By Wendy Wippel
Christmas of 2015 marked a turning point in American Christianity, though not many of us probably noticed. Newsweek, which had formerly honored the holiday with a scholarly article about its origins or practice around the world, instead offered this as their holiday issue: “The Bible: So Misunderstood it’s a Sin”.
They had recently come under new management, but still. That’s your Christmas offering?
The author of the 2015 Christmas Holiday piece was one, Kurt Eichenwald, who had previously been a well-respected reporter for The New York Times and other top magazines, including Vanity Fair, and was even a Pulitzer finalist at one point. Most of his work, however, until his Christmas carnage debut at Newsweek, had been primarily business and financial matters, including business scandals. So why was he assigned to something so removed from his experience and expertise? On Christmas? It’s a mystery.
We do know, however, from what he did post, that he himself is not a believer, and that he has no great love for those who claim to be. Clue #1 was that he started his Christmas piece, “The Bible, So Misunderstood it’s a Sin”, with this paragraph:
“They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation. They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.”
Then he really opened up. Eichenwald stated that, “his exploration of the Bible’s history is not intended to advance any position or debate on God’s existence.”
“It’s designed to shine a light on a book that has been abused by people who claim to revere it but don’t read it, in the process creating misery for others.”
Notice that Eichenwald, hasn’t addressed the beliefs of the Christians at all. Just what personally annoys him. And he does seem to be outside his comfort zone, digging into theology instead of reporting corporate crime. From his own mouth, he has “no interest in the actual theology or history of the faith”. So what’s with the piece he wrote, “The Bible So Misunderstood it’s a Sin”?
There were clues in the piece if you picked them up. Every quote was from the same person, named Barth Ehrman, a formerly “Christian” professor who has since abandoned the faith. A Professor of the New Testamant at the University of North Carolina. Someone who no longer believes.
Eichenwald’s Christmas assertion was that it’s impossible to really read the Bible because the Bible does not actually exist and never has. “No television preacher has ever read the Bible,” he asserts. “Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the Pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we’ve all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.”
He goes on to compare the Christian Scriptures to a bad game of telephone, in which nothing but gibberish survives by the time it’s finished.
But that’s not really fair.
Any saint today understands that our English Bibles are translations. And that’s just the beginning.
The number of New Testament manuscripts still around is ridiculous compared with other books from antiquity, which typically range from ten to twenty copies.
For example, the New Testament has approximately 5,800 surviving Greek manuscripts. The most for any other ancient book is Homer’s Iliad, with 643, according to Norman L. Geisler in Christian Apologetics 2nd edition. (Baker Academic, 2013).
In addition, the lapse of time between the composition and the earliest copy of a book from the ancient world is roughly a thousand years. Contrast this with the earliest manuscript of a writing from the New Testament, the John Ryland Papyri (ad 117-138). This manuscript survived within a generation of the time scholars believe it was written (c. ad 95). Entire books (the Bodmer Papyri) are available from AD 200, only a little over a century after the New Testament was completed. The entire New Testament is actually available in the Codex Vaticanus, which dates from AD 325 to AD 350. Geisler says it was completed within 250 years of the original writing, still much less of a time lapse than any other book from antiquity. And wait, there’s more!
No other book from the ancient world has as small a time gap between composition and earliest manuscript copies as the New Testament.
The truth is, that the Bible has nothing to fear from these kinds of diatribes. In fact, one Bible expert predicted that this article was likely to do far more damage to Newsweek than anything else.
To take advantage of Newsweek’s title it so misrepresents the truth, it’s a sin.
Bottom line is that we have no reason to fear this kind of vitriol.
God’s word can take care of itself. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God shall stand forever.
Thank God, ‘cause the strong delusion God sends on the earth (2 Thess. 2:11-12) is just going to get worse, right?