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The Annoying Skeptics

February 2, 2015

I recently came across a very annoying website. Yes I know, there are thousands of them; but this one was particularly annoying! It’s called The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, although I would say it was definitely meant to produce doubt and unbelief, rather than just scepticism…

The particular page I had been directed to by a friendly Twitter debater was about biblical misogyny and sexism, and it listed some 300+ references to alleged hatred towards women in the Bible.1 So I read through the list, and found it – as I said – annoying, for the following reasons:

  1. It uses the King James Version. Yes, I know there are Christians who prefer it, but if you want to understand what the Bible is actually saying, any modern translation is better.
  2. It expects people who lived 3000+ years ago to think, behave and react like 21st century Westerners. That is obviously unrealistic, and just makes you look stupid.
  3. Or maybe there’s a more theological point to it: it expects God to tell people to think like 21st century Westerners. This would of course have been possible, although I doubt that it would have made much sense to Iron Age Israelites… And it makes the very egocentric assumption that our culture and social customs are perfect and should be implemented everywhere by everybody. But maybe God doesn’t agree with that? Everybody, in every age, takes their own assumptions for granted; but we mustn’t assume that ours are automatically the best!
  4. It deliberately misunderstands and misrepresents the meaning of particular passages. This is what annoys me the most. Here’s the worst example of this practice:

The kingdom of heaven like ten virgins who went to meet their bridegroom. Five had oil for their lamps and five didn’t. When the bridegroom was ready for them, only the five well-oiled virgins got to have sex with him on their wedding night. The bridegroom shunned the other five, saying “Get lost. I don’t even know you.” The moral to the story is this: watch out, you never know when (or with whom) Jesus will come.

Nobody in 1st century Israel married ten girls in one go. The ten virgins are not brides but bridesmaids; they’re not the ones getting married! The NRSV makes this clear by calling them “bridesmaids”, but it should be obvious to anyone who reads the passage objectively.

Another silly example is saying that “In the last days God will make things especially rough on pregnant women” (Mark 13:17), when Jesus’ words are simply deploring a fact, not expressing his desire for this situation, or that God will deliberately cause it to be like that.

The thing is: there are Bible passages that are genuinely hard to come to terms with (e.g. Jephtha and his daughter) – so it seems counterproductive to list a number of passages where women remain unnamed (that’s just how things were back then) or where a man “takes” a wife – people didn’t marry for love (they still don’t in many parts of the world), and it’s just silly to expect the Bible to pretend they did!

5. The final problem – which is really an aspect of the previous point – is that the producers of this website assume that God approves of everything that is mentioned in the Bible. That is obviously not the case; many events are recorded because they happened, not because God wanted them to happen. This is so basic that it’s embarrassing even to have to mention it!

The last annoying feature of the website is that I couldn’t find anywhere to leave comments, which is why I wrote this blog instead. I doubt that any of the compilers of the website will read it, but if you do, please get in touch so we can sort out some of your misconceptions…




From → Christianity, Faith, Jesus

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