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The Bible’s questions, answered—part 3: Answers to questions from pre-monarchy Israel

The Bible contains a lot of questions, and it doesn’t always provide satisfactory answers. So I’ve been answering some of the Bible’s questions myself. This time, I’m looking at questions from around the time the Israelites first settled in the promised land.

The son of a priest asks the tribes that chose to stay on the other side of the Jordan: Are you now turning away from the Lord? Answer: No.

Deborah and Barak ask: Why did the tribe of Reuben stay among the sheep pens, and why did Dan linger by the ships, etc.? Answer: Because God only told Barak to take Naphtali and Zebulun with him.

Gideon asks: If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Answer: Because he hates you.

Gideon asks the Ephraimites: What have I accomplished compared to you? Answer: Much with little, compared to much with much.

Abimelek asks the people of Shechem: Which is better for you, to have all 70 of Gideon’s sons rule over you, or just one? Answer: Distributing the power among many people sounds good to me.

Jotham asks: Have you acted honorably and in good faith by making Abimelek king? Have you been fair to Gideon and his family? Have you treated Gideon as he deserves? Answer: Abimelek is Gideon’s son, so what’s the problem? (Unless it’s the murder thing, in which case, why didn’t you mention that?)

An angel asks Samson’s father: Why do you ask my name? Answer: He just told you. So they can honor you when your word comes true.

Naomi asks: Why call me Naomi? Answer: Because your name’s Naomi.

Boaz asks: Who does that young woman belong to? Answer: Her husband is dead, so I guess that makes her free and owned by no one.

Samuel’s father asks his wife Hannah: Why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Answer: You know why. Because she has no children. Also because your other wife is tormenting her.

He also asks her: Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons? Answer: Apparently not. What kind of question is that, anyway?

Eli asks Hannah: How long are you going to stay drunk? Answer: Zero minutes.

Eli asks: If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them? Answer: Well, according to the Bible, Moses can intercede between God and humans. But there is no one who can intercede between God and humans. But prophets can do it. Like Samuel. And so can Job’s friend, whoever that is. But only Jesus can intercede between God and humans. And so can the Spirit. But only people who aren’t God can intercede between God and humans. Paul and Timothy can do it. And so can men everywhere, apparently.

Joshua’s questions

Joshua asks: Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? Answer: Uh… because that’s where the Amorites were! Where else would he bring you to deliver you into the hands of the Amorites to destroy you?

Joshua asks: What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? Answer: You can say “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us?”

Joshua asks God: After the Canaanites have wiped us out, then what will you do to maintain your good name? Answer: Judging by the kind of thing God tends to say about Israel, I expect he would claim that Israel was evil and that he was a hero for getting rid of them.

Joshua asks Achan: Why have you brought this trouble on us? Answer: Because he wanted the plunder. But a better question is: Why did GOD bring this trouble on them by giving them that pointless rule in the first place, and then only revoking it after it was too late?

Joshua asks the Gibeonites who he would have killed if they hadn’t tricked him into promising not to: Why did you deceive us? Answer: Duh.

Joshua, the leader of Israel, asks the Israelites: How long will you wait before you take possession of the land God has given you? Answer: As long as you wait to tell them to.

God’s questions

God asks Joshua: What are you doing down on your face? Answer: Idolatry. He’s doing idolatry.

God asks his people: I said you should not make a covenant with the people of this land, yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Answer: By accident.

God asks Gideon: Am I not sending you? Answer: …Are you? I thought an angel was.

God asks Eli: Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Answer: He doesn’t, his sons do.

He asks Eli: Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel? Answer: Because God said the priests were to live on the parts of the offerings that weren’t burned up.

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The Bible’s questions, answered—part 2: Answers to questions in “the law”

The Bible contains a lot of questions, and it doesn’t always provide satisfactory answers. So now I’m answering some of the Bible’s questions myself. I’ve already answered the ones in Genesis. Now for the rest of the Pentateuch…

Pharaoh asks the Hebrew midwives, who he had told to kill all the new baby Hebrew boys: Why have you let the boys live? Answer: They were just scared of what their God would think. Otherwise they would have been happy to murder all their relatives’ baby boys, apparently.

Moses’s sister asks Pharaoh’s daughter: Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you? Answer: I wouldn’t call it “for her”, no. Since it’s going to be the baby’s own mother doing it.

Pharaoh asks: Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? Answer: He’s a lunatic who isn’t going to let you obey him even if you want to.

Pharaoh asks Moses: Why are you taking the people away from their labor? Answer: Because they never agreed to do that labor?

Pharaoh’s officials ask: How long will this man be a snare to us? Answer: Until God gets tired of fighting against himself.

Pharaoh’s officials ask him: Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined? Answer: Yes, he already tried to surrender, but God wouldn’t let him.

Pharaoh asks: What have we done? Answer: You’ve obeyed God and freed his people from slavery… And God is not going to let you get away with obeying him and freeing his people from slavery.

Jethro asks Moses: What’s this you are doing for the people? Answer: Serving as their judge.

Aaron asks: Would the Lord have been pleased if I had eaten the sin offering today? Answer: Not likely. He’s always punishing people for obeying him.

Aaron and Miriam ask: Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Answer: No.

Then they ask: Hasn’t he also spoken through us? Answer: I don’t think the Bible mentions any specific cases of God speaking through Miriam. But it does say she was a prophet.

Balaam’s donkey asks him: What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times? And an angel also asks Balaam: Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Answer: The donkey tried to prevent him from doing what God told him to do.

Balak asks Balaam: Did I not send you an urgent summons? Answer: Not as far as I know.

Balak asks him: Why didn’t you come to me? Answer: Because God forgot he wanted him to.

Then Balak asks him: Am I really not able to reward you? Answer: No, you are not really not able to reward him.

Balaam asks: How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced? Answer: Same way you can teach them to sin and turn God away from them?

Balaam asks: Who can count even a fourth of Israel? Answer: Moses and Aaron and the leaders of the tribes can count (almost) all of them.

Balaam asks: Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth? Answer: That and a lot of other things, apparently.

After Balaam goes to find out what God wants him to say, Balak asks him: What did the Lord say? Answer: He said “Go back to Balak and give him this word.”

Balaam asks: Does God speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Answer: Yes.

Balaam asks Balak: Did I not tell you I must do whatever the Lord says? Answer: No, you told him you had to say whatever the Lord said.

Balaam asks Balak: Did I not tell the messengers you sent me that I can’t do anything of my own accord to go beyond the command of the Lord, and I must say only what the Lord says? Answer: No, you told Balak, but I don’t think you told his messengers that.

Balaam asks: Who can live when God does this? Answer: People who aren’t from Cyprus or Ashur or Eber?

Some unspecified people ask: Who can stand up against the Anakites? Answer: Joshua and Caleb.

The Israelites’ questions

A Hebrew man asks Moses: Who made you ruler and judge over us? Answer: Well, the princess did adopt him, so I guess that makes him your prince…

He also asks: Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian? Answer: It’s possible. Moses doesn’t mind killing Israelites.

The Israelite overseers ask Pharaoh: Why have you given us such unreasonable work requirements? Answer: So you’ll be too busy to listen to Moses.

The Israelites ask Moses: Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? Answer: Letting them die in the desert wasn’t Moses’s intention… But, incidentally, God is going to let them die in the desert. (Because they like the land flowing with milk and honey that they came from better than the one he chose for them.)

The Israelites ask Moses: What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Answer: Tried to rescue you from your hardship. Not that that will do much good, since the real cause of your trouble is still with you

The Israelites ask Moses: Didn’t we tell you to leave us alone and let us serve the Egyptians? Answer: Not exactly.

The Israelites ask Moses: Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst? Answer: Because God told him to, because God wants you to die in the desert.

The Israelites ask: Is the Lord among us or not? Answer: No, God won’t dwell among the people until after the world ends.

Some Israelites ask: We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time? Answer: Because you have become unclean because of a dead body.

The Israelites ask: Why did we ever leave Egypt? Answer: Because the Egyptians didn’t want you there anymore.

They ask: Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Answer: Could it have something to do with the fact that Moses insisted on God going with them after God made it clear that he couldn’t do that without killing them all?

Then they ask: Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? Answer: I doubt you’d be welcome there either.

Some Israelites ask Moses: Why do you set yourself above the Lord’s assembly? Answer: Because God refused to admit that such an ineloquent man wasn’t a good choice.

Those Israelites ask Moses: Isn’t it enough that you have brought us out of Egypt to kill us in the wilderness? Do you want to treat these men like slaves? Answer: Do you want to be slaves or not? Make up your minds.

The Israelites ask: Are we all going to die? Answer: Of course. Who isn’t?

The Israelites ask Moses: Why did you bring us into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? Answer: Because God chose not to teleport them straight into the promised land, because he thought that wouldn’t be as impressive.

The Israelites ask him again: Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? Answer: Because God’s plan is flawed.

The daughters of Zelophehad ask: Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Answer: Because he had no son.

The Israelites ask: Why should we die now? Answer: Because no one can see God’s face and live.

They ask: What mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire and survived? Answer: Moses.

Moses imagines the Israelites asking: How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord? Moses’s answer: Wait and see if the prediction comes true. If it doesn’t, then you know it wasn’t from God. Real answer: You can’t, generally, because Moses’s false prophecy test ignores the fact that most prophecies have no deadline, and are therefore unfalsifiable.

God imagines future Israelites asking: Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us? Answer: That doesn’t seem like a very good way to describe disasters that were caused by your God, no.

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Biblical euphemism translation guide

The Bible gets rather more interesting when you know about all the euphemisms that the writers and translators apparently used.

Biblical euphemisms for male genitals include:

  • “Thigh”
  • “Waist”
  • “Feet”
  • “Hand”
  • “Grasshopper”

Biblical euphemisms for female genitals include:

  • “Waist”
  • “Mouth”
  • “Feet”
  • Scalp
  • “Pomegranates”

Biblical euphemisms for sex include:

  • “Knowing” someone
  • “Grinding”
  • “Eating”
  • “Spreading one’s garment over” someone

The “Song of Songs” is full of euphemisms for various sex acts. And apparently when it says “Our bed is verdant“, it means “We’re having sex out on the grass”.

With all that in mind, here are some fun Bible passages to read, which may or may not contain euphemisms…

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The real origins of the Bible

Who wrote it?

Christians say the Bible was written by people who were there to witness the events it describes. But it’s unrealistic to think that, for instance, there were four people who were all perpetually present to personally witness all the important events throughout the entire life of Jesus. (Including the things that happened before they met him!) And some stories in the Bible couldn’t have had any witnesses, because they’re about people staying out in the wilderness alone, or about private meetings the author wasn’t invited to, or about what God was up to in heaven, etc.

Anyway, we know that hardly any of the Bible was actually written by the people it’s traditionally attributed to:

Who wrote the Old Testament?

For some reason, a lot of people apparently think Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. I don’t know why anyone would think that. The Bible doesn’t say Moses wrote all that. It does say (always in the third person!) that he wrote down the law, but that’s no reason to think he wrote down all the stories in those books. (And even if he had, Moses wouldn’t have been an eyewitness to any of the events of Genesis anyway.)

If you look at what’s in those books, you’ll see they clearly can’t have been written by Moses. The book of Numbers declares that Moses was “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth“. That is not something the most humble person on earth would say about himself. Neither is what Deuteronomy says about him, that there has never been another prophet as great as God’s personal friend Moses was.

It doesn’t even make sense for that book to be talking about whether there has been a prophet so great since Moses, unless it was written a long time after Moses died.1 And it was written after Moses died. It says so right there in that same chapter. The last chapter of Deuteronomy says Moses died, and was buried, and was mourned, and was succeeded by Joshua, and the people listened to Joshua… Did Moses write all that before or after he died?

People also say (or used to say) that Joshua wrote the book of Joshua, even though just like with Moses, the book of Joshua tells about Joshua’s death, and things that happened after Joshua was dead.

Even more absurdly, people apparently think the books of Samuel were written by Samuel. I’ll just point out that Samuel dies well before even the first of those books is over, let alone the second. Do people think those books were written by ghost-Samuel or something?

The so-called books of Moses, Joshua, and Samuel often use the words “to this day“, even when comparing “this day” to when those people died. That only makes sense if those books were written long after the death of Moses, Joshua, and Samuel.

Joshua and the preceding books mention a lot of places that didn’t all exist as inhabited towns at the same time until the 7th century BC. Joshua’s list of towns perfectly matches the geography of Judah during the reign of Josiah, but it’s unrealistic as a description of the land several centuries earlier, when Joshua is supposed to have lived. Even Genesis makes geographical assumptions that wouldn’t be true until at least the 7th century BC.

Judges is written from the perspective of someone who is used to Israel having a king. But a lot of the stories in that book are set long before Israel became a monarchy, so they can’t have been written by eyewitnesses.

A lot of people think of the Psalms as having been written by David, even though the majority of the psalms aren’t actually labeled that way in the Bible. And the Bible says a lot of them are by other people. And some of them were clearly written after the exile.

Jews traditionally attribute the Psalms to a certain nine individuals plus the sons of Korah. The book of Psalms itself attributes psalms to only some of those people, and does not say any of them were written by Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, or Jeduthun. It says a few were written for Jeduthun, but not by Jeduthun.

The book of Proverbs actually claims to have been written partially by Solomon, unlike all those other books that people just assume were written by biblical characters for no biblical reason. Parts of Proverbs claim to have other authors, though. Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs pretty strongly imply that Solomon wrote them. But that doesn’t mean he actually did write them. There are words and phrases in these three books that the Hebrews didn’t start using until after the exile of Judah, hundreds of years after Solomon.

The book of Isaiah sure doesn’t seem like the whole thing was written by Isaiah. Starting with chapter 40, the writing style and theological ideas suddenly change, and it stops mentioning anything about Isaiah, and now it’s suddenly set during the exile, and predicting the exile is going to end soon. And then the setting for the last 11 chapters is when people have already started returning from exile. The exile didn’t even happen until a hundred years after when Isaiah is traditionally said to have finished writing this book.

The book of Lamentations is traditionally attributed to Jeremiah, even though the book itself doesn’t say anything about Jeremiah, and it often seems to disagree with the book of Jeremiah.

Why does the book of Daniel make some “predictions” that are more or less accurate for a while, but then suddenly stop getting anything right about the future? Probably because that turning point is when the book was actually written. That’s four centuries after when its supposed author Daniel supposedly lived.

And if this is the Daniel that Ezekiel mentions, that would mean Ezekiel too must have been written hundreds of years later than it’s supposed to have been written.

The book of Jonah is apparently said to be written by Jonah, though I never got that impression from reading the actual book. It was actually written by someone who lived so long after the alleged events of the story, he didn’t realize that “the great city of Ninevah” barely even existed anymore by the time he was writing about.

Who wrote the New Testament?

Christians tend to think the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. They were actually written anonymously. No one ever referred to their authors by name until more than a century after the death of Jesus, and over 50 years after the gospels were written. By the time people decided to name them, they had no reliable way to know who actually wrote them, so they had to guess. And they guessed wrong. People decided the gospels were written by the apostle Matthew, Peter’s follower Mark, Paul’s friend Luke, and the apostle John.

The author of Mark was too ignorant of the local geography and Jewish culture to have actually been a Jew who lived where Jesus lived. Most of the book of Matthew is just copied nearly verbatim from Mark,2 which an actual disciple of Jesus would not have had to do. “Luke” is also the author of Acts, whose identity was guessed based on letters allegedly written by Paul that turned out to be fake. The author of Acts got an awful lot of things wrong about Paul’s story3 for someone who was supposedly a close companion of Paul. (And Luke wouldn’t have been an eyewitness to Jesus’s life anyway.)

Five books of the Bible (one of the gospels, three epistles, and Revelation) are traditionally attributed to Jesus’s disciple John. But none of the books themselves actually claim to be written by him. The apostle John was uneducated and probably couldn’t even write. The person who first attributed the fourth gospel to John seems to have confused him with a different John from a later time. Whoever actually wrote the gospel of John didn’t realize that the Jews didn’t start excluding Christians from their place of worship till over 50 years after Jesus died.

A lot of the books of the Bible were not written all by one person at one time, but had parts added to them hundreds of years after they were initially written. For instance, the story where Jesus convinces people not to enforce God’s law can’t be found in any of the earliest manuscripts, nor are there any records of anyone in the first few centuries of Christianity mentioning that story, because somebody made that part up later. Same with the part where people see Jesus alive again after he died, which was retroactively tacked onto the end of the earliest gospel.

The first 13 epistles in the New Testament claim to be written by Paul, but for several of them, that seems unlikely. As the letters themselves acknowledge, there were fake letters “from Paul” going around. Some of the epistles attributed to Paul make it seem like he was on better terms with the original apostles than the genuine epistles show he really was. And some of the letters have Paul suspiciously insisting that he’s a real apostle, when he’s supposed to be writing to close friends who wouldn’t need to be convinced of that.

The letters to Timothy and Titus sound in many ways like they were written when Christianity was more developed than it was during Paul’s life. 1 Timothy has Paul quote “scripture” saying the worker deserves his wages, even though that’s not in the Old Testament. It’s from the gospel of Luke, which wasn’t even written till after Paul died. Clearly Paul didn’t actually write that. That letter must have been written by someone who lived in a time when the gospel of Luke existed, and was considered scripture. 2 Timothy and Titus have similar anachronisms.

The book of Hebrews is traditionally labeled as another letter from Paul for some reason, but that one doesn’t even claim to be from Paul. It’s anonymous, and there’s very little in the letter that even suggests that Paul might have written it.

One book in the New Testament is a letter claiming to be from James (Jesus’s brother). But considering his background, it’s unlikely that James would have been capable of writing so well in Greek. Same with the apostles John and Peter, who the Bible specifically says were uneducated.

There are two epistles that claim to be from Peter. The first one mentions widespread serious persecution of Christians as something that was already happening, even though during Peter’s life, it wasn’t. Persecution of Christians for being Christians didn’t begin until around when Peter died, and it didn’t start happening “throughout the world” till decades later.

The second of those letters very unrealistically refers to Paul’s letters as scriptures. The real Peter considered Paul a heretic, died long before any of the epistles were considered scriptures, and probably would never have even seen Paul’s letters.

The book of Revelation gives its author’s name as John, unlike the other books of the Bible that are attributed to John. But it doesn’t seem like it was written by whoever wrote those other books, since it’s written so differently. Revelation is not as well written in Greek, it uses different spellings and word choices, it doesn’t use the same rhetorical devices and themes, etc.

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The Bible misquotes itself

The Bible contains a lot of attempts to quote earlier parts of the Bible. Most of the time, those quotes are either misinterpreted, misquoted, or don’t even appear in the earlier scriptures at all.

Made-up quotes

The gospel of Matthew claims that the prophets said the Messiah would be called a Nazarene. But it doesn’t say that anywhere in the Old Testament. (Maybe the author was thinking of the part where it says somebody will be a Nazirite… which is not the same thing as a Nazarene. And was not said by the prophets. And was clearly about Samson, not Jesus.)

The gospel of John says people knew that when the Messiah came, no one would know where he was from. And that he definitely wouldn’t come from Galilee. I don’t know where they got those ideas. There is nothing like that in the books of the prophets.

Jesus claims that the Old Testament Law says the priests are allowed to “desecrate the Sabbath“. That would be a pretty weird rule. I don’t think that’s in there.

Jesus told his disciples that everything that was written by the prophets about him (also in the books of the law and the Psalms) was about to be fulfilled: He would be handed over to the Gentiles to be tormented and killed. He would come back to life on the third day. And forgiveness through repentance would be preached everywhere in his name. Paul said the prophets predicted something like that as well. None of that is actually in the Old Testament, though.

Jesus also claimed that Judas had to be doomed to destruction so the scriptures would be fulfilled. But there doesn’t seem to be anything about that in the Old Testament scriptures.

Peter claims that all the prophets said that anyone can get their sins forgiven by believing in Jesus. Really, all of them? I’m not sure I can find even one Old Testament prophet who even sounds like he was saying that.

Paul, who never actually met Jesus and never really learned anything about him from anyone who had known him, claims that Jesus said it’s more blessed to give than to receive. I’m pretty sure being blessed itself involves receiving what you want, so that statement doesn’t make much sense. I won’t blame that one on Jesus though, since it doesn’t appear in the gospels. I’ll assume Paul made it up.

Paul attempts to quote a passage about a deliverer coming from Zion and changing Israel’s behavior. Paul seems to think that’s a prediction about Jesus enabling both Jews and Gentiles to be saved, or something. But that passage doesn’t even appear in the Old Testament at all. The closest thing I can find is Isaiah talking about a redeemer coming to Zion in response to Israel’s behavior changing.

Paul also has a quote that he claims “is said”, about Christ shining on a sleeper who rose from the dead. I don’t know what he’s trying to quote, but that’s obviously not in the Old Testament.

1 Timothy has Paul quote “scripture” saying the worker deserves his wages, even though that’s not in the Old Testament. It’s from the gospel of Luke, which wasn’t even written till after Paul died. Clearly Paul didn’t actually write that. It was written by someone who lived in a time when the gospel of Luke existed, and was considered scripture.

James claims that scripture says God “jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us”. I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean, but it’s not actually in the Old Testament.

Misquotations

Joshua claims that Moses promised that a certain part of the promised land would belong to Joshua. Moses did say something like that in the Bible… except he was promising the land to Caleb, not Joshua.

When the Jewish religious leaders ask Jesus if he’s the son of God, he falsely accuses them of stating that he’s the son of God. Then they falsely accuse him of stating that he’s the son of God, when all he’d said was that they said so. They’re each disastrously misquoting what the other just said.

Peter quotes something from Deuteronomy about a prophet who was to be Moses’s successor, which Peter would like you to think means Jesus. It says the Israelites must listen to this prophet. But Peter tacks on a specific threat toward people who don’t obey the prophet, like it’s part of the quote, even though that part is not in the original passage in Deuteronomy.

The book of Acts has James quote a Greek mistranslation of Amos, even though both he and the people he was talking to really should have known that the original Hebrew said Edom, not “Adam” or “man”. He takes Amos’s statement about God’s people possessing the remnant of Edom and other nations, and changes it into a statement about all of mankind seeking God.

Paul criticizes the sin and hypocrisy of some of his followers by trying to quote a biblical passage about certain people causing Gentiles to blaspheme God’s name. It sounds like he’s trying to quote something from Ezekiel. But of course Ezekiel wasn’t talking to, or about, the same people Paul was. And the Gentiles Ezekiel mentioned were unimpressed with God because of God’s own actions, not because they disapproved of anyone’s sin or hypocrisy.1

Paul correctly quotes2 a psalm that says God put all of somebody’s enemies under that person’s feet. But then he tries to say it again and gets it wrong, this time saying that God put everything under that person’s feet. And then he has to spend almost twice that many words trying to explain away the inconsistency he just created by saying it wrong.

The book of Hebrews says Moses said he was “trembling with fear” at the sight of the scorched forbidden mountain where God tried to talk to his people. But the closest thing to that in the Old Testament is when Moses says he feared God’s wrath a while later, when God was threatening to kill all his people over a golden calf.

Isaiah states that no one has seen or heard any god besides God that ever does anything for anyone. But when Paul claims to be telling what’s written there, he roughly quotes the first half of the sentence, adds something about minds conceiving things as if that was part of the quote, and then makes up his own ending for the sentence, without even mentioning other gods, which are what the original verse was about.

A psalm says God will vindicate his people. But Hebrews misquotes that verse as if it was about God punishing people.

Hebrews quotes part of a verse from Habakkuk, but makes up something about people shrinking back and adds that to the quote.

It also claims that Enoch never actually died… based on a quote that could easily mean he did die. Even if you ignore the fact that the actual verse in Genesis says “he was no more“, rather than “he could not be found”.

Peter misquotes Proverbs, claiming it says it’s hard for the righteous to be saved. What it actually says is that everyone gets what they deserve.

Misquoting the rules

There’s a verse in Deuteronomy about God giving people bread to somehow teach them that they need something other than bread. Jesus uses this verse as an excuse for refusing to eat bread. He’s misquoting it as if it was a command to not eat bread, or something.

When Jesus shares his thoughts on the Law, he shows not just his contempt for God’s Law, but his ignorance of it. He claims that the Law says a divorce must involve a man giving his wife a certificate of divorce. The closest thing to that in the Old Testament is a law about remarriage, which just mentions in passing that the divorce certificate thing is something that could happen. And then the actual law is about something else, that could happen after that.

Jesus also claims that the Law says you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy. His focus is on the part about your enemy… which is the part that isn’t actually in the Old Testament verse he’s trying to quote.

Peter quotes little pieces of two different psalms out of context, to try to make it sound like David had been writing instructions for the twelve apostles so they would know what to do now that there were only eleven of them. The two supposed instructions contradict each other (which Peter doesn’t acknowledge), and the first of those verses isn’t even quoted correctly. They’re both actually about David’s enemies, but the first one is specifically about multiple enemies. Peter changes it to make it sound like it’s about one person, Judas.

There’s a passage in Isaiah where the Israelites complain that God is acting like they don’t know anything. He’s patronizingly teaching them basic moral rules that are obvious to them. God just sees his people scoffing and not listening to him, so he chooses to respond by going too far in the other direction. He decides to talk to them in foreign languages so they can’t understand him, and can’t benefit from his instructions.

So that was stupid, but when Paul tries to quote that passage, he gets it wrong and ends up making God look really stupid. He makes it seem like God was expecting the people to understand him better because he used a language they didn’t know. And this somehow leads Paul to the conclusion that people should only speak in tongues to unbelievers. Even though Isaiah had said nothing about people speaking in tongues, or about unbelievers.

Paul quotes three passages to try to back up his opinions about Christians being “yoked together with unbelievers“. But he does it so badly you can’t tell exactly what passages he’s trying to quote. Obviously there aren’t any Old Testament passages that are actually about Christians. And two of the “quotes” Paul gives just have absolutely nothing to do with anything he was saying at all.

The other quote he gives is about people coming out from another nation and separating themselves and avoiding unclean things. He seems to be trying to quote a verse where Isaiah tells Jewish priests (not Christian laymen) to come out of something (it doesn’t say what) and avoid unclean things (not people). And that doesn’t say anything about what people believe.

The author of Hebrews is apparently trying to quote Proverbs when he says to make level paths for your feet. But in Proverbs, it doesn’t actually say anything about making them level.

Misquoting Jewish scriptures to make them sound Christian

Jesus told one of his disciples that he would see heaven open, and angels ascending and descending on Jesus. He said that like he was quoting a passage from Genesis, but that passage doesn’t say anything about angels climbing on Jesus. It says they were climbing on a stairway. It doesn’t say anything about heaven opening, either.

When some Jews don’t find Paul’s arguments for Christianity convincing, Paul decides that when God told Isaiah he would be appointed to preach to the Gentiles and bring salvation to the world, God must have actually meant to say that to Paul. And he leaves out the “also” part, so he can conclude that all the Jews will be excluded from all this.

Paul appears to be quoting the Old Testament when he says God will repay everyone in the afterlife according to what they’ve done. Except the Old Testament verses he appears to be quoting don’t actually say anything about the afterlife.

Paul and Peter both try to quote what Isaiah said about a stone, but they don’t get it quite right. In particular, unlike Isaiah, they talk about the stone like it’s a person, because they want that verse to be about Jesus.

Paul quotes David as saying Jesus gave gifts to people, when what David actually said was that God received gifts from people.

The book of Hebrews tries to prove that Jesus is willing to call Christians brothers and sisters, by quoting something David said about the Israelites without mentioning brothers and sisters, and misattributing that quote to Jesus.

Hebrews also misattributes to Jesus another misquotation of David. Instead of what David said about opening his ears, it says something about God preparing a body for Jesus. It doesn’t even make sense to quote this passage about God not wanting sacrifices, when it’s trying to make it seem like this is about God preparing to sacrifice Jesus.

Hebrews has a quote saying the one who is coming will come in just a little while, and will not delay. The closest thing to that in the Old Testament doesn’t say anything about anyone coming. It’s just about the time of the end coming.

The book of Revelation misquotes Daniel saying he looked and saw someone coming with the clouds. Instead, it tells people to look and see Jesus coming with the clouds.

A psalmist claimed that God wanted him to break the nations with a rod of iron. Revelation repeatedly misquotes that psalm, as if it was about Jesus and some other person ruling the nations with an iron scepter.

Changing passages to make them seem like fulfilled prophecies

When Jehu killed one of Ahab’s sons and then had him thrown into Naboth’s vineyard, he attempted to quote a prophecy that he thought he was fulfilling. The actual prophecy was a lot more clear that it was about Ahab dying in the vineyard, not Ahab’s son dying and then getting thrown into the vineyard.

Some of the gospels claim that Jesus came from a virgin birth. And they claim that the prophet Isaiah had predicted that would happen. But Isaiah never actually said anything about a virgin giving birth. Thinking Isaiah was predicting the miraculous birth of an important individual in the distant future misses the point of what he was saying. Isaiah’s point was to give an idea of how soon the kingdom of Israel was going to end. He was definitely not talking about someone who wouldn’t even be born till hundreds of years after Israel was conquered.

If Isaiah had actually intended to predict a miraculous virgin birth, he would have made that clear by using the Hebrew word that specifically means a virgin. Instead, he used a Hebrew word for a young woman. So where did the gospel writers get that whole idea about a virgin? It looks like they got it from a previous mistranslation of the scriptures. This mistranslation of “young woman” as “virgin” first occurred a few hundred years after Isaiah and a few hundred years before Jesus, in the first-ever attempt to translate the Bible.

(Now, since the New Testament needs the Old Testament to provide a prediction of a virgin birth for Jesus to fulfill, most Christian Bibles opt to also translate that part of Isaiah from that Greek mistranslation instead of from the original Hebrew, which makes it harder to notice the misquotation.)

Two of the gospels say Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Though their two stories of Jesus’s birth have almost nothing in common besides that. It’s like they both independently decided to make up an origin story for Jesus, just so they could say he was born in Bethlehem, to make it seem like he had fulfilled a messianic prophecy. But the prophecy the gospel writers are trying to “fulfill” might not even be about the town of Bethlehem. Micah actually referred to the clan of Bethlehem Ephrathah.

(The gospels also ignore the original context of the Old Testament passage, where Micah says the guy he was talking about is going to rescue Israel from the Assyrians, making it clear that this is not about Jesus.)

The gospel of Mark claims to be quoting a prediction of John the Baptist from Isaiah. But he starts it with a verse that comes from Malachi, not Isaiah. Then when he gets to the part that actually is from Isaiah, he says it like the one calling is in the wilderness. The original passage appears to have meant that the way would be prepared in the wilderness. This doesn’t look like it was even meant to be a prediction. And if it was, it’s an excessively vague one, that could have just as well meant a lot of other things.

The gospels have Jesus misquote Malachi, mentioning a messenger sent by God to prepare the way for someone else. Malachi actually said the messenger was to prepare the way for God, and didn’t say anything about a man coming.

The gospel of Luke says Jesus read a passage from Isaiah and claimed to have “fulfilled” it. Even though it was just Isaiah talking about what God had told him to do, not predicting what somebody else would do. Jesus also throws in a line about healing the blind, which isn’t actually in the original passage. Which is too bad, because that was the main thing that made it sound like it could be about Jesus.

The gospel of Matthew misquotes a verse from Isaiah in order to claim that it’s about Jesus healing people. But even Matthew’s version of that verse doesn’t accurately describe what the gospels say about Jesus. He makes it sound like Jesus ended up suffering from all the conditions he took away from other people!

The gospel of John suggests that Jesus’s temple tantrum was a fulfillment of a scripture about being consumed by zeal for God’s house. Paul thinks the other part of the quoted verse, about someone getting insulted, is about Jesus too. But if you look at the psalm they’re quoting from, what the New Testament writers imagine is about Jesus is clearly just David describing his own current situation, as usual. John even misquotes it, putting it in the future tense to make it sound more like a prediction.

Matthew gives a mangled attempt at a quote that he thinks is from Jeremiah. He claims this was fulfilled when Judas gave the 30 pieces of silver back to the priests and they bought a potter’s field with it. Jeremiah did mention buying a field, but not from a potter or for 30 pieces of silver.

Perhaps what Matthew was trying to quote was Zechariah’s confused shepherding story, where he gets paid 30 pieces of silver for his work, and then “throws it to the potter”. Either way, neither of the prophets’ stories really matches the gospel account very well.

Paul attempts to quote a verse from Isaiah, which he thinks is about a descendant of David ruling over foreign nations. Why should anyone take that to be about Jesus, rather than about one of the actual kings descended from David who reigned after Isaiah said that? Maybe none of them ruled over foreign nations? Well, Jesus didn’t rule over any nations. (Not that the original passage actually said anything about ruling in the first place.)

Continue reading The Bible misquotes itself
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The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 7: Rambling

This is the seventh in a series of posts about unnecessary repetition in the Bible. To conclude this series, I’ll be listing some passages that go on and on, only to keep saying more or less the same thing.

Like this description of Noah’s flood: The flood kept coming on the earth, the waters increased high above the earth, the waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, they rose and increased greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains were covered. After that was over, it says God told Noah and his sons to be fruitful, and increase in number, and fill the earth, and then he told them to be fruitful, and increase in number, and multiply on the earth, and increase upon it.

Then God said he was establishing his covenant with them and their descendants and all the animals. He said he was establishing his covenant with them. His covenant was a promise that all life would never again be destroyed by a flood, and that there would never again be a flood to destroy the earth.

He said the sign of the covenant he was making with them and their descendants and all the animals was a rainbow, which would be the sign of the covenant between him and the earth. Whenever the rainbow appeared, he would remember his covenant with them and all the animals. He said the waters would never again become a flood to destroy all life, because whenever the rainbow appeared, he would remember his covenant with all the creatures on earth. And he said that was the sign of the covenant he was establishing with all life on earth.

Later, God made another covenant. He told Abram that he would be the father of many nations, and that his new name would be Abraham (Father of Many), because he would be a father of many nations. He also said he would make him very fruitful and make nations of him. A few chapters later, there’s a little argument between Abraham and the Hittites where they just keep saying pretty much the same things: Abraham wants them to sell him a burial site, and they want to give it to him for free.

Abraham’s great-grandsons also had a monotonous argument: Joseph kept saying his brothers were there to spy on Egypt, and his brothers kept saying they were brothers, so they couldn’t possibly be spies. When he sent them home, they told their father that the man in charge of Egypt had said they wouldn’t see his face again unless their youngest brother was with them. They told their father that if he would send that brother with them, they would go to Egypt again to buy more food, but if he didn’t send him, they wouldn’t go, because that man had said they wouldn’t see his face again unless their brother was with them.

1 Chronicles tells the names of the sons of Jacob’s grandson Merari, which you’d think would mean all of them. Then it says someone named Beno was the son of Jaaziah, whoever that is, and it makes it sound like there are no other sons of Jaaziah. Then it once again starts to tell the sons of Merari, but it says these are “from Jaaziah“, whatever that means. And it lists some sons, one of which is Beno again. (Is Jaaziah a wife of Merari or something?)

Post-exodus

After bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, God told Moses that he would dwell among them and be their God, and that they would then know that he was the Lord their God, who had brought them out of Egypt so he could dwell among them. And he also said he was the Lord their God. Later, he said it some more.

God dwelt among his people in the form of a cloud. Once the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. That’s how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. When the cloud moved, the people followed it, and when it stopped, they stopped. They set out at God’s command, and they encamped at God’s command.

As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they stayed where they were. When it stayed still a long time, they stayed still a long time. When it stayed still a short time, they stayed still a short time. When it stayed still a shorter time, they stayed still a shorter time. They moved with the cloud, whether it was day or night. However long it stayed, they stayed, and then when it lifted, they set out. They set out at God’s command, and they encamped at God’s command. And they obeyed the Lord’s order.

After God did a miracle that he was sure would make his people stop complaining, his people complained that they were going to die, they were lost, they were all lost, anyone who went near the tabernacle would die, and they were probably all going to die.

In Numbers 33, you can see the stages of the journey of the Israelites, because Moses recorded the stages in their journey, and what’s written there is their journey by stages.

God said his people shouldn’t think he was giving them the promised land because they were righteous, because it was really because the people who already lived there were wicked. He told them they weren’t going to take that land because of their own righteousness. Instead, God was going to get rid of the other nations on account of their wickedness. He wanted his people to understand that it wasn’t because of their righteousness that he was giving them the land.

Before Moses died, God told him that the people were going to embrace foreign gods, they would forsake God and break his covenant, and he would get angry and forsake them. He would abandon them and they would be destroyed, and many disasters and calamities would come on them. They would realize that the disasters came because God wasn’t with them, and God would hide from them because they turned to other gods. Then he told Moses that the people were going to turn to other gods and reject him and break his covenant, and many disasters and calamities would come on them.

God told Moses’s successor Joshua to be strong and courageous. Then he told him to be strong and very courageous. Then he told him to be strong and courageous, not to be afraid, and not to be discouraged. And at the end of that chapter, the people tell Joshua to be strong and courageous.

When the Israelites were luring their enemies away from the city of Ai so they could ambush it, it says all the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. None of them stayed in Ai and didn’t go after them; they left their city vulnerable and went in pursuit of Israel.

Post-settlement

When a Canaanite commander was fleeing from the Israelites, a woman let him take refuge in her tent. But then she murdered him in his sleep, which somehow caused him to fall to the ground. Then some people sang a song about it, containing a very repetitive verse. That verse says twice that he sank at her feet, and it says twice that he fell. It also says that he lay there, that where he sank was where he fell, and that he was dead. The song then portrays another woman as speculating in a redundant manner about what plunder the commander’s men might bring home.

A woman who was giving birth heard that the ark of the covenant had been captured and that her father-in-law and husband were dead. She named her child “no glory”, because she said the Glory had departed from Israel, because of the capture of the ark and the deaths of her father-in-law and husband. And she said the Glory had departed from Israel because the ark of God was captured.

Saul was afraid of David because God was with David. Saul gave David command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns, which were always successful, because God was with David. When Saul saw how successful David was, he was afraid of him, but the people loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.

After God made his deceptive promises to David, David informed God that God was God, and that he had promised those things to him. He said God had blessed the house of David so it would continue forever, because he, God, had blessed it, and it would be blessed forever.

King David’s dead best friend’s disabled son’s dishonest fraudulent treacherous steward Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” What a pointlessly cumbersome way to talk.

After God killed David’s innocent baby for the sins of its father, David realized the child was dead. He asked his attendants “Is the child dead?” And they replied, “Yes, he is dead.” Later, David’s commander Joab killed another of David’s sons, Absalom, who had wanted to kill David. David was a lot more upset about this son’s death, saying “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! …O Absalom, my son, my son!

1 Chronicles says David’s army had 12 divisions that took turns, with one division being on duty each month. Each division consisted of 24,000 men. Then it says the guy in charge of the first division, for the first month, had 24,000 men in his division, and that he was in charge of all the army officers for the first month. And then it goes on to tell who was in charge of each of the other divisions, each time saying there were 24,000 men in his division.

David gave his son Solomon plans for building the temple, specifying the weight of gold for all the gold articles to be used in various kinds of service, and the weight of silver for all the silver articles to be used in various kinds of service. That included the weight of the gold for the gold lampstands and their lamps (with the weight specified for each lampstand and its lamps), and the weight of silver for each silver lampstand and its lamps (according to the use of each lampstand), etc.

Solomon made two cherub sculptures for the temple, and their total wingspan was 20 cubits. One wing of the first cherub was five cubits and touched the wall, and its other wing was five cubits and touched the other cherub’s wing. That other cherub also had one wing that was five cubits and touched the wall, and another wing that was five cubits and touched the first cherub’s wing. The wings of those cherubim extended 20 cubits.

After Jeroboam took over most of Israel from Solomon’s son, he instituted a festival on the 15th day of the 8th month, and offered sacrifices on the altar. He made those sacrifices in Bethel to the calves he had made, and in Bethel he installed priests at the high places he had made. On the 15th day of the 8th month, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had made at Bethel. And he instituted that festival, and went to the altar to make offerings.

In Asa’s days, the country was at peace for ten years. Asa did what was right in the eyes of God. He removed the foreign altars and high places. He told the people to obey God. He removed the high places and altars, and the kingdom was at peace. He build up the cities, because the land was at peace, and no one was at war with him, because God gave him rest. And he told the people to build up the towns, because they could, because they had pleased God, and he had given them rest. So they built them.

The ramblings of Jesus

Jesus made three statements in a row about what he thinks makes you not worthy of him, and then he rambled a bit about the consequences of welcoming different people.

He said soon the world wouldn’t see him, but his disciples would see him. He said they would live, because he lived. He said they would realize that he was in his Father and they were in him and he was in them, whatever that means. He said whoever keeps his commands loves him, and his Father will love whoever loves him, and he’ll love them, too.

In Jesus’s description of the last judgment, he goes on for 12 verses just quoting his future self listing the things that he claims people did or didn’t do to him, and then having those confused people repeat the list of things that they don’t remember doing or not doing to him.

Jesus stated that the one who comes from above is still above, and the one from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks like he’s from earth, and also the one who comes from heaven above is above. He said the Son was glorified, and God was glorified in him, and if God was glorified in him, then God would glorify the Son in himself, and he would glorify him at once.

Jesus corrected people regarding who bread from heaven comes from. He said his Father gives you the “true” bread from heaven, because the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. And he declared himself to be the bread of life. He said he had come from heaven to do God’s will, not his own will, and God’s will was that he wouldn’t lose any of the people God gave him, and that he would raise them up at the last day. God’s will was also that everyone who believed in Jesus would have eternal life, and that Jesus would raise them up at the last day.

The Jews didn’t like him claiming to be bread from heaven, so they grumbled and questioned his claim that he had come from heaven. Jesus didn’t like them grumbling about that, so he told them to stop grumbling. He stated again that he would raise his people up at the last day, and also that believers would have eternal life, and that he was the bread of life, again.

He mentioned that people who had eaten actual bread from heaven had died, but he claimed that anyone who ate this “bread from heaven” wouldn’t die. He clarified that he was the bread that had come from heaven, and stated again that whoever ate that bread would live forever. And he said the bread he was talking about was his flesh, which he was going to give for the life of the world.

When the Jews started arguing about whether he could really give them his flesh to eat, Jesus declared that anyone who didn’t eat his flesh and drink his blood had no life in them, while whoever did eat his flesh and drink his blood would have eternal life, and he would raise them up at the last day. He insisted that his flesh and blood were real food and drink. He said that he and whoever ate his flesh and drank his blood would be in each other, whatever that means.

He said anyone who fed on him would live because of him, just like he lives because the living Father sent him. And he said again that this was the bread that came from heaven, and that the people who actually ate bread from heaven had died, but that whoever fed on this bread from heaven would live forever.

Continue reading The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 7: Rambling
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The Bible’s questions, answered—part 1: Answers to questions in Genesis

The Bible contains a lot of questions, and it doesn’t always provide satisfactory answers. So now I’m going to be answering some of the Bible’s questions myself. You’re welcome.

Pharaoh asks Abraham: Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Answer: Because otherwise, you would have killed him and then taken her anyway.

Abimelek asks God: Will you destroy an innocent nation? Answer: Not sure why you would think he’d do that, since he never said anything about destroying your nation. Sounds like something he would do, though.

Sarah asks: Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Answer: God.

Esau asks: What good is my birthright to me? Answer: You’ll probably need that if you want to get blessed.

Isaac asks Jacob: How did you find this meal of goats for me so quickly? Answer: It’s called agriculture.

Esau asks: Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? Answer: Yes. God doesn’t seem to think so, though.

Isaac asks Esau: What can I possibly do for you, now that I’ve given your blessing to your brother and made you his servant? Answer: I’m sure you could think of something, if you wanted to. You could make his servitude temporary. You could also make sure his brother is a kind and generous master. At the very least, you could refrain from cursing him.

Leah asks Rachel: Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Answer: She did not. You’re still married to him. Not that you were ever supposed to be in the first place.

Leah asks Rachel: Will you take my son’s mandrakes too? Answer: No, she’s just asking for them, not taking them.

Laban asks Jacob: What have you done? (Laban’s self-answer: You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war.) Real answer: No, that’s not what he’s done at all. All he’s done is leave with the daughters who you let him have, and who agreed to go with him.

Laban asks Jacob: Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? Answer: Because that’s not what you would have done.

Esau asks Jacob: What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met? Answer: They’re a gift for you. You’ve already been told that.

The Egyptians ask: Why should we die? Our money is all gone. Answer: Because your money is all gone.

The Egyptians ask Joseph: Since our money is gone and all our livestock belongs to you now, why should we perish? Answer: Because your money and livestock are all gone.

God’s questions

God asks Cain: Why are you angry? Answer: Because you refused his perfectly good offering, in favor of someone needlessly killing animals.

God asks Cain: If you do what’s right, won’t you be accepted? (Implied answer: Yes.) Real answer: Apparently not. Cain has behaved more ethically than his brother up to this point, and he hasn’t even disobeyed any commands, yet you have not accepted him.

God asks Cain later: What have you done? Answer: He has become a killer, like his brother. That seems to be the only way to make you happy.

God asks: Hagar, slave of Sarai, where did you come from? Answer: She came from Sarai. But you obviously already knew that, so why ask?

God asks: Why did Sarah laugh at the thought of having a child at her age? Answer: How about because some stranger just came along and claimed that she was going to give birth when she was already more than a decade older than the world record?

God asks: Is anything too hard for God? (Implied answer: No.) Alternative biblical answer: Yes, many things. In a future blog post, I will write all about God’s many failures that are documented in the Bible, which show that plenty of things are too hard for God.

God asks: Shall I hide from Abraham what I’m about to do? Answer: Apparently you won’t. Why, did you forget that hiding it from him wasn’t part of your eternal plan?

God hears crying, and sends an angel to ask Hagar: What’s the matter? Answer: Probably something to do with the fact that you just had her and her child sent out into the desert to die.

Continue reading The Bible’s questions, answered—part 1: Answers to questions in Genesis
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Mistranslations in the Bible

A lot of things you’ll see in English translations of the Bible are translated to say what the translators thought the Bible should say (or what the people buying Bibles think it should say), rather than what it actually says in the text they’re translating from.1

Usually when I write about the Bible, I just go by what it says in the version that’s the default option on Bible Gateway. That’s not a particularly accurate translation, but even after they’ve mistranslated away a lot of the things that would make it too obvious how flawed the Bible is, it’s still full of outrageous and absurd things. But now let’s look at some of the things the Bible really says…

The English word “heart”, when used metaphorically, refers to a person’s emotions, in contrast to rational thought. But the Hebrew and Greek words for “heart” were used to mean the entire mind, not just emotions, so translating them as the metaphorical English “heart” is misleading.

The Bible isn’t exactly using “heart” metaphorically, though. Like most people in ancient times, the writers of the Bible believed that people literally thought with their hearts. And their kidneys. Seriously, the Bible talks about the kidneys as if that’s where the mind was located, just like it does with the heart. Have you read the Bible and never noticed that? That’s because English versions of the Bible always either mistranslate the word for kidneys as something like “mind”, or use “reins” (an obscure word for kidneys), so it won’t sound so silly.

Some translations change the lists of Shem’s sons and Eliphaz’s sons in 1 Chronicles to say that not all of them were the sons of those guys, so you’ll think those parts don’t contradict Genesis.

In the Hebrew text, Abraham clearly says that gods have caused him to wander, and Laban clearly says the gods of Abraham as well as the gods of Nahor can judge between Laban and Jacob. But almost all English translations, being made by monotheists, change it so they say those things about God instead.

A lot of translations change Laban from being Nahor’s son to being his grandson, so you won’t notice the contradiction between that and the part that says he was Bethuel’s son.

The Bible says the Passover sacrifice should be made when the sun goes down, at the same time of day the Israelites left Egypt. But since the Bible also says they left Egypt after midnight, some versions hide the contradiction by just saying the sacrifice should be made at the same time of year.

The Hebrew text has the Israelites singing about how they’ve conquered the peoples of Canaan and settled in their land… before that has even happened. A lot of versions of the Bible mistranslate away this anachronism, and have them instead sing about what will happen.

The Bible says the punishment for causing a miscarriage is merely to pay a fine, as opposed to the death penalty that it requires for killing a person. That doesn’t fit very well with pro-life beliefs, so after the abortion controversy got started, some versions of the Bible started saying this was about making a woman “give birth prematurely” instead.

Moses said God taught his people that you can live on whatever God says you can live on (which in that case was manna). But this is almost always mistranslated to make it sound like he’s saying you can live on God’s words themselves, instead of living on what God’s words are referring to.

Why did the translators change this statement into something that makes less sense than what it really says? Probably because the only other way to make it match the way Jesus quoted it would be to pretend that Jesus had quoted it correctly, which would make what Jesus says make even less sense than what Jesus actually said.

Most English translations change the verse that tells the gods to praise God’s people, pretending it’s just telling the nations to rejoice with God’s people.

Joshua recounts the time Balak king of Moab fought against Israel… Except according to other parts of the Bible, he never actually did that. So some versions of the Bible change it so Joshua just says Balak prepared to fight against Israel.

The book of Judges mentions Hobab being Moses’s father-in-law, but some versions change it to say he’s his brother-in-law. I guess they thought Moses already had enough fathers-in-law.

All the earliest manuscripts that have been found say Goliath was less than seven feet tall, but almost all English versions of the Bible continue the tradition of saying he was over nine feet tall. Even versions that were made recently enough that the translators should have known better.

There’s a verse in 2 Samuel about how many enemy men David captured that’s translated several quite different ways in different versions. It doesn’t seem to agree with what 1 Chronicles says about the same thing, so some versions just replace it with what 1 Chronicles says.

Some versions of 2 Samuel call someone an Ishmaelite to make it agree with 1 Chronicles, rather than making it agree with any of the Hebrew manuscripts of Samuel that they’re supposed to be translating from, which say he was an Israelite.

There’s a passage that, in almost all the manuscripts it’s translated from, says David killed his own stepchildren, the sons of his wife Michal. But the translators of the majority of the English versions apparently found that too inconsistent or otherwise objectionable, so they decided to say David killed the sons of Merab, Michal’s sister who David didn’t marry.

Some versions of the Bible say Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath, even though the actual source texts don’t say anything about a brother. All it really says is that Elhanan killed Goliath. But everybody knows it was somebody else that did that, so the translators had to make it say something else.

The Hebrew text of 2 Samuel says one of the punishment options David was offered was seven years of famine, but some translations change it to three years, so it won’t contradict 1 Chronicles.

Psalm 8 says humans are just a little lower than God, but some translations instead say we’re a little lower than the angels. They’ve changed it to make it match what the New Testament says when it quotes a mistranslation of the Old Testament, rather than making it match the original Hebrew.

Some Christians say Psalm 22 contains a prediction of Jesus’s hands and feet being pierced when he was crucified, but that’s a mistranslation. It doesn’t even say “pierce” in the Hebrew Bible, but that’s how the early Christians happened to interpret it at one point when they made a translation of a translation of that psalm. And since that came out looking so much like a prediction of Jesus, Christians have always opted to translate it that way since then.

In Psalm 51, David says he was conceived, formed, and/or born in sin, which is ambiguous. It could mean his parents sinned in some way when they conceived him. But some English versions of the Bible, versions that want to promote the nonsensical and unjust idea of inherited original sin, translate it to say that David was a sinner all the way back then. And other versions leave it ambiguous.

Some versions have 1 Kings say Solomon had 4000 stalls for his chariot horses, just so it will match what 2 Chronicles says, even though 1 Kings actually says he had 40,000. Most English translations also change the amount of wheat he gave Hiram, for the same reason.

The Bible says humans are animals, but some translators didn’t like that idea for some reason, so they changed it to just say humans are like animals.

There’s a verse where Solomon is obviously talking about his lover’s vulva, but almost all English translations change it so he instead says the same things about her navel, her hips, her belly, her thighs, her waist, or her body in general, which doesn’t make much sense that way. Only a few versions even get close to what it should say.

A lot of translations change the part that says Maakah daughter of Abishalom was Asa’s mother, and instead make it say she was his grandmother. Which she was, apparently, but that’s not what it’s supposed to say. I guess the translators just didn’t like the fact that the Bible seems to be saying Asa’s father had sex with his own mother, so they changed it.

All the Hebrew manuscripts say in 2 Chronicles that Ahaziah became king at age 42, making him older than his own father. But most English versions change it to 22, to make it match 2 Kings, even though it doesn’t.

Most English versions mistranslate away (in one way or another) the absurd part where Isaiah says that after an angel slaughtered thousands of Assyrian men, those men woke up in the morning and noticed they were dead.

Even though almost all existing Hebrew manuscripts say in 2 Chronicles that Jehoiachin became king at age 8, some English versions say he was 18, just because the translators didn’t want 2 Chronicles to contradict 2 Kings, even though it in fact does.

2 Chronicles says Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s brother, but some translations change it to say he was his uncle, because that’s what it says in 2 Kings.

Some of the gospels claim that Jesus came from a virgin birth, and that the prophet Isaiah had predicted that would happen. But Isaiah never actually said anything about a virgin giving birth. It looks like what actually happened is that the gospel writers got that idea from a previous mistranslation of the scriptures.

If Isaiah had actually intended to predict a miraculous virgin birth, he would have made that clear by using the Hebrew word that specifically means a virgin. Instead, he used a Hebrew word for a young woman, which was later mistranslated as meaning a virgin.

This mistranslation first occurred a few hundred years after Isaiah and a few hundred years before Jesus, in the first-ever translation of the Bible. The Jews were starting to forget how to speak Hebrew, and had to translate their scriptures into Greek. Now, since the New Testament needs the Old Testament to provide a prediction of a virgin birth for Jesus to fulfill, most Christian Bibles opt to translate that part of Isaiah from the Greek mistranslation instead of from the original Hebrew.

Christian Bibles mistranslate another of Isaiah’s prophecies to make it sound like the human king he’s talking about is to be called God. It was probably originally either just saying what God would call the king, or saying a name that contains a reference to God, as plenty of other biblical names do.

Isaiah predicted that satyrs would live in the ruins of Babylon and Edom, but satyrs aren’t real, so most English translations change it so it just says goats will live there.

Isaiah said God would speak with either stammering or mocking lips. But in the New Testament, Paul misquotes that as foreign lips, so now a lot of versions mistranslate it that way in Isaiah, too, so you won’t notice Paul misquoting it.

Isaiah also predicted that the Egyptians will be “like women”. (Meaning the ones who aren’t actually women, I guess?) And then he explained how they would be like women. But a few translations skip the woman simile, and change that word so it just says the Egyptians will be weak, or weaklings. Which probably isn’t even what the simile actually meant.

Jeremiah and Nahum, though, do seem to simply use “women” to mean “weak”. So a few translations again change it so it just says the men are weak, or weaklings, so you won’t know the Bible is using “women” as an insult.

The word “Messiah”, besides meaning a specific prophesied savior of some kind, can also refer to any “anointed king”, or even to “anointed” people and things more generally. But Christian Bibles always translate the parts of the Hebrew Bible that Christians think are about Jesus as “Messiah”, and translate all the other uses of the same word in other ways.

In Esther, when the king of Persia gives the Jews permission to kill all their enemies, he says they can also kill their enemies’ women and children. Some translations completely change this to make it sound like only the Jewish women and children are in danger. And other versions make it ambiguous so you can’t tell which of those things it’s saying.

There’s a verse in the gospel of John where Jesus goes into the land of Judea, even though he he was already in the capital of Judea. That doesn’t make sense, so some versions mistranslate that verse to say he went into the countryside of Judea. Those versions translate the word for “country” correctly everywhere except that one verse.

Another verse in John is usually translated as saying the Spirit “had not been given” yet. A more accurate translation would be that there was no Spirit.

Continue reading Mistranslations in the Bible
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The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 6: Saying the same thing in different ways

This is the sixth in a series of posts about unnecessary repetition in the Bible. This time we’re looking at unnecessary and excessive use of synonyms.

The Bible says Abraham lived 175 years. Then he breathed his last, and he also died. He died at a good old age. He was an old man. He was “full of years”. And then he was “gathered to his people”.

God told Abraham’s son Isaac that Abraham had obeyed him, and that he had done everything he required of him. Abraham had done that by keeping God’s commands, and his decrees, and his instructions, too.

Isaac’s grandsons threw their brother Joseph into a cistern, which was empty. Also, there was no water in it. Pharaoh’s cupbearer didn’t remember Joseph, he forgot him. And when there was a famine, Joseph’s father Jacob told his other sons to go buy some grain from Egypt so they would live, and so they wouldn’t die.

After the descendants of Israel moved to Egypt, they were “exceedingly fruitful”, they multiplied greatly, they increased in numbers, and they became so numerous that the land was filled with them.

God gave his people a list of “unclean” animals, and instructed them not to defile themselves by them, or to make themselves unclean by means of them, or to be made unclean by them.1 He said you shouldn’t have sex with your sister, which he clarified means any daughter of either your father or your mother. Then two verses later, he said you shouldn’t have sex with your father’s wife’s daughter, who is your father’s daughter, who is your sister. And he told the people not to lie, or to deceive one another, or to swear falsely.

God told his people to keep all his decrees, and all his laws, and also to follow them. He told them what would happen if they didn’t listen to him and carry out all those commands, or if they rejected his decrees and abhorred his laws, or if they failed to carry out all his commands and violated his covenant. And the Bible concludes that discussion of God’s rules by stating that those are the decrees, the laws, and the regulations that the Lord established.

When some people were trying to replace Moses as the leader of Israel, Moses had them stand outside their tents with their wives and children, and also with their little ones (so God could kill them all).2 Then when Joshua was about to actually replace Moses as the leader of Israel (with his approval this time), Moses told the people to be strong and courageous, and not to be afraid or terrified, because God would go with them, and wouldn’t leave them, and wouldn’t forsake them, either. Then he told Joshua to be strong and courageous, and not to be afraid or discouraged, because God would go before them, and be with them, and never leave them, and never forsake them.

The daughter that Jephthah promised God he would murder was an only child, and he had no son nor daughter except for her. A wise lying woman told David she was a widow, and that her husband was dead. After the king of Babylon captured Jehoiachin, he gave him a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death.

When Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men couldn’t answer his question, he decided to kill them all, because it made him so angry and furious. Then when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to obey his order, he decided to kill them too, because he was so furious with rage.

Esther told her husband the king that Haman was plotting to destroy, kill, and annihilate her people. Jesus said much will be demanded from those who have been given much, and much will be asked of those who have been entrusted with much.

Paul said he ought to do something, and rightly so. It’s right for it to be right for him to do that! He said he was telling the truth, and that he wasn’t lying.

The epistle to the Hebrews says a will can’t be carried out unless you can prove its writer is dead, because a will is only in force when the person has died, and it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.

Continue reading The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 6: Saying the same thing in different ways
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The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 5: Retelling the same story again for no reason

This is the fifth in a series of posts about unnecessary repetition in the Bible.

The first chapter of 1 Chronicles repeats a lot of the genealogy lists from Genesis.

In the middle of Exodus 6, it says God told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let his people go, and Moses objected that Pharaoh wouldn’t listen to him because he wasn’t a good speaker. Then the writer decides to interrupt the story to tell you all about Moses’s genealogy. And when that’s over, the chapter ends by saying that God told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let his people go, and Moses objected that Pharaoh wouldn’t listen to him because he wasn’t a good speaker.

A later chapter of Exodus says when the Egyptian army tried to cross through the parted sea, God put the water back in place and drowned them all, but the Israelites were able to walk all the way through the sea on dry ground. Then in the next chapter, it says the same thing.

In the book of Numbers, God tells Moses to climb a mountain and look at the promised land from a distance. He tells him he’s going to die on that mountain without getting to actually enter that land, because Moses “disobeyed” God at Meribah. Then the book of Deuteronomy has God tell Moses the same thing. I don’t know if this is supposed to be the same event or if God is just repeating himself, but it seems pretty unnecessary either way.

Joshua tells the people what to tell their children about the monument made from stones taken out of the Jordan river. Then later in the same chapter, he tells them again? Or it tells about him telling them, again, or whatever.

The book of Joshua tells how Othniel married his cousin Aksah after Aksah’s father promised to give her to whoever captured Kiriath Sepher, and how Aksah asked her husband to ask her father for some springs of water, but then she asked him herself instead. Then the book of Judges tells about all that again.

There are passages in Joshua and 1 Chronicles that both list which towns the Levites got from each tribe (though the numbers and names don’t always match very well…).

The last chapter of Joshua tells about Joshua’s death, and then the second chapter of Judges says almost exactly the same thing, but with one sentence moved to a different place.

Continue reading The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 5: Retelling the same story again for no reason
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