I have been disappointed at the way some believers find it necessary to distort scripture to prove their point. I shall give 4 examples of this unnecessary practice that have come my way in the last few years. If I had more contact with the church than I do I would undoubtedly find a lot more examples. I think it shows a lack of faith in their God – surely he really doesn’t need them to do this, can’t he thrive quite well on simple honesty.
Imagine you are in my Jesusite, non-theist camp. We only accept 18% of Jesus’ words as being authentic, using the criteria set out by the Jesus Seminar (upon whom be peace.) The hard core kernel of true aphorisms and parables is quite sufficient, thank you.
Followers of Jesus who twist his words, who find his words in books of the bible other than the gospels are like the Moslem jihadists mentioned in the report into I.S. recruitment methods (Zingcreed Post no 571: The Jihadi mindset) who twist the words of the Koran to get more converts.
Case 1/ A young man I know, concerned about my lack of faith, lent me a recording of a sermon by his favourite spiritual mentor which he was quite sure would help me ‘see the light’. As I listened, the preacher described Jesus being eaten alive by dogs, filthy mangy curs which spilt his blood and chewed his limbs. The speaker spoke with such disgust, so much feeling that you felt it was a total outrage that such a thing could happen to such a good man. I took the headphones off and asked the young man sarcastically “Which bible does this come from?” He looked a bit shocked and said “This is in the ordinary bible, in the Old Testament, I think.” Subsequently, I have checked in my concordance for all references to dogs in the O.T. The nearest would seem to be Psalm 22:16-20.
“Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men have encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
The trouble is that wherever this occurs in the O.T. it must have been written before Jesus’ time – in fact many centuries before New Testament days. It can’t be an eye-witness account (not that there are many of those in the bible). It may not even be a “prophecy”, that disreputable category of fable beloved of all charlatans and hucksters, as the evangelicals’ favourite translation, the N.I.V., doesn’t even mention this as a possibility in its commentary at the bottom of the page.
I wonder if my impressionable young friend pays money to this “Christian” mentor of his. Perhaps he’s helping him become a multi millionaire.
Case 2/ On the Alpha Course a disagreement arose in our discussion group about Jesus’ views on something or other. The group leader quoted some words of Jesus I had never heard before. She hoped thereby to clinch her argument and shut the mutinying group up. I asked her where these words came from. “The book of Revelation,” she replied, adding the chapter and verse, which I have forgotten. She had no answer when I put it to her that the book of Revelation was written after the crucifixion and didn’t feature Jesus’ life at all.
So, that’s one person finding Jesus in the documents written before he was even born and one finding him in a fairy tale written after his death. I suppose if you look long enough you can prove anything from the bible.
I’ve just seen a TV documentary on those violent American racists known as the Ku Klux Klan. They claim to be a Christian organisation, and when they burn a cross it symbolizes both Jesus as the light of the world and an act of purification. Jesus and God are both mentioned in their rituals. And they still lynch innocent black people to intimidate.
Case 3/ A Christian radio station here in the UK, called UCB, produces a quarterly bible study guide “Word for Today” written by Bob and Debby Gass. Here’s a quote from the Feb/Mar/Apr 2016 copy:
“3 reasons why you need Jesus…in your life….. (Number 3) He holds the future. Who else are you going to trust? In His hands you are safe and secure – today, tomorrow, and for eternity. His Word says [note that His: who do you think it refers to?] ‘For I know the plans I have for you…plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen.’ (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
Jeremiah!!?? That’s the Old Testament! He wrote this about 500 years before Christ, yet an evangelical is trying to fool you into believing that Jesus said it: “He holds…His hands…His Word…” Look at how he leads the reader on. The words flow beautifully. That’s a skilful deception being practised there; it looks like the Gasses have been at this for some time. “He holds” refers to Jesus; His hands” refers to Jesus; but “His Word” cannot refer to Jesus. The passage only makes sense if “His Word” refers to God’s Word, not Jesus’s; but who’s got the time or inclination to work that out, especially in an institution where being uncritical is commonly considered to be a duty of membership. That’s enough Gass.
Case 4/ When Moses was 120 years old he decided to let Joshua take over the leadership of all Israel. Deuteronomy 31 describes the plan: God will destroy the gentile nations and “you will take possession of their land”. Verse 5 reads “The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you,” while verse 6 says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” This is Moses’ pep talk to Joshua and the troops before the battle. The genocidal war where Israel will massacre everything that gets in her way. The Lord is on their side; they will prevail.
Fast forward from 1400 B.C.E when Moses was alive to A.D.60 when the book of Hebrews was written. In chapter 13 verse 5 we find “…be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ” A direct quote, from Moses, attributed to God but never mind.
Fast forward to 2016 and in the UK the Apostolic Christian Church (Sheepfold) is giving out flyers in my street for their Sunday services etc. On the back of the ad we are told “Jesus tells us: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ Hebrews 13:5″
So Jesus is not to be found only in the gospels: he pops up in the book of Psalms, Revelation, Jeremiah and Hebrews.
I wonder if the people who misinterpret the bible in this way actually believe what they’re saying. If they’re really not aware what they’re doing then they should go back to college, assuming they ever went in the first place, and get some education!
Conclusion: when dealing with biblical interpretation keep your wits about you: the preacher may just be after your money!