The cover story in the he January 2-9, 2015 edition of Newsweek
is "The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin
", written by Kurt Eichenwald. From the opening sentence, I knew I was in for a long, painful, and frustrating read.
To summarize, Eichenwald hates what the Bible says about homosexuality (and a few other issues), and therefore wrote the article to attack the trustworthiness of the Bible, with the goal of weakening people's faith in its message.
In regards to homosexuality, Eichenwald attempts to cast doubt on the common understanding of the Greek word translated "homosexual" in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians (despite its meaning being exceedingly clear). He twice mentions Christian families kicking homosexual children out of their homes. He ridicules Christians for using the anti-homosexuality verses from Leviticus without also applying the rest of the Old Testament Law (one of the few things in the article I agree with). And, to top it all off, Eichenwald apparently believes that all evangelical Christians endorse the Westboro Baptist "God hates fags" movement.
In regards to the Bible, here are a few statements from the article:
At best, we've all read a bad translation [of the Bible]—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times...
These are not the only parts of the Bible that appear to have been added much later. There are many, many more—in fact, far more than can be explored without filling up the next several issues of Newsweek...
And recall that they were already working from a fundamentally flawed document. Errors and revisions by copyists had been written in by the fifth century, and several books of the New Testament, including some attributed to Paul, are now considered forgeries perpetrated by famous figures in Christianity to bolster their theological arguments. It is small wonder, then, that there are so many contradictions in the New Testament. Some of those contradictions are trivial, but some create huge problems for evangelicals insisting they are living by the word of God.
Throughout the article, Eichenwald uses the standard atheist/skeptic/critic playbook for attacking the Bible. He points out John 7:58-8:11, Mark 16:9-20, and 1 John 5:7-8 as examples of passages added to the Bible, but fails to point out that every modern Bible clearly identifies these passages as dubious. He promotes the Da Vinci Code
conspiracy theory in regards to Constantine and the Council of Nicea. He identifies the apparent contradictions between the creation accounts in Genesis chapters 1-2, the accounts of Jesus' birth in Matthew and Luke, and the accounts of Jesus' resurrection in the four Gospels. And, of course, he fails to mention that Christians have been talking/writing about these issues for over 1500 years and that there are reasonable explanations for the apparent contradictions.
Further, Eichenwald presents the most negative evaluation of the quality of the work of ancient scribes that I have ever read. He attacks the translation methodology of the King James Version and then uses guilt by association to assume that the same methods were used by modern English translations of the Bible (they weren't). Essentially, while he describes the Bible as the most important book in human history, he clearly wishes something else was at the top of the all-time best sellers list.
In an attempt to make his attack sound more reasonable, Eichenwald states, "This examination—based in large part on the works of scores of theologians and scholars, some of which dates back centuries—is a review of the Bible's history and a recounting of its words." After reading the article, it became crystal clear which theologians and scholars he consulted. For example, Eichenwald states that nearly all biblical scholars agree that 1 Timothy and 2 Peter are forgeries.
The only current scholars he mentions by name are professors at secular universities. He does not mention or quote from a single scholar or theologian from a Christian/Bible college or seminary. Apparently, speaking with a scholar who actually believes that the Bible is the Word of God is not necessary when writing an article on the Bible. Or, likely more accurately, Eichenwald does not consider that anyone who believes the Bible to be the Word of God could possibly be a scholar.
In addition to his attempts to discredit the Bible, Eichenwald sets out to discredit Christians. He points out, accurately, that many Christians are biblically illiterate. Yes, sadly, this is true. But, the way he completely misunderstands several Bible passages demonstrates just how biblically illiterate he is as well.
He mentions 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and claims it means that women are not allowed to ever
teach or exercise authority over men. I have read a lot of content on this passage, and I have never read an author or commentator who understands the passage that way. Clearly, the context of the passage is the ministry of women in the church.
He interprets Romans 13:1-7 to mean that Christians should never criticize the government. But, the passage commands that we obey
the government. It does not even address being critical of the government's actions and decisions. It is possible to criticize the government while still obeying it.
He presents Matthew 6:5-7 as an argument against praying in public. Clearly, though, the passage is speaking against praying in public with hypocritical motives — praying to be seen.
And, in each of these three attempts at Bible commentary, his motives are clearly political. He wants Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann to shut up. He wants Pat Robertson to be damned. He wants Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal to be identified as hypocritical grandstanders. Apparently, the only thing he despises as much as the Bible is conservative politics.
Back to what is Eichenwald's main disagreement with the Bible — homosexuality. I can't tell whether he truly doesn't know or whether he is intentionally ignoring the predominant evangelical Christian view on homosexuality. He spends the majority of his time attacking the views of Westboro Baptist Church, when such views are absolutely an extreme minority position.
Homosexuality is not an unforgivable sin. Homosexuality is not a greater sin than any other sin. Salvation and forgiveness are just as available to a homosexual as a heterosexual fornicator/adulterer. The angels rejoice in heaven when a sinner repents, whether that sinner is homosexual or heterosexual.
Why, then, do evangelical Christians stand so strongly against homosexuality and gay marriage if it is not a greater sin? Two reasons stand out to me. First, our culture is trying to force us to accept and embrace it. Second, as the Bible says, it is an unnatural sin, and many people, Christian and non-Christian, find it completely disgusting. But, again, let it be clear, salvation is available to homosexuals.
I could go on and on. There are many more problems, issues, inconsistencies, misunderstandings, misrepresentations, etc., etc., in Eichenwald's article. There is no need to cover them all. His agenda is perfectly clear.
"The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin" closes with a quote from Mark 12:31, "love your neighbor." Eichenwald also writes fondly of "do not judge." Apparently these are the only words in the Bible the author agrees with (although I imagine there are some conjunctions and prepositions here and there that he doesn't oppose). But, after what he says about the Bible and its origins, why should anyone believe anything that it says?
If the Bible we have today is a fundamentally flawed document, a bad translation, of a translation, of a translation, of a copy made by an inept scribe — how can we even know that the original Bible truly said "do not judge" or "love your neighbor"? If the New Testament was decided upon by "members of political and theological committees," with a clear and devious agenda, how can anything the Bible says be trusted?
And here is the crux of the matter. For Eichenwald, and many others, it is not so much a matter of the process by which the Bible was written, compiled, copied, and translated being flawed. He really doesn't care if the Bible was canonized by a committee and/or is interpreted by a committee. The true issue is this — Eichenwald wants to be in charge of those committees.
Eichenwald will accept the Bible as long as it agrees with him. But, if he doesn't like what it says, the verse or passage must be a forgery, a textual variant, a mistranslation, or a misinterpretation. I do not know if Eichenwald believes in the existence of God. Presumably, if he does believe in God, he would not be opposed to the idea of God revealing truth through a book. What is crystal clear is this — Eichenwald wants to have editorial oversight over said book. Thankfully, God has not given Eichenwald, or anyone else, that authority.
"So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)
"The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever." (Psalm 119:160)
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)