At last! The truth about the Bible!
The same channel that gave us the series that took the message of the Bible seriously now is offering the alternative viewpoint: the Bible is an enigmatic book that purports to be “God’s Word” but in actuality was written by fallible unknown human authors, is full of contradictions and inaccuracies and can’t be taken seriously or interpreted straightforwardly.
The disclaimer that introduces each episode warns the viewer:
“This program explores the mysteries of the Bible from a variety of historical and theological perspectives which have been debated for centuries.”
Among the many “shocking” revelations this four-part series alleges are that Moses didn’t really write the first five books of the Bible (Genesis through Deuteronomy)––the real authors are not known; none of the authors of the four New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) ever saw Jesus, and their accounts contradict each other. In fact, according to the series, what we know as the Bible probably bears little resemblance to what was originally written. The show isn’t two minutes old when the narrator in solemn tones voices doubts for us: “Has the Bible been translated, edited and even censored so many times that the original stories have been compromised by time?”
If the first episode is any indication of the others, the series will be fast paced, strikingly filmed, intriguing in the questions and inconclusive in answers. Its purpose is to play to our curiosity and raise doubts in our minds. (Sounds a lot like what Satan did with Eve. But I digress...)
What the History Channel won’t tell you is this:
The “experts” cited and interviewed are some of the most liberal “scholars” today. For instance, Bart Ehrman (a graduate of the college I attended) is not a Christian––not even a theist. He denounces historic Christianity and, not surprisingly, denies anything special about the Bible. Ehrman’s worldview begins with no god and the assumption therefore that religion is a human invention. He is one of the “experts” cited.
Reza Aslan is another scholar who is liberally interviewed. He speaks authoritatively about the New Testament being riddled with inaccuracies and outright lies, but explains that everyone knew it to be so and so it was acceptable to pretend it to be something that it wasn’t. Aslan is an associate professor of creative writing (not theology or New Testament?) at the University of California, and a Muslim who holds that the Quran is inspired and the Bible has been mistranslated.
These are but two of the many scholars and experts the History Channel has asked to weigh in on the validity of the Bible. One might think that they represent the vast number of academics, but there are literally thousands of scholars who have equal or greater academic credentials, who hold to a high view of the Bible and who think Ehrman and Aslan to be absolutely wrong in their views and dismissive of vast evidence to the contrary of their opinions. Why weren’t any of these individuals cited or interviewed?
It is also frustrating that the writers of the series are biased and selective in their arguments and present them as unanswerable. For instance, one expert states that the prediction that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) is clearly a mistranslation because the original Hebrew word refers just to a young woman. Whoever the author of Matthew’s Gospel was simply got it wrong and mistranslated the word as “virgin” (Matthew 1:23). The implied truth? There was no miracle of Jesus birth. Unmarried Mary actually was impregnated by someone other than God (which in that society would make Jesus, by definition, a bastard.)
Any possible answer to Matthew’s misstep? Actually, yes. The Hebrew word (almah) does refer to a young woman of marriageable age, and not specifically to a virgin. Yet in Jewish society, a young woman of marriageable age (unlike in our society) was assumed to be a virgin, else she would be stoned for unfaithfulness or declared a prostitute (which is another word altogether). Further, Isaiah’s prediction requires the notion of virginity with the pregnant woman for it to be a miraculous sign; otherwise, he’s simply saying, “a woman will give birth to a son...” Not really special. Finally, Matthew was a Jew who spoke and read Aramaic and Hebrew, and no doubt had read Isaiah’s scroll. When he translated the sense of “almah” he used a Greek word for “virgin.” Case closed.
My point? The series seems to toss out every criticism (however slight or silly) and buttress them with arguments from very liberal “experts”, but the series investigates no dissenting opinions and leaves the negative claims completely unchallenged.
The series is really not a serious study on how we got our Bible, how manuscripts were written and copied, how they were translated or how we know that our Bibles clearly reflect the ancient original texts. Instead, for the sake of selling something sensational, the writers of the series throw out all sorts of allegations––some true and some anything but true––to get viewers to watch. For instance, one person makes the statement that what many typically believe isn’t in the Bible: there were three Wisemen who visited Jesus in the manger. The truth is that Matthew does not tell us how many there were, and he places the event later, not in a manger but in a home (Matthew 2:1-12). So far, so good. But then before the next commercial break, the narrator shifts his focus and allows Reza to make the unfounded claim that all the stories about the birth of Jesus are completely fictitious. Seems like a leap in the dark? Either that, or a rush to get some ratings no matter the cost.
I’m not one to censor much of anything. I really do believe that truth can stand up to scrutiny. So what am I recommending? If you want to watch it, just eat the meat and spit out the bones. And if you don’t know what to swallow and what to gag on, you’d better to do some note-taking and some reading and research.
Or, just relax and watch American Pickers. The History Channel got that one right.