Newsweek, Eichenwald, and the Misunderstood Bible

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries
See also Jeff Laird's "The Misunderstood Bible: Not News; Just Weak"

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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.

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Published 12-30-14