans? They were all about glory.

Who but Paul could ever have understood God's plan for humanity so well that he could record 2 Cor 4:6 -- even if it was probably his third letter, not second --

"For God, who said 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

Amazing, really. This is the guy who cheered on the murder of Stephen. Held his cloak, even. And God does THIS through him. As I said ... amazing. Totally crazy.

Anonymous said...


"The weakness of it all is the best proof."

Umm no... If that were a valid agreement, I think we'd have to call Scientology the most solidly proofed religion out there. (Xenu, really?)

Anonymous said...

Blogger Revenant said...

"What makes the [story of Abraham and Isaac] horrible to many people, myself included, is that Abraham was willing to do it. I don't care who or what asks you to kill your own innocent child -- if you seriously entertain the idea, you're really fucked up."

Or else your primitive culture has taught you to think it normal. Ancient Near East cultures commonly practiced child sacrifice to appease their gods. That practice is what the many references to Moloch (or Baal) in the Old Testament are referring to.

In that context, the story of Isaac's almost-sacrifice is a once-for-all dramatic declaration that God does not desire that kind of worship. So too are the constant warnings to Israel that it will suffer God's wrath if it adopts the practices of the surrounding Canaanite tribes' (literal) culture of death. In fact, virtually every Levitical ritual purity law is a symbolic expression of the imperative that man should revere life and not death.

Anonymous said...

johnnyangelvc, what Bart meant is that the apostles very obviously described themselves and their actions "warts and all" in their witness to Jesus' tenure on earth. They did not offer any of the self-aggrandizing anecdotes so common to autobiographical memoirs, nor did they attribute their apostolic witness to any personal worthiness or heroism of their own -- everything that they had or did was a gift of God and no credit to themselves.

Also, as someone else noted, they made no attempt to conform the narrative to the prejudices of the time; often as not, the witnesses to major events are all basically outcasts and non-persons: tax collectors, Roman soldiers, Samaritans, women, cripples, and lepers.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Then there's the old goody: Leviticus 15:

And so, when Jesus touched(to heal) the woman with unresolved menagorrhea ... what do you think he was indicating by his action?

Bonus question: what, therefore, does that indicate about the difference between ritual law and moral law?

Roger J. said...

this post and its thread are undoubtly over--and I agree with montana urban legend--one of the best posts that has been done--wonderful commentary--special kudos to bart--but for all the posters--this should be required reading. thank you all--this is like listening to Bach's Mass in B Minor--but with words.

amba said...

Deuteronomy 28:53. The one that says if you don't obey the Lord you'll wind up eating your own children.

MamaM said...

One of the stories I consider strange but intriguing occurs early on in Genesis 6. It contains a "worst" in terms of least favorable outcome, followed by a best in terms of positive overall affect.

The account describes God taking inventory of the way mankind is increasing in number, with some odd talk of two different groups willfully interacting and mixing together.

In the previous chapter humans were described as having 800-900 year life spans, but here God decides to limit life span to 120 years. In his words, "my Spirit is not willing to contend with man forever".

After more described strangeness with "Nephalim" (which makes an interesting google)the following occurs:

"The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become and that every inclination of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.

So the Lord said, 'I will wipe mankind, whom I have created from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground and birds of the air--for I am very grieved that I have made them."

This unfavorable outcome is the followed by the word "but".

"But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord".

The favor Noah found is based on three qualities; righteousness, blamelessness among the people of his time, and the fact that he "walked with God".

Of these three, "walking with God" is the one I find most curious. especially when I consider what walking with God might look like or involve.

In my mind, it would most likely include questions and conversation, with listening and the sharing of stories, perspective, humor and experience. An experience very similar to the kind of exchange that sometimes takes place on a blog with genuine open interest accompanied by respectful, creative and informative response.

In this account one person's expression of relationship with himself, the people he lived with, and the God he "walked" with, is shown to have a powerful and
significant effect on outcome.

I believe the potential for favor and affect still resides in those who engage with integrity in those three relationships

Anonymous said...

amba said... "Deuteronomy 28:53. The one that says if you don't obey the Lord you'll wind up eating your own children."

The Catholic view, dating back at least to St. Augustine, is that many such passages (e.g., about the sins of the fathers being visited upon the sons, etc.) are not prescriptive, but merely descriptive of the intrinsic temporal consequences of sin. Sin carries its own punishment, in every case at least darkening the intellect and the will.

Of course, we would never "eat" our own children; we just inject ourselves with vaccines derived from aborted fetuses. Big difference.

kentuckyliz said...

A couple more Bible quotes you never heard in Sunday school:

"I abhor it as a menstruous rag!"
Queen Esther

"Gentiles hung like donkeys"
ooh, penis size talk in holy scriptcha!

WV pastri
nuff said

jag said...

@ JAL--Judas had to kiss Jesus to identify him b/c, in a world without electric light, it would have been very hard to tell who was who. It was dark for God's sake.

It's not a 'flaw' in the story. It's an amazing detail that makes the story come alive.

JAL said...

Bart -- are you saying Paul was Greek ethnically? Tarsus being in Turkey .... Second sort of left fiel factoid which I would like more info on. (Like references.)

Informative back and forth.

Of course going back to the Esther quote ... "All our righteousness are as menstrual rags..." Isaiah 64:6

Not romantic or spiffed up, is it? ;-)

JAL said...

Since Wesley and slavery are mentioned -- here's a movie recommendation:

Amazing Grace

The most excellent story of how -- and why -- the English did away with slavery. Involved William Wilberforce, William Pitt (prime minister at age 24) and other amazing people.

Largo said...

"""this post and its thread are undoubtly over--and I agree with montana urban legend--one of the best posts that has been done--wonderful commentary--special kudos to bart--but for all the posters--this should be required reading. thank you all--this is like listening to Bach's Mass in B Minor--but with words."""

Not undoubtedly, and I hope not in fact. It's near evening in Hong Kong, and very early morning for most of you, and I rejoice in the prospect of arising to find a coda, if not a new contata.

Bart: to query you further on particular points (as Paddy O does) is to ask you to provide more delicious fish, and none feast on them with more relish than me. But I would prefer to know how to fish, or where to fish. Are you able to point us to traditions, authors, schools (as in institutions or as in schools of thought) where we might cast our own nets?

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Well, first I should correct a brain-burp. Reading through this very enjoyable thread once more I caught myself in an error. At 8:08 I wrote -- (αλληλοις - same word as "angels" and "evangelical").

αλληλοις means "one another" or "each other" (dative), not "angels" for Pete's sake. Angels is αγγελων, and somehow my brain flipped the lamdbas into gammas. I've stumbled through biblical Greek for years, and this was definitely a stumble.

As for good resources, one of the best is Bible Study Fellowship. BSF holds classes in three dozen countries, including Hong Kong.

The classes are typically two hours each week for 32 weeks and follow an eight-year cycle through Genesis, Romans, Matthew, Moses, John, Israel and the Minor Prophets, Isaiah, and Acts of the Apostles. It is rigorous but accessible study. In most places the 2009 study will be the prophets. Check their website for class locations and times.

Another good resource is Kenneth Wuest's classic Word Studies in the Greek New Testament.

I am also tremendously fond of Ralph Gower's Manners and Customs of Bible Times.

More esoteric and non-theological is Herzog and Gichon's Battles of the Bible which analyses ancient battles from the perspective of people who've actually defended Israel.

former law student said...

Because the Greek New Testament has been mentioned in the context of which books were selected for inclusion, I would like to mention the similar process applied to the Old Testament.

Hellenistic Jews used a Greek translation of the scriptures, called the Septuagint. This included other books than Jews consider to be scripture today, such as the Books of the Maccabees. Rabbis -- perhaps in a council, perhaps held at Jamnia -- defined what for simplicity I will call the Old Testament, excluding these and several other books. Centuries later, Luther followed the lead of these early Common Era rabbis, and excluded what is now called the Apocrypha as well.

As a consequence, the story of Hanukhah is to be found in the Catholic Bible and no other.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@JAL:are you saying Paul was Greek ethnically? Tarsus being in Turkey .... Second sort of left fiel factoid which I would like more info on.

Since Turks didn't migrate into Turkey until nearly a thousand years after Christ, I don't find it very hard at all to imagine that Greeks lived in WHAT IS NOW called Turkey.

Especially considering that Greeks were renowned seafarers and founded colonies such as what is now Marseilles, in southern France, called in those days Massilia. Greeks lived all through modern Turkey, the Caucasus, the Crimean peninsula, France, Italy, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria.

Seriously, learn some history.

Gabriel Hanna said...

From the Anatolia entry, Wikipedia:

Over several centuries numerous Ancient Greek city states were established in Anatolia, mainly on or close to the coast. In the 6th century BC most of Anatolia was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. In the 4th century BC Alexander the Great conquered the peninsula. Following his death and the breakup of his empire, Anatolia was ruled by a series of Hellenistic kingdoms. Two hundred years later western and central Anatolia came under Roman control, but it continued to be strongly influenced by Hellenistic culture. In the first century BC the Armenians established the Armenian kingdom under Tigran who reigned throughout much of the region situated between the Caspian, Black and Mediterranean seas. Asia Minor is known as the birthplace of coinage as a medium of exchange (some time in the 7th century BC), which flourished during the Greek and Roman eras.[14][15]

After the division of the Roman Empire all of western and central Anatolia remained under the control of the Christian Byzantine Empire. Byzantine control was challenged by Arab invasions starting in the seventh century, but in the 9th and 10th century a resurgent Byzantine Empire regained its lost territories and even expanded beyond its traditional borders, into Armenia. Following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the Seljuk Turks swept across Anatolia and conquered it in its entirety by 1080. The Turkish language and Islamic religion were gradually introduced as a result of the Seljuk conquest, and this period marks the start of Anatolia's slow transition from predominantly Christian and Greek-speaking, to predominantly Muslim and Turkish speaking. In the following century, the Byzantines managed to reassert their rule in Western and Northern Anatolia. Control of Anatolia was then split between the Byzantine Empire and the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm, with the Byzantine holdings gradually being reduced. By the end of the 15th century most of Anatolia came under the control of the Ottoman Empire, which completed the conquest of the peninsula in 1517; though still challenged by Persia and various Persian-supported local dynasties in the eastern provinces until the end of the 17th century.

With the beginning of the slow decline of the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century, and as a result of the expansionist policies of Czarist Russia in the Caucasus, many Muslim nations and groups in that region, mainly Circassians, Tatars, Azeris, Lezgis, Chechens, and several Turkic groups were forced to relocate to Anatolia, leaving behind their ancestral homes. As the Ottoman Empire further fragmented during the Balkan Wars, much of the non-Christian populations of its former possessions, mainly the Balkan Muslims, flocked to Anatolia and were resettled in various locations, mostly in formerly Christian villages throughout Anatolia.[16]

Anatolia remained multi-ethnic until the early 20th century (see the rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire). Following the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, virtually most of the remaining ethnic Anatolian Greeks left due to the mutual agreement of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey.

Since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, most of Anatolia has been part of Turkey, its inhabitants being mainly Turks and Kurds (see demographics of Turkey and history of Turkey).

The Galatians of Paul's epistle were Hellenized Celts living in Anatolia.

There have been vast population shifts since Classical times. Many of the "major" European cultures--English, Spanish, French, German, Russian--didn't even exist in those days.

It is a sad commentary on our contemporary history education that so many of us seem surprised by this; expecting that Turkey must always have been full of Turks. It's like thinking that America must always have been full of Americans or Mexico of Mexicans.

former law student said...

The Galatians of Paul's epistle were Hellenized Celts living in Anatolia.

Reminds me that Munich originally was a Celtic settlement, long before they moved to the British Isles.

WFJack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WFJack said...

WFJack said...

I find the negative comments about this posting most interesting.

The quotations are not at all taken out of context; if you read them in the context of their particular sections of the Bible, you will find that they are indeed "in context."

Others write things such as, "Well, that's how things were then, and the Bible merely reflects the times." Oh. Okay. Then how were German Christians supposed to act in Nazi Germany? Were they allowed to "reflect the times" and kill Jews and gays?

My only question about the original posting concerns Quotation Number One. How does a person kill someone's ass?

suzi said...

ironrailsironweights:Too funny! Why blame the animal indeed. Not a liberal, not a conservative, not a heathen, not a thumper.Just searching. And if anyone believes that all the slaughter of animals in the Bible was justified because it was "symbolic", if anyone thinks that all of the wars and killing in the Bible was justified because God commanded it, oh c'mon, I could go on and on here. If anyone thinks that violence towards the non-human animal or the human animal is justified, please move to the middle east.

Anonymous said...

Religion makes smart and good people say and do stupid and evil things. If these quotes were not in the Bible, and the same people were shown them as views of a different religion or individual, they would be just as disgusted as the rest of us. If it were not a part of their religious dogma to defend sexism, homophobia, child murderers, and slavery, they would have nothing but contempt for these things.

Really? said...

It's kind of funny your all taking this stuff as the word of god. Do you ever stop and look around? God has a son?????? WHAT!?! So there are 2 gods? Or... their the same person?

Maybe someone has been misleading you (intentionally or unintentionally)The bible is crazy and scary. That's all. It's not from god.

Closethedoor11 said...

You forgot the one where God sent 2 bears to slaughter 42 children for making fun of a bald man.

Wisconsin Freethinker's Association said...

I'm so sick of being polite. Why is it when a Christian quotes the bible it's God's word and when an Atheist quotes it it's out of context. I was a minister for 8 years, Never again. We know the lies and deceit from the inside out. Do not be fooled. The book is not accurate, not even to 15%

Unknown said...

Ezekiel 23:19-20
New International Version (NIV)
19 Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. 20 There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.

Unknown said...

Ezekiel 23:19-20
New International Version (NIV)
19 Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. 20 There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.

Unknown said...

You forgot Leviticus 18:22