Monday, July 15, 2019

Biblical Commentary Counters Quotes

I really enjoy when friends cite the Bible or come up with a biblical quote to support some argument.  The Bible is great for that. With 66 books in two separate sections, you can find support for almost any idea or claim. 

After all, the Bible is a collection of books, written over hundreds of years by multiple, mostly anonymous, authors, edited and revised by countless more.  Sources ranged from other, now-lost texts to simple imagination. The authors were trying to present information that supports their beliefs.  If that meant creating and/or ignoring facts, so be it.  They didn’t hesitate.  The end result is a wonderful compilation of human thoughts, stories and ideas, with ethics and moral ideals woven into the text.  The Bible has served as a guide and inspiration to countless humans.

It also inspired a lot of commentary by scholars less interested in quoting and more interested in content.  I’ve collected a lot of their thoughts about the Bible and want to share them.

·        “Let us examine the Scriptures.”  Those words have undone the world.  John Selden (English jurist) 1689

·        When we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God.  It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.  Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794.

·         The Bible contains some of the most sublime passages in English literature, but is full of contradictions, inconsistencies and absurdities.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton (American suffragette), 1896

·         Subtract from the New Testament the miraculous and the highly impossible, what would be the remainder?  George Eliot (author) 1860

·         All the biblical miracles will at least disappear with the progress of science.  Matthew Arnold (poet), 1863

·         The biblical account of the creation of Eve is a preposterous fable.  Thomas Huxley (biologist), 1874

It ain't the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that bother me, it's the parts I do understand. Mark Twain (author), 1902

·         The Bible is so human a book that I cannot see how belief in its divine author can survive reading it.  William James (psychologist/philosopher), 1904

·         I know of no book that has been a source of brutality and sadistic behavior, both public and private, that can compare to the Bible.  James Paget (surgeon), 1899

·         The Bible is literature, not dogma.  George Santayana (author), 1920

·         The Good Book -- one of the most remarkable euphemisms ever coined.  Ashley Montague (writer), 1930

·         The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief -- call it what you will -- than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motorcycle and golf course.  A.A. Milne (author), 1920

·         There is no doubt that the Bible became a stumbling-block in the path of progress, scientific, social and even moral.  It was quoted against Copernicus as it was against Darwin.  The common assumption … that the moral influence of the Bible has been wholly good, and that all is needed to improve our society is to "spread the Gospel," is not born out by a candid study of history. Preserved Smith (historian), 1925.

·         There is scarcely a page of the Bible on which an open mind does not perceive a contradiction, an unlikely story, an obvious error, an historical impossibility of one sort or another. Steve Allen (actor/author), 1960

The comments were based on what the Bible really says, not the honeyed words of believers.  Let’s not forget the heartwarming biblical advice to annihilate opposition, including their animals, or that sorcerers should be murdered, the gay people should be severely punished.  How about these gems:

·        Deuteronomy 7:1-2: God orders the Israelites to exterminate the men, women, and children of seven nations and steal their land.

1 Timothy 2:12: I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

1 Peter 2:18: Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good.

Revelation 21:8: Non-Christians are condemned to eternal torture. 

Then there are all the contradictions.  I’ve runs lists before.  Here are some new ones:

Jesus with cross
·        Jeremiah 7:22: God denies he ever gave the Israelites commandments about animal sacrifices. Exodus 29:38-42 and many other verses:  God requires the Israelites to offer animal sacrifices.

·         John 19:17: Jesus carries his own cross. Mark 15:21-23:  A man called Simon carries the cross.

And, of course, nonexistent events touted in the Bible.  As author and humanist Robert Ingersoll noted, the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, “the best historian the Hebrews produced, said nothing about the life or death of Christ; nothing about the massacre of the infants by Herod; not one word about the wonderful star that visited the sky at the birth of Christ; nothing about the darkness that fell upon the world for several hours in the midst of day; and failed entirely to mention that hundreds of graves were opened, and that multitudes of Jews rose from the dead, and visited the Holy City?”

He added, “Is it not wonderful that no historian ever mentioned any of these prodigies?”

The wonder really is that, in today’s world, filled with the knowledge readily available to anyone with the slightest interest, that people still quote the biblical text as fact.

As the American Humanist Association posted on its website: “By treating this mistake-ridden book as the word of God, humanity has been led down many paths of error and misery throughout history. In too many ways, the Bible continues to produce such results.”

Quoting from it, as if it represents accuracy, only continues to add to its centuries-long toll.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of novels and nonfiction books, such as The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers, including Bold Venture Press and Southern Owl.  His website is

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