An open Bible. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Pixabay

N.T. Wright, David Bentley Hart and the latest tussle over biblical translation

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sightings is sponsored by the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Sign up to get Sightings in your inbox twice per week (on Mondays and Thursdays). You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

One scholar, N.T. Wright, reviewing another, David Bentley Hart, prompted a response from the latter that the former’s writing was a “catalogue of complaints” by someone whose work “suffers from a dangerous combination of the conventional and the idiosyncratic,” and other nice judgments. The headline of a Christianity Today story about the exchange refers to all this as a “tussle.” Were this to-do about two heavyweight boxers or politicians debating war and peace or decline and fall, it would not draw the attention of us pacific Sightings authors. But when we read on to learn that the antagonists are top Orthodox theologian Hart and equally top Anglican biblical scholar Wright, we have to step up in an effort to fulfill part of our mission to connect the interpretation of religious themes with their “public understanding.”

And, believe us, Hart and Wright are in the public eye, as much as scholars in these fields can ever expect to be. They come with attached fan clubs and retinues. While debating the quality and character of biblical translations might lead many public understanderers to turn their attention to other topics and events, we are in the company of those who believe that debates over biblical texts and their translations are fateful. In Christian orbits, debates over which translation one is allowed to favor have led to schisms and vicious conflicts. For one moderate example: not until after the Second Vatican Council were some Roman Catholics to favor and use the King James Version of 1611. Senior readers of Sightings will recall the bitter melees which followed the publication in 1946 of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, popularly or unpopularly known as “Stalin’s Bible,” as designated by some Cold Warriors who suspected and charged Communist influences in the RSV. Why did “virgin” of The Virgin Birth in Isaiah 7:14 now appear as “young woman” or “maiden” in the new translations, et cetera?

While we may not be proud of the way scholars and agitators on many sides of these translation conflicts have acted, I’d like to change emphasis quickly and argue that the intentions then and issues now between Wright and Hart are not trivial. Biblical texts in translation turn up in international affairs, U.S. constitutional-legal traditions, poetry, political campaigns, and piety, and they are spiritually very important to millions of citizens. The introducers of the 1946 RSV, which people of my generation lugged around (along with, soon after, the “New Revised Standard Version,” the “Revised English Bible,” the “New American Bible,” and the [Catholic] “New Jerusalem Bible”), knew of their importance in scholarship, worship, and the living of lives. So we pay attention.

Professor Hart says the issue is representative of “traditional disagreements between proponents of ‘dynamic’ and ‘formal’ equivalence,” whatever that turns out to mean. For the curious, be they devotees or enemies of the Bible—there are millions of both in our worlds—consulting some of our linked sources will be informative, and may inspire many to regard, more than before, the difficulty and value of the work of translators of documents which are regarded as sacred. Have fun, ye advocates of “dynamic” or “formal” equivalence translations, and all the rest! Or consult the article by Garry Wills, “A Wild and Indecent Book,” in The New York Review of Books. It ends with a Willsian reminder that Orthodox Christian Hart wanted to make his own book wild, repellent, “just a bit indecent.” Wills’s judgment: “He succeeded.”


  1. It’s amazing that the creator of the entire universe was so incompetent at communication that there is ever any tussle over what he actually said,

    It’s almost as if…………

  2. No matter the translation, the NT by rigorous historic testing is less than 30% authentic. Regarding the “Virgin Mary”:

    e.g. Luke 1: 27-38

    “27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” 35 And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. 36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”

    From Professor Gerd Ludemann’s studies published in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years:

    p. 263: ” The thoroughly legendary character of the story in the tradition shows it to be a community formation and therefore unhistorical. ”

    Ditto for Luke 1: 39-56:

    And note Mark’s gospel, the earliest and most historic of the gospels, does not even mention the virgin nonsense or even a description of the Christmas legends invented by Luke and Matthew.

  3. Actually its amazing those that study the Bible over 95% agree with what it says and means.

    Now what book does the atheist have on atheism that we can study?

  4. Atheism isn’t a religion based on a book so there is no need.

  5. Atheism deals with ultimate issues like religion does. Thus there is need for a book but we know that is impossible for atheism since we know there are no facts that proves atheism true. Its just a preference for atheist and nothing more.

  6. There are many books that address ultimate issues. Since they are all speculative (they are ultimate issues) however, they aren’t considered definitive. Also, why does atheism need to prove itself? Atheism is the lack of belief in a God or Gods.

  7. To prove atheism true would mean to prove religions false. For most of them that would mean proving that their god didn’t exist. You can’t prove a negative so this is impossible.

    It is very useful when relating to the religious to give them a credible reason for your lack of belief. There are books on this subject. Despite its simplistic title, I would recommend this one:

  8. Argument from authority — always a fallacy…The bible’s books were written by primitive people. Nobody can agree on what the bible means, many wars have been fought over that.

    Atheism does not need a book any more than NOT believing in Bigfoot or dragons needs a book.

  9. No, Atheism does not “deal with ultimate issues…”.

    Atheists may consider that …but don’t need their non-belief to deal with it.

  10. Well, it’s nice that you can just pull a figure about agreement out of your nether regions.

  11. Atheism deals with no ultimate issues. You keep making claims about atheism that are simply stuff you made up. 95% of atheists agree with that.

  12. By your own admission, since we know there are no facts like a heterosexual gene that proves heterosexuality is true. It’s just a preference for heterosexuality and nothing more.

  13. A disappointingly shallow article. The links to Wright’s review and Hart’s reply (especially the latter) were, however, worthwhile.

  14. “The Gospel according to Gerd” again.

  15. And ten other NT exegetes. Helps to think outside the bible box.

  16. Again, atheism is the absence of god. Tried to find him or her on Google et al and their billions of references and could not find said entity.. Let us know if you ever do.

  17. Woooo, ten liberal exegetes! They MUST be right then! (They think within their own box, you know.)

  18. No, they include the NT in their infinite sided box unlike your four sided one.

  19. Until you give me some facts that proves atheism true you have no place at the table. Let me know when you have some facts for atheism being true.

  20. I always love biblical translation.

    While waiting in a checkout line here in Fiji, I chanced upon a prominently displayed book by a Korean pastor. The pastor was busy denouncing Calvin, Luther, Wesley, not to mention a few different pastoral rivals of various Korean christian denominations. A lot of the pastor’s ire was directed at people referred to as heretics and heretic evaluators. apparently, screaming heretic at other denominations is quite the thing right now in Korea. Everyone is denouncing everyone else in anathema terms.

    Though I didn’t read the book in the eight or so minutes I was waiting, and I certainly didn’t buy it, as far as I can tell, this pastor demanding biblical fidelity from everyone was…

    …a woman!!!!!!!!!!!


  21. Name your religion and it can be proven false in less than 10 seconds.

  22. Both scholars agree that atheism is a falsehood. Including yours as well. No disagreements there!

  23. So atheism is simply the religion of “Just make it up as you go along”?

    No wonder the “Nones” aren’t excited about atheism. It’s a balloon with no air.

  24. Another side of the infinite box of rigorous historic testing:

    And the day will come,
    when the mystical generation of Jesus,
    by the Supreme Being as His Father,
    in the womb of a virgin,
    will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva
    in the brain of Jupiter.

    — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
    Letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823.

  25. JP there are many books, not one. AND that is the important difference between Atheism and those that rely on one book be it the Bible, the Koran or the Book of Mormon. The books are scientific, historical, biblical study texts, psychology and sociology texts, etc.

  26. The facts are all around you JP. Facts about the reality of the makeup of the Universe. Facts about the reality of the Bible. Facts about the reality of Theodicy. Theodicy itself, is the study that addresses the problem of why bad things happen and why Evil exists. Theodicy proves that the God of Theism doesn’t exist.

  27. Ok. Then explain how the universe began given that the laws of nature did not exist before it.

    How could there be evil if atheism is true given that atheism does not condemn any evil acts nor can it?

  28. Atheism has nothing to do with science. No one turns to atheism to find answers for anything.

  29. Not a religion and there is nothing to make up. No balloon required.

  30. JP, why does someone need to explain that?

    Atheists don’t believe in evil, or if they do, it does not have the same meaning you are associating with it.

  31. Its in the nature of man to explain things.

    Since atheists don’t believe in evil then the holocaust was not wrong or evil.

  32. But if you don’t know then make up answers? Doesn’t seem convincing.

    Atheists believe in wrong. Don’t need God to determine if something is wrong.

  33. to read the literature exposes that there is more to come, an unveiling.
    And since knowledge does evolve, it means, if we keep the rules of civility, the truth will unfold eventually.
    I trust such prophecy and expectation; that eventually the truth is coming..

  34. An atheist is proven to exist, simply by observing instinctive life the world over.
    I proved the positive with instinctive life, the premise of proving what an atheist is believing is the ‘ass-umption’ that does not have to be fulfilled.

  35. Atheists only have preferences. One atheist may think rape is wrong while another may think its ok. No way to decide in atheism which view is correct.

  36. heterosexual genes proven by the biology of the organism and how procreation exists, prove heterosexuality is naturally the best, for a life to live into the next generations.
    The few that don’t procreate, end up extinct, about naturally. I call it Poetic justice.

  37. instinctive living processes.
    True atheism…………….. and the funny part is all human beings are born atheist, until being told what to believe.

  38. Began? When you and everyone ever writing an opinion woke up, everything existed already.
    be honest, you live in between the beginning and ending and no one but speculation can give you an answer for both

  39. Atheism Is a lack of belief. Any thing else, like EVERYTHING else, is your story about people.

    If they can’t convince each other about what it all means, how do you seriously expect them to convince anyone else.

    And of course, you and Sandi and JP do everything in your power to convince everyone that it’s all nonsense.

  40. I Knew there would be a few people to appreciate the humor.

  41. The laws that affect subatomic particles come with the particles. Those particles are what spewed out into the Universe with the Big Bang. They are programmed (metaphorically speaking) to do one thing, join up with others of their kind to form nuclei. The nuclei created by the joining of those sub-atomic particles could do two things, attract electrons into their orbits to form atoms, and evolution was on its way.

    Of course Atheists condemn acts of Evil, any acts that cause harm to others. Your comment is really stupid.

  42. That seems ridiculous. What atheist thinks rape is ok? If someone rapes another it has nothing to do with their being an atheist (since Christians have also been accused of rape).

  43. I call it an inability to understand the difference between sex, reproduction and sexual orientation, as well as such subjects as sociology, psychology, evolution, and a host of others.

    Just about Every single problem we have in the world today has at least one of its source causes inthe unresterained breeding of heterosexuals, especially in the religiously mandated reproduction. EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM, including the poisoning of our environment and war, starvation, and refugees. You will procreate us into extinction at best, misery world wide at worst.

    I call it poetic justice. Too bad so many people will suffer horribly for years becuase of it,

  44. The difference is, the fool thinks sex is psychological when it is instinctive to procreate and survive.
    Just about every problem ‘we’ have is allowing the ignorant to mislead people.
    religion is irrelevant to biology.
    same sex intercourse is a dead end, except for entertainment, just like ma’ster-ba-tion and praying.

  45. That’s right. Natural selection will eventually limit the population. That’s providing we don’t cause our own extinction first. Either way the suffering will be horrible. Its too bad that our creator wasn’t omnificent and benevolent. If so she/he/it should have designed population control without suffering.


  46. In Hebrew the word translated/mistranslated as Virgin only means virgin because it means a very young woman who is not yet married, or formally engaged, or pregnant. After marriage or conception/pregancy during engagement (as in the case if Mary) a virgin is not a virgin. The traditioanal English word for all this is “maiden.”

  47. Why is there air?

    To blow up volleyballs, of course.

    Points to anyone who gets the reference. No fair using google.

  48. So is Christianity. That’s why there are thousand of Christian sects. Now, in the future, and as far back as we have any history.

    You all of you just make it up as you go along. But it is not in your self interest to think so, so you don’t.

  49. My gawd, you must be on your stupid pills this morning. Didn’t you read the warning level.

    We keep telling you, prove your god exists and prove your religion is correct. That’s called science. You can no more do that than can a Muslim or a Hindu. They have every bit as much evidence as you do. Just ask them.

  50. You need to prove atheism is true with some facts. Otherwise its just a fantasy. We already know that.

  51. Since the universe is not eternal there were no subatomic particles that existed before the bang.

    There is no such thing as evil in atheism. All acts are just atoms in motion and nothing more.

  52. “In Hebrew the word translated/mistranslated as Virgin only means virgin because it means a very young woman who is not yet married, or formally engaged, or pregnant”.

    You are referring to almah, which is a young woman of childbearing/marriagable age. She would also be a betulah, a virgin, if she had never had sex.

    ‘”After marriage or conception/pregnancy during engagement (as in the case of Mary) a virgin is not a virgin.”.

    This would only be the case if the woman who conceived/was pregnant actually had sex with someone. If the woman who conceived had never had sex (as in the case of Mary) that almah would still be a betulah. In addition, that betulah would also be an em (a mother), which is even more of a paradox.

    And of course we must also remember that the Jews who translated the Septuagint into Greek choose to translate almah as parthenos (Greek: virgin) in the context of Isaiah 7:14, thereby dispelling any doubt as to what they thought it meant.

  53. They had to have existed before the Big Bang in order to explode out of the Big Bang! You aren’t very smart are you?

    Wrong JP. You don’t know anything about Atheism or Atheists.Only very small people feel the need to (attempt to) denigrate others in order to build themselves up. You can’t denigrate someone who is bigger than you are.

  54. Cut the BS JP you are making a fool of yourself.

  55. Wrong again. Societies set standards they expect people to live by, not God! How can something that doesn’t exist set standards?

  56. JP rape isn’t “evil”. Rape is wrong, it harms others. Is it EVIL, no. There are differences between acts that are wrong, acts that cause harm (with no intent to harm), and acts that are EVIL. The fact that you don’t seem able to distinguish the differences reflects poorly on your upbringing.

  57. How is rape wrong in atheism? Where in atheism does it say that harming others is wrong?

  58. How is it not wrong in Atheism? That is really a dumb question. Atheists are human beings, things that harm human beings are wrong.

  59. If atheism is true then rape is not wrong nor evil. Stuff happens. That’s all it is.
    Lots of things harm human beings that is good for them. Going to the dentist can be harmful in the short term but good in the long term. Children suffer pain when their parents discipline them for their good.

  60. Nope. you really need to find out something about atheists. I’m not worried about getting damned to hell. That’s all you.

  61. Religionists only have preferences. One religionist may think that Allah is the big Cheese, and another may think its Yahweh or Thor. No way to decide in religion which was is correct.

  62. “And the day will come,
    when the mystical generation of Jesus,
    by the Supreme Being as His Father,
    in the womb of a virgin,
    will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva
    in the brain of Jupiter.”

    — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
    Letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823.

  63. The New Testament tells us who the true God is. He walked this planet, did miracles and rose from the dead. All proof that He was God in the flesh.

  64. This is not about atheists but the system of belief they believe in. If Christianity is true you will be condemned for your sins.

  65. This is hardly news to us.

    “Then many will fall away…and because wickedness is multiplied, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24: 10,12)

    “Let no one deceive you, for that day will not come, unless the falling away comes first.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

    Jesus and Paul were way ahead of T. Jefferson.

  66. Atheists only have preferences. One atheist may fancy himself a Trotskyite. Another considers himself a Dawkins new atheist, while his ex-girlfriend detests Dawkins after Elevatorgate.

    The only constant is if they get in power, they all emulate Stalin.

  67. I still don’t get why you wingers insist on making up stuff. Atheism is non belief, period. It is no system of belief.

    Here is our entire non-Holy book, with commentary.

    I have no belief in your god or gods. When you have some evidence besides your holy book, and have convinced the members of a faith not your own, please let me know.

  68. You are beginning to see how it all works. You’re even smarter than I thought

  69. Stuff does happen, no doubt about that! You don’t understand the difference between unpleasant and harm. Going to the dentist is unpleasant. NOT being able to go to the dentist is harmful.

    Obviously it is Atheists that have a full understanding of these things. Folks like you don’t! This speaks highly of atheists and not so highly of folks like you!

  70. In the atheist universe all the stuff that happens is neither good or evil. That would include rape and murder.

  71. You don’t understand atheism. Atheism, like theism are knowledge claims about reality. Atheism asserts without any facts that no gods exist. Therefore its just a preference. Theists have facts for the existence of God in the origin of the universe. life and the life of Christ.

  72. It truly amazes me that abrahamic death cult members refuse the believe in the spontaneous existence of the universe (I realize it is considerably more complex than that) but have no problem with the spontaneous existence of a supreme being.
    As for atheism being a religion? I just believe in one less god than the abrahamic death cult members.
    Just remember. If you are treating others with respect and dignity (Not a common action from a lot of the abrahamic death cult members, or many theists to be sure) because of a reward or punishment you probably aren’t as righteous as you think you are.

  73. You might want to read his studies published in over 10 books. Get back to us when you finish perusing them. The book “Who is Jesus” is an excellent starting point.

  74. I’ve read enough books by Crossan already. Such a waste of time.

  75. Yes. It is we who declare what is good or bad. Such choices are totally dependent on humans.

  76. In the whole universe that is true, there is neither good or evil. BUT on planet earth, where we live there is. There is no rape or murder (that we know of) off of planet earth.

  77. Actually one law existed that was contained in the subatomic particles, join up with whatever you can join up with. AND what they could join up with was in essence a law–for example two up quarks could join with one down quark, or two down could join with one up BUT you couldn’t have 3 up or 3 down join together. Once the joined the resulting nucleus, created it’s own new existence with its own constraints–i.e. it could attract some things but not others into its orbit and the elements in that periodic table were formed. Each element by the restrictions created by its creation could only do certain things and not others and on it went.

  78. The New Testament only proves that men were creative writers! They believed in God and wrote to promote their agenda to others. The New Testament is full of contradictions and outright errors. It was written to promote a message NOT as an historical document.

  79. Hmm, what is on p. 134 of his book, Excavating Jesus?
    And pp. 25-26 of The Historical Jesus?

  80. Give me a couple of facts that proves that the Old Testament is a fraud.

  81. No laws of nature existed before the bang. Consider what science says:
    ““We have very good evidence that there was a Big Bang, so the universe as we know it almost certainly started some 14 billion years ago. But was that the absolute beginning, or was there something before it?” asks Alexander Vilenkin, a cosmologist at Tufts University near Boston. It seems like the kind of question that can never be truly answered because every time someone proposes a solution, someone else can keep asking the annoying question: What happened before that?

    But now Vilenkin says he has convincing evidence in hand: The universe had a distinct beginning — though he can’t pinpoint the time. After 35 years of looking backward, he says, he’s found that before our universe there was nothing, nothing at all, not even time itself.”

  82. Books of Crossan I have read:

    The Historical Jesus
    The Essential Jesus
    Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography

    I have also read: The Five Gospels, put out by the “Jesus Seminar” of which Crossan has been a member.

    They all went into the trash (with the rest of the garbage) after I read them. Nothing of value in them.

    My shelf space is too precious to retain things I have neither use for nor have an interest in.

    Currently on my shelves:

    The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First and Second Series, 28 Volumes

    The Fathers of the Church series, 46 various volumes

    Greek New Testament

    Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon

    Analytical Greek Lexicon

    40 volumes of the Loeb Classical Library

    Plato – Complete Works, Princeton Edition

    Plus an assortment of works on Ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and early American history.

    I would no more devote precious shelf space to Crossan than you probably would to many of the titles I have on my shelves.

    If you still have all the books you’ve ever read, you’ve either read very few, or else live in quite a mansion. Hmm, I wonder which it is?

  83. Very good . Obviously, rigorous historic analysis is not your forte. Occupational hazard?

  84. IF something existed before the Big Bang then there were obviously laws in place that allowed, regulated, defined what existed and how it worked! As Christians and Scientists say nothing comes from nothing. So Vilenkin has obviously missed “something”!

    Have you ever considered what is on the other end of a Black Hole. Our Universe spewed out of a Black Hole. I think Black Holes are the Universe’s recycling centers, sucking in unused and discarded matter and energy particles, breaking them down to their component parts (those subatomic particles Physicists have identified) then when the pressure gets too great inside the Black Hole they get blown out the other end and another Universe comes into existence!

  85. I wasted far too much time with Crossan and Co. back in the 1990s. I would advise others to avoid similarly wasting their time.

    As for “rigorous historic (sic) analysis”, give me a break. You will only consider it as such if one agrees in advance with your own ideological presuppositions, which I do not. Similarly, that is why I do not agree with Crossan; too many ideological presuppositions that I do not share.

  86. Re: “And note Mark’s gospel, the earliest and most historic of the gospels, does not even mention the virgin nonsense …”  

    What’s more, neither does John’s gospel, which was produced by (as far as can be determined) a completely separate early Christian tradition from the one(s) which generated the three synoptic gospels.  

  87. Re: “It’s amazing that the creator of the entire universe was so incompetent at communication that there is ever any tussle over what he actually said …”  

    Yes indeed. The supposedly all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal and infinite deity proved — somehow — incapable of producing a text that could be misapprehended. If, in fact, the deity were truly omnipotent, etc. then any text he provided to humanity would, naturally, have been so perfect that it couldn’t ever be misunderstood, mistranslated, etc. and the meanings of every word, phrase, sentence, etc. would have been crystal-clear to all readers.  

    But clearly, that’s not what this deity provided … because otherwise we wouldn’t have differences of opinion like this.  

    Since we have a very-imperfect text whose meaning turns out actually to be (in places) as clear as mud, this is not the case. One must, therefore, ask why this is so. If it is, and if the deity is truly omnipotent, etc. then we can only conclude that the deity wanted his sacred texts to be misunderstood and for there to be disagreement over it.  

    But … what kind of deity worth worshipping would want to stir up the kind of trouble that follows from that? What would the deity get from that? What would derive from at least some of humanity not understanding the deity’s wishes clearly? What would derive from humanity being unable to agree on what the deity wrote?  

    Ultimately, I suggest only a malicious deity could have produced the sacred scripture we have — if, in truth, it was of divine origin at all. Once one reaches the point where it’s clear (as is the case by now) that scripture was provided to us by a malicious deity, one needs to stop trying to make sense of it, since devoting oneself to a clearly-malicious deity makes no sense and that deity should no longer be worshipped or venerated in any way.  

  88. Ummmm, let’s see.

    1) God’s ways are not our ways.

    2) God can do whatever he wants because he is god, including the things that he tells us not to do, and which would be appalling to us if a human did them. See #1.

    3) god has a super duper plan for each and everyone of us. See #2.

    4) god loves us. See #3.

    5) god is so far beyond our puny ability to understand him that we must do whatever he says and trust in his wisdom and his love. That’s why we have people called pastors and theologians to tell us what he means, even though they, too are humans. They are our shepherds through this difficult terrain. See #1.


    As Einstein put it so succinctly: in order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must first be, above all else, a sheep.

    For further reading, I would highly recommend Winwood Reade’s “martyrdom of man”, recommended by no less a person than Sherlock Holmes. It’s available free from

  89. Only to the human beings being harmed.

    To the ones causing harm they may be goods.

  90. So you are an atheist— an a-benist— about me.

    Far more evidence for me than there is for the salvation of your soul.

    But, as I said, it’s a story you tell yourself. I’m sure it’s very entertaining.

  91. You left out the humbug part, ebenezer.

    But no. I’m just quoting what super duper Christians on these very pages have told me repeatedly insaecula seculorum. Take it up with them, though I do realize that one thing they have no brief for is repeating what they say right back at them.

    And “martyrdom of man” is s pretty good read. Or reade.

  92. Aren’t they the ones that matter when it comes to harm? To believe that there can be a ‘greater good’ that comes from harming others is to be less than human AND if you are a God that believes that you are far less than perfect and good!

  93. I didn’t say the Old Testament is a fraud. We were talking about the New Testament. BUT neither books are frauds. That term doesn’t apply to stories. Stories are designed to impart a message, and either they are good at getting their message across or they are bad and don’t succeed in getting their message across. Were the writers frauds? That is a different question and would depend on whether they intended to deceive or not and since none are no longer with us we have no idea whether they were frauds, misguided, fools, ignorant or what!

  94. I know you meant these as a facetious response, but I’ve actually gotten some of them as genuine responses, so here are my observations:  

    Re: “God’s ways are not our ways.”  

    If this is the case then God is incomprehensible, and in turn, there is no point in even attempting to understand the deity. That, further in turn, means religion is basically useless and a waste of time.  

    Re: “God can do whatever he wants because he is god …”  

    If so, then it makes no sense to discuss God, because any attempt to figure the deity out in terms that relate to us is pointless. That, in turn, means religion is basically useless and a waste of time.  

    Re: “god has a super duper plan for each and everyone of us.”  

    If this is true, then attempting to understand the deity — or not — is irrelevant; what the deity wants is what will come to pass, no matter what humans do or don’t do. That, in turn, means religion is basically useless and a waste of time.  

    Re: “god loves us.”  

    If that’s so, then the deity has a strange way of expressing his/her/its love … for example, by providing scripture that puts scholars of said scripture at odds with one another over their meaning. As I stated earlier, only a malicious deity would do this. So while — perhaps — that deity may truly believe him/her/itself to “love” humanity, in fact it is not doing so in any way that we can comprehend. If this is the case then God is incomprehensible, and in turn, there is no point in even attempting to understand the deity. That, further in turn, means religion is basically useless and a waste of time.  

    Re: “god is so far beyond our puny ability to understand him that we must do whatever he says and trust in his wisdom and his love.”  

    If this is the case then God is incomprehensible, and in turn, there is no point in even attempting to understand the deity. That, further in turn, means religion is basically useless and a waste of time.  

    In sum: All of these supposed “defenses” and apologias of theism, actually become — after logical examination of all their ramificationsrefutations of theism. Theists are, for better or worse, their own worst enemies … intellectually and logically speaking.  

    Re: “… I would highly recommend Winwood Reade’s “martyrdom of man” …”  

    I’ll check it out, Ben. Gracias!  

  95. Ben:

    “Atheism Is a lack of belief.”


    “I don’t believe you.”

    I assume you’re German.

  96. You:

    “As Einstein put it so succinctly: in order to be an immaculate member of
    a flock of sheep, one must first be, above all else, a sheep.”



    Not just German, Prussian.

  97. So when you wrote:

    “How is it not wrong in Atheism? That is really a dumb question. Atheists are human beings, things that harm human beings are wrong.”

    what you meant was that the acted upon always defines the moral good of an action for the actor?

    Why, particularly, would an atheist who is the actor subscribe to that notion?

    Stalin didn’t seem too worked up over starving the Ukrainians. Why would he be?

    I can understand why the Ukrainians were upset.

  98. I’m surprised your not quoting the original Bavarian.

  99. But…but…but…but…

    He gave us the Bible so that we would understand what he wants. This makes no sense! You’re confusing me. Stop bullying me!!!!!

    Actually, you have given me a very good summing up of the reasons why I am an it-doesn’t-matter-ist, and not, strictly speaking, an atheist. It’s why the only god I can really give credence to is Koschei the Deathless, Who Made Things As They Are. For, as Koschei says…

    “What are your beliefs about Me to Me, Who Made Things As They Are?”

    I suspect you would also like James Branch Cabell’s “Jurgen”, also available free for download. Koschei figures throughout Jurgen, as well as many of the books that Cabell wrote that comprise his Biography of Manuel the Redeemer— there may be as many as 50 volumes of it. Not to worry, though. You don’t have to read all of them. And Manuel is entirely fictional.

    Not very many people read Cabell any more. he’s a little too erudite and sly. Jurgen is his most famous book. But I think you would find him as interesting and enjoyable as I do.

  100. BTW, I’ve gotten ALL of them as genuine responses. That’s how I knew them.

  101. You did not provide it in the Bayrisch dialect, or any other form of German.

  102. No. They are telling stories. The stories, as all good stories are, are built around places known to the audience, and sometimes actual people known to the audience, and sometimes actual events known to the audience. BUT they are embellished and modified to fit each particular audience. Biblical scholarship has discovered many different versions of some of the biblical stories to show this is true and how they have been changed.

  103. If what you say is true then all of ancient history is “embellished and modified to fit each particular audience.”

  104. Not all but to some extent what we know about history is modified by historians interpretation of what they have learned and in some cases here in the good ole US of A school boards have intentionally modified the history that is taught to their students. In some cases ignoring or minimalizing slavery issues. One BIG problem in the school textbook industry is that Texas, with its huge population, has often distorted what is presented in history books to present a particular twist to certain events.

  105. So how do you know when ancient history has been modified?

  106. You read several different sources! You check archaeological evidence, you check scientific evidence, you check literary evidence. Some will make more sense than others. Some will plane and simply screwy. Some will be obviously biased in one way or another. Some you simply have to make your best guess.

  107. Then you can never know if the ancient history you read about is true.

  108. When it comes to understanding ancient history Historians present the info. to the best of their ability. Some have greater less biased abilities than others.
    A wise person will read everything critically, that means comparing what you read to other sources of information, to see what fits, what is known (the facts) the best. So what is your point?

  109. I’m trying to understand you. If we apply your skepticism about the Bible being historical to other ancient historical writings then how can you know much of anything about ancient history?

  110. I have explained several times we look at ALL the available information and make our best guess as to what is true, what is close to true, and what is pure fabrication. Archaeology can tell us if Jericho had walls or not. If there are no walls than the walls did not come tumbling down. A great series on PBS followed the stories of the Bible on the ground. The path the Israelites would have taken when fleeing Egypt crossed a shallow inland Reed Sea, not a Red Sea. Other evidence then shows that there was never such a mass migration out of Egypt. We look at ALL the evidence and make our select the option that best fits the facts.

Leave a Comment