As you read through these verses prepare to feel as tiny as a grasshopper as you admire the sheer genius contained therein. Clearly these words were penned by God himself, although not literally of course. Firstly, because pens weren't invented until the 19th century. And secondly, because like all truly great beings, God allegedly had other people actually do all of the work, while taking full credit. I've actually met people who had mastered this same tactic, although I disagreed with them about whether they were actually God. But I digress...
The Word of God
Firstly, let me demonstrate that the quotations you are about to read really were written by God. The proof of this comes from 2 Tim 3:16:
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
2 Tim 3:16 NRSV
So there you have it. Yes, the Bible is inspired by God because it says so...in the Bible. Checkmate, Atheists!
Training in righteousness
Not only were these words written by God (it literally says so right there in that verse!), they are also "useful for training in righteousness" and will equip you for "every good work". If you want to learn how to be a good person, the Bible sounds like the perfect book for you.
For example, it gives some advice on how to
When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.
Exodus 21:20-21 NRSV
When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone.
Exodus 21:2-4 NRSV
In case you weren't paying attention, in that last verse the (male) slave was allowed to go free, but his wife and children were not. So in that scenario, women and children were more "enslaved" than slaves. Women were treated as property, "given" by a master to a slave.
What about the so-called "good book's" views on sexual assault?
If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.
Deut 22:28 NRSV
Did you notice where it mentions the woman's well-being, or her say in all of this? Me neither. Of course, after raping the woman, the rapist must pay money to her father, because we all know her father is the real victim here (sarcasm!). Isn't it great that the "divinely-inspired" Bible is looking out for fathers of rape victims? Meanwhile the woman herself is now forced to marry the rapist and is not allowed a divorce. WTF?! Training in righteousness, they said...
Feel free to take a moment to process any strong, negative emotions you may have felt after that one. Apparently it is possible for Christians to both believe that a god authored those words, and still love said god. I am unable to do either of those things.
Moving along, the Bible even offers some gentle encouragement for kids to be nice to their parents...
Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death.
Exodus 21:17 NRSV
Of course, that's just the Old Testament, which is obviously still perfect but was written for a different time. All part of the perfect plan of an unchanging god. Meanwhile, Jesus gave us the new covenant, you know, "love your neighbour". Actually that one was from the Old Testament too (Lev 19:18), but never mind that. Jesus was all about love and peace, except for that time when Jesus actually defended what it says in Exodus 21:17 and criticised the Pharisees and Scribes for not killing their disobedient children.
Then he (Jesus) said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”
Mark 7:9-13 NRSV (emphasis mine)
But what about when Jesus commanded us to love our enemies?
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven;
Matthew 5:44-45 NRSV
There you go. We should love our enemies, and then we'll be like God. Because God loves his enemies...
Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them like a fiery furnace when you appear. The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them. You will destroy their offspring from the earth, and their children from among humankind.
Psalm 21:8-10 NRSV
Just so we're clear, that was a psalm written to God, that God apparently inspired the author to write. So if you want to be like God, you might try getting someone else to write a letter to you about how good you are at killing people you don't like. Don't worry, they'll write you a very good letter, before calling the police.
Oh sorry, Old Testament again. We should follow Jesus. He loved his enemies...
But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”
Luke 19:27 NRSV
Ah, the son of God. Just like his dad.
Wow, so this is what they call "instruction in righteousness"? Is this how to be "equipped for every good work"?? This is going to be much harder than I thought. I don't really want to go slaughtering people or burning my enemies and their kids. Is there a way to be a good person without being like Jesus or God?
If all of these verses sound a bit like the kind of thing ancient people might have written based on their culturally-inherited view of morality 2000-2500 years ago, well perhaps you should tuck that dangerous little idea away somewhere lest you find yourself disfellowshipped someday...
Or perhaps you should ask a wise old Christadelphian and see what they say. They might tell you that God obviously inspired the Bible in such a way as to make it sound just like it would have if those ancient human authors had written it themselves, except that it was really God's words and not theirs (but totally written with the personality and style of the human author - for reasons I've yet to figure out). Or they might just tell you to stop worrying your pretty little head about such deep matters and just have faith. You know, the simple faith like that of little children. The kind of faith that allows you to believe in
But there's more. Much more...
But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”
Genesis 3:9 NRSV
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 1:31 NRSV
And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Genesis 6:6-7 NRSV
So the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so blatant that I must go down and see if they are as wicked as the outcry suggests. If not, I want to know.”
Genesis 18:21 NET
The word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not carried out my commands.”
1 Sam 15:10-11 NRSV
The Lord was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain, because they had chariots of iron.
Judges 1:19 NRSV
Better hope Gog's army doesn't have any chariots of iron.
Christians love to argue that evil exists because God gave us free will, but they forget the times when God violated someone's free will to cause them to do evil things...and then sometimes punished them for it!
But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh
Exodus 9:12 NRSV
If a prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
Ezekiel 14:9 NRSV
For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.
2 Thess 2:11-12 NRSV
I think these oddities in the Bible are quite comforting. Next time you find mistakes in your own work, just remember that even the ancient scribes who pretended they were writing down the words of God made mistakes too. The ones you see here are the ones that made it through the Bible's editing process. Yes, the divinely-inspired Bible went through an editing process - why do you ask?
If you thought the Bible really is the writing of a god, then quite frankly you need to read better literature. Don't get me wrong, it is surely a fantastic collection of documents, especially for its time, but perfect and divine it is not. It has got human fingerprints all over it. For a work supposedly written by a perfect deity whose thoughts are apparently "far above" our thoughts, it contains some fairly primitive and barbaric ideas, some of which I listed above. If you're honest, you will know this already. If you're not, you'll keep trying to come up with excuses for why the Bible isn't really what it appears to be. For a more serious look at the human origins of the Bible, read my series of articles starting here.
If you're anything like I was as a Christadelphian, you'll be able to come up with ways to rationalise all of these verses and more. And so long as you can come up with a rationalisation, you might no longer feel any need to worry about them. Done and dusted. But hold on a minute. Why would a divinely-inspired book need such rationalisations in the first place? And if you're only limited by your imagination in coming up with a rationalisation, what could the Bible have possibly said that wouldn't pass that test? If you're able to rationalise verses such as Deut 22:28 as being morally perfect, exactly what would the Bible have to say before you'd consider it immoral?
Instead of trying to rationalise ways for the Bible to say those things and still be inspired, what about looking for evidence that it wasn't inspired? If it really was inspired, then you shouldn't find anything. But if you do find something, then you have a difficult decision to make. Actually you have a difficult decision to make right now. Do you want to know what is true? or do you want to believe the Bible? What if those two things were not the same?
Do you have more WTF Bible verses to share? Feel free to list them in the comments.
This article was updated on 1 July 2017