Twitterati Go Nuts over Suggestion that Bible is Badly Written

twitter storm
God forbid we should talk about the fact that the Bible, despite some wise and lyrical passages, is mostly a boring tangled mess.

After a storm of protest on Twitter and in comment threads, Salon retracted and removed my recent article, “Why the Bible is So Badly Written,” saying that it failed to meet their editorial standards. But which standards were those? Notwithstanding its provocative title and lede, the article summarized a series of well-known flaws in the Bible along with facts about how the book was constructed. It proposed (as did Thomas Jefferson) that the Good Book could use a good edit. Reviewed before publication by a retired religion professor and a professional editor, and errata corrected, the analysis was factually defensible and reasonably clear.

What the article definitely violated were the sensibilities of many Christians and orthodox Jews, and an array of literature lovers from Christianized cultures.

Christians and Jews differ among themselves in how they think of the Bible. Adherents may hold what is called a high or a low view of scripture, or something in between.  At the high end are biblical literalists who think their book of scripture, in its entirety, is a timeless and perfect message from Heaven. At the low end are modernist believers, who see the Bible as a collection of human documents, but nonetheless a precious record of humanity’s struggle to understand what is real and good. In between these two lie those who think their version of the Bible, among all the world’s holy books, is uniquely inspired and inspiring.  All of these cherish the Bible’s familiar phrases—selectively—as part of their worship routines.

People who hold varying (even conflicting) views of the Bible as scripture generally unite around a derivative viewthat the Bible represents one of humanity’s greatest literary achievements. This view has been unassailable for centuries, even as belief in the Bible as holy scripture has dwindled. For those who have left religion behind, emphatically endorsing the Bible as great literature softens the blow, as does the claim that Jesus was a great moral teacher. What do we do with the Bible if we don’t revere it as God’s word? We can revere it as writing.

Offended critics of “Why the Bible is So Badly Written,” pointed to famous authors, including Poet Maya Angelou, who themselves have treasured the Bible as beautiful, inspiring literature. How presumptuous to suggest otherwise!

To be clear, the Bible contains passages with timeless relevance, lyrical poetry, wise counsel, and stories that have inspired two millennia of derivative art. I could and should have acknowledged that more clearly in the article that set off the storm. But that is not all it contains. Two hundred years ago, when Thomas Jefferson took a sharp instrument to a Bible, he called the parts he kept “diamonds in a dunghill.”  The other parts, those he discarded, include tedious details about ritual purification, self-aggrandizing genealogical tributes to racial superiority, horrific stories of god-sanctioned violence that dehumanizes women, slaves, and tribal outsiders—and a vast array of related dross.

My own suspicion is that few of the outraged religious believers and literature lovers who attacked Salon have ever attempted to read the Bible cover to cover. Per Barna, the average American household contains 4.4 Bibles, but 57 percent of people say they read something out of it four times per year or less. Even those who read it more often tend to return to the brief passages that they do find inspiring, while skipping the troublesome parts. The book may be the world’s best seller, as some Twitterati like to crow, but most copies collect dust with very good reason.

But reason is only part of the story when we talk about sacred cows.

Seattle, where I live, is home to a hamburger chain called Dick’s. Some folks may recognize it from a Macklemore video that he filmed on the roof of one outlet. Even newcomers to Seattle know about Dick’s and can tell you that “Dick’s is great,” whether they’ve ever tasted the hamburgers and fries or not. Dick’s is great, has taken on a life of its own.  It is common knowledge, a cultural touch point, an unquestioned point of agreement that is a part of our shared identity. To claim otherwise is contrarian, the violation of a local light-hearted taboo.

The taboos surrounding the Bible, as both a sacred text and a body of literature, are not so light-hearted because they are more important. But I might argue that defense of the Bible is no less reflexive.  For over a thousand years, speaking ill of the Bible has been as gauche as speaking ill of the dead. But that is changing.

If, at this point, you find yourself irritated or protesting or sneering, let me ask you something. When was the last time you actually read it? Cover to cover.  If you think that the Bible as a whole constitutes a pinnacle of human moral guidance or literature—either one—you owe it to yourself to read it, all of it. But be forewarned. The testimonial section at ExChristian.net is peppered with stories of folks who set out to do just that and found their spiritual worldview in rubble.

——————————————————————————————–
Note:  The version of “Why the Bible is So Badly Written” linked at my website includes minor revisions that did not appear in the version at Salon. These include a more clear statement that the Bible contains bits of beauty and wisdom amidst the rest. I routinely continue to tweak articles after they have been picked up elsewhere.  To see the exact version published by Salon, go to AlterNet.com.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

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About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings. Founder - www.WisdomCommons.org.
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56 Responses to Twitterati Go Nuts over Suggestion that Bible is Badly Written

  1. hoju1959 says:

    When I was going to the UW in the late 70s, we called Dick’s Reechards on 45th

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joey says:

    Thank goodness someone agrees with me. The Bible IS badly written!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is a convoluted, badly edited mess with a few good quips here and there. And I was raised reading and memorizing it. It is as tortuous to read as Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, without the funny bits.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joe Reedholm says:

    The version linked from your email made sense to me, and was not derogatory. Certainly fit with my Bible reading attempts–told my wife that I had tried to read the Bible through at least five times, but just gave up. Would not have been as generous as you, and certainly was not ready to read enough to find inconsistencies between different recounting of the same events. And I’m a guy who sat on the pot as a boy and read the dictionary!

    My last attempt at reading it a couple of years ago was to confirm that the ten commandments were in the Bible, only to find that Roy Moore’s treasure wasn’t quite there in either of two places I was told to look.

    Bless you for reading it and providing an interesting critique,

    Like

  5. John Wesley says:

    “It proposed (as did Thomas Jefferson) that the Good Book could use a good edit.”

    Jefferson was referring to editing out supernatural claims in The Bible, not editing bad or poorly written prose.

    Like

    • That is true, although I too wasn’t simply criticizing badly written prose. In fact it wasn’t till after I wrote the article and people with more theology background than me started responding that i learned how much badly written prose the Bible contains. :)

      Like

  6. John Zelnicker says:

    I tried to read the bible from Genesis, but got too bogged down in the begats and gave up. I have, however, read some of the more horrific passages of the Hebrews conquering all the lands of Canaan and surrounding areas and the god-sanctioned terrorism. Jefferson was right.

    I’m sorry to hear that Salon took down this post. I find it most unfortunate when publishers give in to religious pressure of any kind. This is NOT a god-founded or Christian nation and the attempts to make it so need to be blocked wherever possible.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Brian Bixler says:

    I think that the Skeptics Annotated Bible (ref. http://Www.skepticsannotatedbible.com) pretty much covers it. Beware of the .net version, where Christian apologists try to cover their collective backsides.

    Like

    • The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible provided some of the input for this amazing visualization of biblical contradictions: http://www.bibviz.com

      Like

      • anxionnat@yahoo.com says:

        I have actually read both the New and Old Testament in English 4 times (King James,Douay, and RSV twice.) I’ve also read the Hebrew Bible in the original Hebrew. The translations contain some beautiful language, as does the original. I’ve got the RSV and the Skeptics versions on my bookshelf, though I don’t think I’ll read it through again. You are right: it is mostly a slog through genealogy, unbelievable fantasy and the like. I didn’t have room on my Mythology shelves so the bibles ended up on my Reference shelf. I grew up catholic (though became an atheist at age 11), so the bible we read at home was the Douay translation, which is worse than the King James translation–which is like calling Norse mythology more true than Jewish myths. I majored in Anthropology in college, and came 2 classes from having a double major in Religious Studies. I read the bible mostly because I am fascinated with mythology. I’ve also read English translations of the Quran,the Vedas, the Baghavad Gita, Selections from Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, and Selections from the Talmud–all between ages 11 and 13. Atheism was the only thing that made sense, though I didn’t encounter the word “atheism” til I was in my mid-30s. I remember that, in church, the bible was cherry-picked, which repeated (sigh) every year.

        Like

      • Wow do you have stamina! I love the thought that your mind was able to glean the fascinating mythologies from the books in ways that made the rest worth slogging through.

        Like

  8. godfreydebouillon says:

    If truth be known, I don’t see much difference in your ways of looking at things now and what I’d guess it was when you were a fundie. I don’t refer to WHAT you believe (I can see the difference) so much as HOW you believe it. Your fundie faith withered with enough ‘salt’ (reason?) sprinkled on it, and your current beliefs also read as quite un-seasoned with skepticism as to your own rightness. Coupled with that are the questions as to why God couldn’t make all the laudable stuff perfectly clear all at once, which reads very ‘juvie’ to me.
    Isn’t it characteristic of God to begin with people where they are and ‘grow’ them from there? Jacob became a bearer of Grace despite beginning as what we’d call today an a**hole with brass b***s. If you’ve never seen anyone grow like that and you reject the stories of others so growing, I can only pity you. For many of us, including yours truly sometimes, humankind seems to grow as persons at a glacial pace, but we have grown and Biblical themes, at least, have been and still are a primary source of fuel for spiritual growth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul Douglas says:

      You said “Isn’t it characteristic of God to begin with people where they are and ‘grow’ them from there “.
      Where did you ever come up with that idea? Talk about nonsensical. Did you make it up or did someone tell you that was a characteristic of your particular god? Why would you assume others would simply take that statement at face value? Rather hubristic to start describing the personality characteristics of a god that is always hiding off in the bushes somewhere.
      I find it troubling that some folks actually think people 3500 years ago weren’t capable of the same moral reasoning that we are today. Maybe the cultural context wouldn’t allowed as many people to realize those moral truths as quickly (we stand on the heads of giants), but if an omniscient, omnipresent and especially omnibenevolent deity couldn’t get the message of love, fairness and charity towards all across in a less tortured, chaotic and roundabout way than the biblical one, he clearly isn’t omniscient, omnibenevolent or even remotely competent.

      Like

    • john powell says:

      Pompous pablum, godfreydebouillon. Pablum! Arrogant “‘juvie'” pablum. If you never see that, and you reject the authenticity of others so seeing, I can only pity you. Your current beliefs read as quite un-seasoned with skepticism as to your own rightness. Coupled with that are your fantacizings as to how “God” made ANY laudable stuff perfectly clear at all.

      Sanctified god-authorized slavery? Sanctified god-authorized incest? Sanctified god-authorized rape? Sanctified god-authorized murders of children sacrificed to Yahweh? Sanctified god-authorized genocide? Sanctified god-authorized cutting-off of women’s hands? Sanctified god-authorized killing of women who don’t bleed during their first sexual intercourse? Sanctified god-authorized capture of attractive adolescent girls, to force them into being sex-slave “wives”, after killing their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and killing their infant and younger pre-pubescent sisters and brothers? Sanctified god-authorized gospel “messiah’s” mass murder of “all who do not want me to rule over them”?

      “Laudable”? “Primary fuel for spiritual growth”?

      Are you sleeping? Having a waking nightmare? Hallucinating? Hearing voices? Got invisible friends? Ghosts? Goblins?

      Have you sought professional help yet?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Denise Choate says:

      godfreydebouillon Thank you for your reply. I am one of those people who reads and studies the bible because I am captivated by it and who was claimed and changed by the Word of God. The entire tome is about Christ coming into the world and only those who have been born from above can understand and see the heavenly vision of Christ the Lord, throughout the Old and New Testaments. There are many people I can think of who cherish the bible, who were not people of faith who came to value and appreciate the Word of God. I think of Rosaria Butterfield, an English professor who valued the bible for it’s literary beauty and power and certainly was changed into an entirely different spiritual person because of her earnest and honest encounter with the word of God. I am not angry with the author’s opinion of a work she doesn’t understand, but i was grateful for your response. You put into words, most eloquently, the preciousness of the Word we love. I think of myself and others I know who have been changed and renewed by the Bible’s power. God’s word will never pass away. Matt 24:35 thought in fifty to seventy years, everyone on this post will probably have passed away. This conversation and all the ignorant and disparaging thoughts about the bible will pass away with them. The bible is very clear about what happens after we die and I believe the B I B L E.

      Like

    • Perry Bulwer says:

      “…Biblical themes, at least, have been and still are a primary source of fuel for spiritual growth.” So you think its spiritual growth to go from slaughtering unbelievers in your god as enemies in the Old Testament, to Jesus saying he is the only way to God (John 14:6) and those who don’t believe and act on that that will go to hell? Jesus doesn’t just condemn non-believers to hell, he condemns even those who don’t live a virtuous life helping those in need:

      Matthew 25: 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

      You sure have a twisted sense of spiritual progress.

      Like

  9. Neil Godfrey says:

    Surely you/Salon are joking. Some of the complaints look like evidence that the twits did not actually read the article anyway since they merely repeated without rebutting some of the points in the Valerie’s article. First Trump, now this ….. what is happening to the USA? This is just crazy. Unbelievable, Salon, shame, shame.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Beau Mansion says:

      Possible bot responses? The new wave of tech-leveraged propaganda from religious, political and other social interest groups is disturbing.

      Like

  10. john zande says:

    They pulled it? The nerve! Might I also say, Well done!

    Like

  11. I assume the conservatives, right-wingers, alt-righters, and reactionaries who are always complaining about political correctness and censorship will soon arrive to defend your rights and your good name, immediately after they start a petition to reinstate your article at Salon.

    Like

  12. martin gothberg says:

    impeccable logic as usual.

    Like

  13. Arkenaten says:

    Hilarious! You made someone poop in their britches because of the truth? Go figure! Good for you!

    Like

  14. Diane Carpenter says:

    I agree with your Salon article. I still recall the freeing effect of reading The Women’s Bible when I was young and various critiques of Genesis and other books. Such perspectives are invaluable to brainwashed believers and to others trying to make sense of the bible’s role in modern discourse. I’m not surprised by the reflexive outrage. but I am shocked that Salon would take this action. I have been a subscriber for many years and I am quite disturbed by the significance of their decision. Have their editors responded editorially?

    I am overdue in thanking you for your clearly reasoned and thought-provoking analyses of controversial issues. Your writing on abortion is the best I have read.
    Salon was wrong.

    Like

  15. Dear Valérie,
    speaking truth is always a risky endeavor and yet it nevertheless needs to be done. Thank you Valérie. We need more people to do so, without violence, that is the art, an art I muss say that you master.

    Like

  16. Beau Mansion says:

    Thanks for your work. I believe organized religion is a dangerous social virus that must eventually be treated, as with any disorder. Have you done any articles that summarize the way in which organized religion exploits people and how it’s transmitted? I’d love a concise set of talking points for immunizing people from their religious bonds. I believe the threat of organized religion is existential.

    Like

  17. Lighten Up says:

    Offense! You have committed offense! The Secular Humanist group I attend at my retirement home is often charged with committing offense because we have been known to make fun of religious people and practices. I’ll confess that I still squirm with discomfort when we do this, and yet I can’t help myself. It seems as though religions have to rise to the level of absurdity in order to become something that requires faith. Your writings seem to always be polite and respectful, and yet, here you are being retracted for explaining something that is an obvious problem. Good grief.

    Like

    • I think it is hard to know when mocking or making fun are constructive. I myself find it difficult to decide sometimes when I’m writing. Making fun of religion can help to remove the sense that it is untouchable and beyond reproach — but it also can be mean. I try to focus my criticism and scorn on ideas rather than people — and as evidenced by this article, i take a no-holds-barred attitude toward the Bible itself.

      Like

  18. Steve Ruis says:

    Isn’t it ironic that so many of those who decried your article wer Christians who have not read the Bible. Few have, as you and I have, read the whole thing. (What a slog!) I had no complaint with your article and it needed no softening–they do not soften their diatribes, now do they? Can you imagine one of these Christian white washers saying something like “Sure the Bible is full of misogyny and hate, but that’s God, heh, you gotta love Him … really, you have to, other wise …”

    Like

  19. Dan Basilio says:

    The easiest way to start doubting your Judaeochristian-based faith is to scrutinize the Bible. It happened to me. Some years ago I worked as an instructor at Catholic high school in California and was assigned to teach the Old Testament on the second semester. I went through shock after incredulous shock as I read the atrocious, barbaric and utterly inhuman deeds committed by the chosen people in obedience to their tribal good.This was not the god of philosophy, the god of theology that I imagined in my childhood and when I was studying in the seminary.

    Like

  20. Brian says:

    It’s not so much that the Bible is badly written as that it’s badly organized, and not meant to be read the way we read books today. We’re used to reading book front to back as a continuous narrative… and that’s how the early Christians tried to organize it. But the discrete books of the Bible don’t allow for that; each is too distinct, and just stringing them together leads to contradictions and confusion. Perhaps they worried that adding too much commentary would have brought charges of corrupting the original text.

    Like

  21. Your original (and later revised) piece was excellent, Valerie. That you struck such a nerve with a segment of readers at first surprised me but then I reconsidered knowing Salon’s obsession for generating no-effort (and no-talent) revenue.via it’s click-bait model. Their strategy is nothing but a cheap shot troll for the least thinking among us. I decided long ago that Salon was unworthy of my time. They’re hacks.

    Keep up the great work. I luv it!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. liberalwarrior says:

    Salon’s response to the attacks/criticism of your insightful article, bring to mind the ignorant and threatening responses to Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’.. I hope that all negative responses are just ignorant and benign and not dangerous to you personally.

    Salon appears to not support artistic freedoms and freedom of speech and the press, and has acted with less principle then those who continued to publish and sell The Satanic Verses.

    Stay strong, Valerie, your humane voice is needed in this increasingly censured world.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. fangsheath says:

    Our Bog is Dood
    Our Bog is Dood
    They lisped in accents mild,
    But when I asked them to explain
    They grew a little wild.
    How do you know your Bog is Dood
    My darling little child?

    We know because we wish it so
    This is enough, they cried,
    And straight within each infant eye
    Stood up the flame of pride,
    And if you do not think it so
    You shall be crucified.

    Like

  24. David Philip Miller says:

    Good grief! Lighten up, bible worshippers. It’s just a book andwarrants critical review like any other.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Allen T Coffey says:

    There was nothing wrong with your original article beyond a few extremely minor typos. I spent thirty two years in the ministry with s Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and I know you were correct in your assertions. I’ve been an atheist since 2010. I was outed as an atheist when my membership was upset that I opposed Donald Trump for PRESIDENT and were looking for a reason to fire me.

    Like

  26. jg says:

    I got through Moby Dick, and War and Peace, but I’m still having trouble getting through any of the 4 bibles in my house. I blame the writing and organization. I’m so with you on this.

    Like

  27. resistblue says:

    Reblogged this on Resistance and commented:
    The Bible is written within the cultural, philosophical, religious traditional context at the time.

    Like

  28. Wayne says:

    While the literalist reading is bizarre, the claim that the Bible is poorly written or poorly edited doesn’t fly. Subordinating the Bible to contemporary standards of what counts as good literature is just as off base as pretending it is the literal words of God. For example, the repetition of biblical verses drives inattentive readers crazy (where was the editor?). But the nuances of repetition are crucial for the Hebrew conventions of reading (See, Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative). In other words, readers who claim the Bible needs to be rewritten haven’t done the work required to read with understanding (See also Alter’s The Art of Biblical Poetry).

    Like

    • Thank you for the reference for those who want to find the beauty in the Bible. The Bible contains a wide variety of writing types and qualities by any measure, and the editors had devotional intent rather than literary intent. That said, there are many things that seem like bad writing to us — the poetic repetition, for example — that undoubtedly worked in their original context and language. The intent of pointing out that it is bad writing by modern standards is to challenge the notion that it is a timeless and perfect message from a god to humankind.

      Like

  29. I love this particular critique of my article. https://www.insights.uca.org.au/news/is-the-bible-poorly-written It doesn’t make me look terribly good, but the quotes are excellent:

    “British historian Mike Stuchbery took to Twitter to give his thoughts on the Tarico article. He wrote, ‘This doesn’t mean (the Bible is) inherently bad, or lacking in value – the Bible has some of the finest prose in any language, across its multiple iterations. It’s just a wreck, structurally and tonally.'”

    “Dr Matt Anslow, whose PhD looked at Matthew’s Gospel, told Insights that ‘Why is the bible so badly written?’ was ‘a mixed affair.’
    ‘Anyone who knows even a cursory amount of Ancient Greek is aware that numerous New Testament texts are written in a basic or even bad form of that language,’ Dr Anslow said.
    ‘It’s unclear to me why it should be shocking to anyone but biblical literalists that some of the biblical authors—for whom Greek might have been a third or fourth language—would produce sloppy prose.'”

    Like

  30. I’m reminded of David Bentley Hart’s recent translation of the New Testament. It’s mentioned in the following review. But as I recall he discusses it in the introduction of his book. The point he makes is that those who originally orally passed on the stories weren’t the intellectual elite of their time. The stories got written down by diverse unknown people who were more concerned about the message than the form.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/the-new-testament-a-translation-david-bentley-hart/546551/

    “So what has he done to the New Testament, this bristling one-man band of a Christian literatus? The surprising aim, Hart tells us in his introduction, was to be as bare-bones and—where appropriate—unsqueamishly prosaic as he can. The New Testament, after all, is not a store of ancient wonders like the Hebrew Bible. It’s a grab bag of reportage, rumor, folk memory, and on-the-hoof mysticism produced by regular people, everyday babblers and clunkers, under the pressure of a supremely irregular event—namely, the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So that, says Hart, is what it should sound like. “Again and again,” he insists, “I have elected to produce an almost pitilessly literal translation; many of my departures from received practices are simply my efforts to make the original text as visible as possible through the palimpsest of its translation … Where an author has written bad Greek … I have written bad English.” Herein lies the fascination of this thing: its deliberate, one might say defiant, rawness and lowbrow-ness, as produced by a decidedly overcooked highbrow.

    “Let’s zoom in on Mark, the roughest and tersest of the Gospels. (Hippolytus of Rome, in the third century, called Mark “stump fingered”—possibly a physical descriptor but more likely, I think, a comment on his prose.) Here’s how Monsignor Ronald Knox handled Mark 1:40–41 in his 1945 translation: “Then a leper came up to him, asking for his aid; he knelt at his feet and said, If it be thy will, thou hast power to make me clean. Jesus was moved with pity; he held out his hand and touched him, and said, It is my will; be thou made clean.” Hart’s version: “And a leper comes to him, imploring him and falling to his knees, saying to him, ‘If you wish it, you are able to cleanse me.’ And, moved inwardly with compassion, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and says to him, ‘I wish it, be clean.’ ” There’s a stumbling, almost rustically blundering urgency to this, the verb tenses tripping over one another; beside it the Knox translation feels smoothed out, falsely archaized, too rhetorical. In Hart we can hear more clearly both the leper’s challenge—heal me!—and the quickness and intimacy of Jesus’s response.

    “A more rugged Mark, then, but not exactly “bad English.” For that, we must go to Hart’s version of Revelation, a book that is, he opines, “if judged purely by the normal standards of literary style and good taste, almost unremittingly atrocious.” Indeed his rendering of the first line—“A revelation from Jesus the Anointed, which God gave him, to show his slaves what things must occur extremely soon”—is quite aggressively maladroit. What things must occur extremely soon. The book as a whole, freshly ranty and ungrammatical, seems more of a schizoid pileup than ever. But even amid Revelation’s welter of imagery, Hart maintains his artistic intent, or at least a radically inspired pedantry. Look what he does with the metallic locusts of Revelation 9, the ones with long, womanly hair and wings that buzz and clatter like a charging army. “They had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron,” says the King James Version. Hart, fantastically, instead gives them “thoraxes like cuirasses of iron.” Far more monstrous, far more strange. It’s the slurred half-rhyme of thoraxes and cuirasses; it’s the crunch of the ancient Greek against the prissy medieval French; it’s the sheer freaking oddness.”

    Like

  31. The Bible is a godawful mess and I can testify to that as a former Lutheran pastor. But I’m not so worried about its grammar, or its “bad English” (which we all know was the language Gawd spoke) but rather about the fact that most of it is not historical nor particularly “righteous” and in many cases it is downright evil as is Yahweh.

    I quit reading Salon a long time ago when Salon lost whatever credibility and integrity it had. I don’t know what happened but all of a sudden it changed and became a scraggly rag that I could not stomach.

    So, by taking down your article Salon has struck itself in the breastplate and confirmed its spot on the list of magazines that should not even be recycled, lest some part be missed and some poor soul read that part and become forever lost!

    Like

  32. Douglas Wadeson says:

    I shared your article with a former English major who of course took exception to the suggestion that the Bible is anything other than great literature (not to mention Holy Scripture). You are like the child crying out, “The emperor has no clothes!” Somebody has to say it. Keep up the good work.

    Like

  33. Gary D. Siesennop says:

    I’ve never learned of or heard an intellectually satisfying explanation for what it is or means to have been created/made “in the image of God.” I’ve been told God is a spirit (no body). Humans, last time I looked, do have a physical body. Christians seem to take some pride or at least some self-satisfaction with the “knowledge” they are made in God’s image, whatever that really means. Hmmmm?

    Like

  34. I am writing an elongated piece on sexual abuse by Catholic Clergy and came upon your article, “Psychological harms of Bible Believing Christianity”, while looking for information on the negative psychological effects that can be experienced through ‘repeated or extreme exposure to averse details of a traumatic event’ such as the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. I was perusing the other articles on your sight and discovered that we have shared interest, e.g. christian fundamentalism, literal interpretations of the biblical text, horrid treatment of non-privileged humans( especially women and children) in the text, etc., and the effects of all of this on contemporary US culture. Then I came upon, ‘Why is the Bible So Badly Written?” and the mete-narrative associated with that article. I have been writing commentary on the biblical text for a 20 or so years and that question has never been put to me before. I read the article and the associated commentary.

    I liked some of the things you wrote in your articles. I found it intriguing, considering that your original article was about the poor authorship of the text, that you addressed many of the same issues that brilliant literary biblical critics (Rudolph Bultmann, Stephen Mitchell, are a couple that come to mind) also address.

    I do not adhere to any particular religious sect but I have not given up God. I can’t shake what I would consider to be some of the most brilliant human minds to walk this ball in the sky, including Jesus, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Pantanjali. Rumi. When commenting on the sacred writings that are attributed to these individuals and others there are some things I have to keep in mind. Below are a few:
    1. People who worship a punishing god become punishers themselves. (Mathew Fox)
    2. If you want to learn about God listen an honest atheist. They are the ones who hold up the mirror
    to us who claim a divine being, letting us know where we fall short in our perceptions.
    3. No two people can experience the same event (like reading the Biblical text) and walk away with the exact same interpretation of that event. It’s a human impossibility as each mind is unique.
    4. Words cannot describe anything completely but can point to the truth.
    5. God can be loved, not thought.

    Thanks for your writing. I will be back to visit your site soon.

    Like

  35. Gerard Clark says:

    First, the objections you received came from those who are Biblically illiterate.
    The may spout verses, but they remain Biblically illiterate.
    If they are fans of a “red letter” BIble, that confirms their illiteracy.
    If they say the Bible is arrange din chronological order ,that confirms their illiteracy.
    If they do not know what an acrostic is, that confirms their illiteracy.
    If they do not know what parallelism is, that confirms their illiteracy
    If they do not know what a chiasm is, that confirms their illiteracy
    If they think Moses wrote the first five Books of the Bible, that confirms their illiteracy
    If they do not know that the Eastern Rite canon, list of Books, is the full Christian Canon,
    and the African Canon has 11 more Books than the Luther Canon,
    then they are Biblically illiterate

    As far as poorly written, there were many redactions and inserts, often to make a point of argument that was “inspired”. Yes different words from different periods of time for the same thing.

    All of the “el” gods were Canaanite gods, Eloheim God of the most high was a Canaanite god,.
    Moses died before the Israelites got to Canaan, so how could he have written Exodus? He didn’t! There were three author groups, the Jewehists, the Elohitsts and the Priests, all redacting and revising at different times. The Books themselves were written at different times by different authors. Some were written by “schools” of followers, There were professional psalm writers who worked for the Temple. (David wrote less than half of the Psalms that are in the Psalter, There were many other psalms. ,The Psalm of Esther, canted on the Feast of Purim, is in the Chumash, but not the Psalter. There are many linguistic problems caused by translation. The statue of Moses in the Vatican has horns coming out of Moses head because St. Jerome did not translate the Hebrew word for “aura” properly.

    The Hebrew psalms do not cant well in English. When Fr. David Dargy a Scottish priest in Grahmstowm Soutrh Africa tried to translate Latin hymns into Xhosa to meet the Vatican II requirements of vernacular language Liturgies. He discovered indigenous Christian language hymns that predated Columbus, They were Coptic Christian hymns prior to the colonial religious imperialism.

    Recently I questioned why a Bible translation group was translating KJV Bibles and attempting to distribute them in Africa, when the Bibles produced in the USA were short 11 Books.

    There is great literary artistry in the Books of the Bible plus other contemporaneous writing which need to be read to fully understand the historical and literary context of the books that are Canonical. There are a number of texts used in “The Bible as Literature” courses, that help give a proper perspective on the writings.

    Mention of any of these will likely bring curses of “the Blood of Jesus” on you from the Biblically illiterate. This is a real problem, Jesus is about love, not hate.

    Gerry Clark .

    Like

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