“I know the bible is true!”


Greetings. The Squarest Peg has kindly invited me to join his blog. If he’s the Peg that anchors this place, you can call me Peggeen or even Peggy, his female accomplice.

Today I want to talk about people who “know” the bible is the true, inerrant, inspired (or even downright dictated) word of god.

I have a friend like that. She’s good people. The best. Kind, loving, helpful. But she just doesn’t THINK. She “knows” that the bible is true and she’s eager to tell me so, as if that will cause me to fall on my knees, shouting, “Praisalord!!”

Yet she’s never actually read the book — except for the passages favored in her church.

This kind, gentle woman doesn’t know that her god inerrantly sent bears to rip 42 children to shreds for making fun of a prophet’s bald head. She can’t answer a single critical question about the contents of that book, not even the most basic ones like, “What number of animals did god tell Noah to put on the ark?” But of course, a question like that would, if she’s honest, force her to notice that the Noah tale is a badly edited jamming together of two contradictory stories and would lead to further questions about why a “perfect” god couldn’t even get a simple act of editing right.

Best not to go there. Or into any of the other thousands of contradictions, absurdities, or horrible cruelties “god” supposedly advocates. Better just to stick with the ones that talk about loving the people you want to love and damning those your personal prejudices want damned.

I am surrounded and sometimes besieged by proselytizing Christians. Sometimes when I need a sanity break, I read the books of biblical scholar Bart Ehrman. Ehrman began as an “inerrant” kinda guy. But in his zeal to really know the bible, he learned Greek and made a lifelong study of “god’s word” (particularly the New Testament) — and very quickly realized the obvious: that the bible is a flawed work of flawed, and often shockingly agenda-driven, human beings.

Ehrman now teaches biblical studies in a university in the U.S. Bible Belt. One of his books (I believe it’s “Misquoting Jesus,” though it may be “Jesus, Interrupted”) tells a wonderful story of how he deals with the “I know the bible is true!” crowd. I’ll paraphrase it here.

On the first day of class, he asks his giant roomful of students, “How many of you believe that the bible is the absolute, inerrant word of god?”

Nearly 300 hands go up.

Then he asks, “How many of you have read Harry Potter?”

Nearly 300 hands go up.

Then he gets to the real point: “How many of you have read the entire bible, cover to cover?”

Almost no hands go up. (At least he seems to attract honest students.)

Okay, he responds, if you really believe it’s the inerrant word of god, then wouldn’t you be eager to read every bit of it to learn what god wants to say to you?

Naw … it’s easier just to “know” it’s true without ever stepping into its less seemly passages, let alone the amazing number of differences found every time scholars look into a new batch of its ancient manuscripts.

2 Responses to ““I know the bible is true!””

  1. justasqpeg Says:

    Welcome, Squarepeggeen!
    I am one of those who has actually read the whole Bible, from cover to cover (including the “begats”). It was the first step of realizing it is NOT “The Good Book”, but a rather horrid one. Which makes me think of another post to add.

  2. Squarepeggeen Says:

    Thanks for the invite to the blog and thanks for the comment, Peg.

    For the record, I’ve read the book, too — though I had trouble staying awake through the latter parts of the Old Testament and I totally glazed over at all the begats (right down to the point of missing the fact that the gospel writers give different geneaologies for Jesus).

    That was back in the day when I was putting the big effort into trying SO hard to believe. And yep, didn’t help.

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