Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Common Objections To The Bible

The following are responses to common modern objections raised to the Bible:

1. "God gave many commandments, but he never gave a commandment against rape."

Actually, he did.  It's a verse that critics of the Bible conveniently tend to ignore and skip over:

"But if the man meets the engaged woman out in the country, and he rapes her, then only the man must die.  Do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no crime worthy of death. She is as innocent as a murder victim." (Deuteronomy 22:25-26, NLT)

2. "Many of the commandments in the Old Testament make no sense."

After God rescued the Israelites out of Egypt, God gave them 613 commandments, found in the Torah (Genesis - Deuteronomy).  These commandments were never intended to apply to anyone but the Jewish people (Exodus 19:3-6, 31:16, 34:27; Deuteronomy 5:1-3).  Many of them were never intended to apply outside of the land of Israel, or in the absence of the Temple (Deuteronomy 12:8-14).  Some commandments were intended to keep them in community with God, others to keep a peaceful and orderly society, still others such as the dietary/purity laws to make them distinct from other nations.  These commandments were intended to set the Israelites apart from the rest of the world, so that they would point the rest of the world to God.  The commandments were never a means of salvation or achievement of righteousness - this is done by faith in God and in his sacrifice alone (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:18-25).

3. "There is way too much violence in the Old Testament."

It is true that sections of the Old Testament are violent.  It is important to note that the Bible does not always approve everything that it records.  Just because there is an act of violence recorded in the Bible does not mean that God approves of that act of violence.  Some parts of the Bible, particularly the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament), are books of history.  The Bible contains many stories where society abandoned God and went wrong, particularly in terms of murder, adultery, rape, polygamy, child sacrifice, incest, etc. (Genesis 29-30, 34; Judges 13-21; 1 Samuel 1:1-8; 2 Samuel 11-13; 2 Chronicles 33:6). 

Critics of the Bible ignore the passages in which people who were usually oppressed and denied their rights in ancient society were given protection under the Law.  The Law offered protection for slaves (Exodus 21:20, 26-27; Deuteronomy 15:12, 23:15-16) and protection and inheritance rights for women - which was a huge deal in a patriarchal society (Exodus 21:7-11; Numbers 27:1-11; Deuteronomy 22:25-26).  Not to mention all of the stories where God expressed his compassion on those who were being oppressed, and rescued people or rewarded them for their faithfulness:

God rescued the Israelites from over 400 years of oppression and slavery in Egypt, where they were being abused and murdered by their slave masters (Exodus 1:11-14, 22, 12:31-42)

God rewarded the midwives who did not submit to Pharaoh's order to murder baby Hebrew boys (Exodus 1:15-21)

God rescued Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego from a fiery furnace; men were plotting against their lives because they refused to bow to idols (Daniel 3)

These are just a few examples of many Biblical stories that show God's compassion and mercy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Bible and Sexuality (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6)

With human sexuality at the forefront of the news lately, I thought it might be helpful to revisit what the Bible says about it.

The beginning of the book of Genesis contains the account where God created man and woman, and the first marriage: “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said,
‘This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.’
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:20-24, NIV)

Jesus affirmed this when discussing marriage and divorce with a group of Pharisees: “’
Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’” (Matthew 19:4-6, NIV).

From these two accounts, we learn the following about God’s intention for human sexuality:

1. Human sexuality was designed to be expressed between one man and one woman, united together for life.  The Bible contains many stories of the miseries that arose because of deviant sexual acts such as polygamy (Genesis 29-30, 1 Samuel 1:1-8), adultery (2 Samuel 11), prostitution (Judges 11:1-3), rape (Judges 19; 2 Samuel 13), etc.  Sex was designed as a uniting bond between a man and his wife (the Hebrew root words used in Genesis 2:24 are “ish”, meaning “man, male” and “isha”, meaning “woman, female”). 

From this one verse, Genesis 2:24, we learn the order of marriage – an adult man removes himself from his parents and clings to his wife (only his wife, not the wife of another man, which is adultery), his female wife – (“isha”, feminine, but not to another man), and they shall become one flesh (this term can refer to the combining of man and woman as one flesh in their conceived children, which excludes sex with animals).  These restrictions also apply to women, since the verse ends with “and they (plural, both the man and his wife) become one flesh.”

2. Marriage is a lifelong commitment.  Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9), “And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12, NIV). 

3. All sexual acts that fall outside of this definition of marriage are what modern English translations of the Bible call “sexual immorality”.  The Greek root word is “porneia”, sometimes translated as “fornication”.  Dictionary.com defines fornication as “voluntary sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other”.  These sexual acts include pre-marital sex, incest, rape, pornography, homosexuality, prostitution, adultery, bestiality and orgies.

These are God’s instructions for humanity, regarding sexuality. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Which commandments in the Bible apply to us today?

            A major misunderstanding arises when we attempt to take every single commandment in the Bible and apply them to each of us personally, as people living in the 21st century.  Some commandments, such as the 613 commandments found in the Law (Torah), were never meant to apply to anyone other than the Jewish people (Exodus 19:3-6, 31:16, 34:27; Deuteronomy 5:1-3).  Even among those commandments, some of them were never meant to apply outside the land of Israel, or in the absence of the Temple (Deuteronomy 12:8-14).  Some commandments found in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) were given to specific people, for a specific time period (Genesis 6:9-22; Exodus 7:1-6; Joshua 4; Judges 4:6, 13:13-14). 
            So how can we know which commandments apply to us today?  There are a few guidelines to observe when reading and studying the Bible:

1. Context.  When you see a commandment in the Bible, make sure to study the surrounding verse, chapter and book.  Is this a time-specific commandment?  Was it given to a specific person or nation?  Is this a commandment that was only given to the nation of Israel?

2. Historical background.  Many of the commandments in the Bible were given during the time period and culture of the Ancient Near East.  We must take the historical and cultural background of the text into consideration when reading.

3. Repeated commandments.  Some commandments in the Bible are given multiple times.  Some are given to all mankind, not just to a specific person, group of people or nation.  The following commandments are repeatedly given to all people:

- To fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Zechariah 2:13; Malachi 1:14)

-To worship God (1 Chronicles 16:28-31; Psalm 22:27-28; Isaiah 66:23; Jeremiah 3:17; Zephaniah 2:11; Zechariah 14:16; Malachi 1:11; John 4:21-24; Revelation 14:7, 15:4, 19:10, 22:9)

- Not to murder (Genesis 9:6; Deuteronomy 18:9-12; 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3; Matthew 19:16-19)

-Not to worship idols or engage in occult practices (Deuteronomy 18:9-12; 1 Kings 14:23-24; Revelation 9:20)

-Not to have sex outside of marriage (marriage being defined as a lifelong commitment between two unrelated adults consisting of one man and one woman; see Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6) (Leviticus 18, 20; 1 Kings 14:24; Matthew 19:16-19)

- Not to blaspheme (Leviticus 24:15; Isaiah 37:23; Luke 12:10; Romans 2:24)

- Not to steal or be dishonest (Genesis 2:16-17; Matthew 19:16-19)

-Not to treat animals with cruelty (Genesis 9:4; Proverbs 12:10; Matthew 12:11-12)

4. If there is a statement in the Bible that describes an act as something that God views as "evil", "disgusting", an "abomination" or "detestable", it stands to reason that it is something to clearly avoid (Leviticus 18:22; Judges 10:6; 1 Samuel 15:23; 1 Kings 14:9; Proverbs 6:16-19; Ezekiel 14:6).

5. Finally, consider the teaching of Jesus, who emphasized that there are two commandments which all the other commandments hang upon:

"One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?'

Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Deuteronomy 6:5)  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18)  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'” (Matthew 22:35-40, NIV)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Was Jesus A Liar?

The following quotes are taken from evilbible.com: 

"Jesus Lied About Prayer -  "Jesus is quoted many times in the Bible saying that a believer can ask for anything through prayer and receive it.  He even goes so far as to say that mountains and trees can be thrown into the sea simply by praying for it.  This is clearly a lie, and can be proven to be a lie by any believer.  Simply pray for me to be converted to Christianity right away.  Or better yet ask God to move the mountains behind my house.  He could make a lot of converts that way.  If I’m converted today, I’ll post a public apology on my web site and devote my life to kissing God’s a--.  If I’m not converted it would only be fair for you to apologize and devote your life to kissing my butt.

Here are the quotes from Jesus that proves that he lied:

1)  "And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen.  "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."  (Matthew 21:21-22 NAS)

2)  "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."  (Matthew 7:7-8 NAB)

3)  "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."  (Matthew 18:19-20 NAS)

4)  "Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours."  (Mark 11:23-24 NAB)

5)  "And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."  (Luke 11:9-10 NAB)

6)  "And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it."  (John 14:13-14 NAB)

7)  "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you."  (John 15:7 NAB)

8)  "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you."  (John 15:16 NAB)

9)  "On that day you will not question me about anything.  Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.  Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete."  (John 16:23-24 NAB)

A lot of Christians ignore what Jesus actually says in the Bible.  They also tend to add things to the actual words to make them say something else.  If you honestly and truthfully read these quotes, without adding to them, it is very easy to see that Jesus is not saying that God will think about your prayers.  He says God will grant all your prayers.  Clearly, God doesn’t grant all prayers and this proves that Jesus was a habitual liar."

Was Jesus a liar?  Let's examine each of these quotes in context.

1., 4.  Matthew 21:21-22; Mark 11:23-24: Jesus often spoke to his disciples in parables, and told them flat out that he was speaking to them figuratively - using metaphors (see John 16:25).  In other words, when Jesus spoke of a mountain being thrown into the sea, he wasn't talking about a mountain literally being thrown into a sea.  It was a metaphor for faith in God to overcome major obstacles in life.

2., 5. Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10: Jesus was talking about something very specific in this passage - the Holy Spirit.  A few verses later, as he was elaborating on his "Ask and it will be given to you" statement, he said the following: "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13, NIV).  Taken in context, Jesus was talking about his followers asking God to give them the Holy Spirit. 

3. Matthew 18:19-20: Again, this is another quote that is taken out of context.  These verses are part of a larger passage where Jesus was talking about dealing with sin in the church.   

The full passage can be read here:  

6., 7., 8.: In John chapters 14 and 15, Jesus was about to be crucified, and was speaking to his disciples one last time.  It is important to notice the verse just before the promise is first given: "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12, NIV).  In response to Philip's request to show them the Father (John 14:8), Jesus emphasized that "anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9, NIV).  He further stated that since he was returning to the Father, his disciples would now be on earth acting as his representatives.  That being the case, the phrase "ask in my name" means asking the Father as a representative of Jesus, who always prayed that God's will would be done (Luke 22:42).  John elaborates on this point in a later letter: "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him" (1 John 5:14-15, NIV).

9. John 16:23-24: This is another snippet of a much larger passage where Jesus was about to be crucified, and was speaking to his disciples one last time.  Jesus was responding to the disciples' question about what he meant when he said that he was leaving and returning to the Father.  He responded by explaining that he had been speaking figuratively to them (using metaphors - in other words, not to be taken literally), but when he returned they would no longer need to ask him for clarification; they would receive wisdom and clarity directly from God the Father in Jesus' name.  "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.  In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.  No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.  I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” (John 16:25-28, NIV).

You can read the full text of John chapter 16 at this link:

In conclusion, these statements of Jesus were not meant to be taken as a blanket promise that we could ask for whatever we want and immediately receive it.  Taken in context, many of these verses were speaking of other things entirely.  It is also important to understand that God has given each person a choice regarding their own salvation, and that each person must choose for themselves what to believe.  No one can choose for them, and no one can override their decision.  "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" (John 1:11-13, NIV).

Monday, August 11, 2014

Slavery in the New Testament (Ephesians 6; 1 Timothy 6; Luke 12)

The following quotes are taken from evilbible.com: 

"You would think that Jesus and the New Testament would have a different view of slavery, but slavery is still approved of in the New Testament, as the following passages show."

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ."  (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

"Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed.  If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful.  You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts.  Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them."  (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)

"In the following parable, Jesus clearly approves of beating slaves even if they didn't know they were doing anything wrong."

"The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it.  But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly.  Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given."  (Luke 12:47-48 NLT)
            The passage in the gospel of Luke quoted above is a parable.  Jesus was comparing our relationship with God to that of a master and servant.  He was exhorting his followers to keep watch in his absence, because he was about to be crucified, resurrected and then ascend to heaven until his second coming.  In his absence, those who follow him must take care to act appropriately.    "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.  Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk.  The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers" (Luke 12:42-46, NIV).  Jesus had a stern warning for those who deliberately disobey him, and he used a parable that his audience would have been familiar with - the relationship between a master and slave.  Wise and prudent behavior was rewarded, while lazy and abusive behavior was punished.
            Slavery was still common practice during the Roman Empire, when Jesus lived on earth.  Slaves were either prisoners of war or, as during the time period when the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) was written, were those who were poor and in debt, who had voluntarily sold themselves and their children into slavery in order to survive.  Slavery was a reality at the time the Bible was written.  However, there are no statements in the Bible that praise slavery or encourage people to own slaves.  Rather, most of the verses in the Bible that mention slavery are statements regarding how slaves were supposed to be treated.  Just as the verses above exhort Christian slaves to be faithful and honest while working, masters were directed to be good to their slaves.  "And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him" (Ephesians 6:9, NIV). 

See also:

"Why was slavery allowed in the New Testament?"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Personal Injuries (Exodus 21:20-21)

The following quote is taken from evilbible.com:

"What does the Bible say about beating slaves?  It says you can beat both male and female slaves with a rod so hard that as long as they don't die right away you are cleared of any wrong doing."

"When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished.  If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property."  (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

A great deal of Exodus chapter 21 concerns the treatment of slaves.  You can read the entire chapter here:

            Like most other passages in this section, these verses must be taken in a cultural and historical context.  In the Ancient Near East and many other ancient cultures for thousands of years, slavery was standard practice.  So too was corporal punishment.  Even up until a few generations ago, corporal punishment was a major method of discipline, especially for parents disciplining their children.  The Bible clearly states that in some instances, physical punishment is the only proper mode of discipline, particularly with a child who has repeatedly and deliberately disobeyed (2 Samuel 7:14, Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14).  However, this does not give the parent or master free reign to abuse their child or slave.  There are clear restrictions in place.  "Parents, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4, NIV).
            Exodus 21:20-21 concerns a situation in which a slave dies as a direct result of a beating received.  The NAB translation of verse 21 given above makes it seem as if the slave died a day or two after being beaten.  However, the actual translation makes it clear that in the instance of the second half of the passage in question, the slave survived the beating and recovered after a day or two:

"...but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property." (Exodus 21:21, NIV translation)

"But if the slave recovers within a day or two, then the owner shall not be punished, since the slave is his property." (Exodus 21:21, NLT translation)

            Killing a slave was considered as serious a crime as killing a free person, and it was forbidden.  Slaves are made in the image of God, just as free people are: "Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind" (Genesis 9:6, NIV).  If a slave died as a direct result of a beating, whether instantly or days later, the slave owner had to be punished for murder.
            This brings us to the main question: Why was the slave owner not punished for beating the slave, and why was the slave referred to as property?  Again, we must remember that the slave owner was not punished for beating the slave because physical punishment was a standard mode of discipline in the Ancient Near East, and universally practiced.  However, if the slave owner caused the slave permanent injury, by law the slave had to be set free as compensation (Exodus 21:26-27).
            In terms of the slave being referred to as "property", the Hebrew root word used here is keceph, which literally translates as "money".  In the verse just previous to this one, if a free person injured another free person, the guilty party had to pay the injured person for any loss of time.  In this instance, since the loss of time involved in the slave's injury and recovery was costing the slave's owner money due to loss of productivity, there was no exchange of money involved.  In this passage, then, the slave is not actually considered "property" by God.  The slave's services are what made the slave owner money, and a loss of a slave's services for a time meant a loss of money for the slave owner.
            Slavery was - and is - not an ideal condition, nor is it commended by God.  This is why most of the passages in the Bible referring to slavery are laws regarding their treatment.  Slaves were human beings created in the image of God just as free people were, and their mistreatment was forbidden. 

See also:

"Exodus 21: Does God approve of slavery?"