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A Response to the History Channels Bible Secrets Revealed

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Cargill of the 'niversity of (owa) %he e$isode may be viewed here)

n the evening of November 13, 2013, the History

Channel debuted a new series entitled Bible Se rets !evealed" o#$rodu ed by noted s holar of Se ond %em$le &udaism !obert *nti i$ation ran high) %he $rogram was su$$osed to be a hard and honest loo+ at the Bible from some of the most notable ,and notorious- figures in Bibli al s holarshi$ su h as Bart .hrman, /ar+ 0ooda re, Candida /oss, and !e1a *slan) %he dis laimer at the beginning of the $rogram $romised a fair $resentation of multi$le view $oints, stating, %his $rogram e2$lores the mysteries of the Bible from a variety of histori al and theologi al $ers$e tives whi h have been debated for enturies)" Su h a dis laimer, usually alerting viewers to gra$hi violen e and se2ual ontent not suitable for hildren, should have warned the unsus$e ting $ubli that the ontent to be $resented was anything but a variety of histori al and theologi al $ers$e tives)" (n fa t, the $rogram revealed a heavily anti#religious and s$e ifi ally an anti#Christian bias, where a multi$li ity of view $oints was e2 hanged for a singular ideology aimed at dis rediting religious faith in the Bible) (t soon be ame a$$arent that what was su$$osed to be a $resentation of the best of ob3e tive, se ular bibli al s holarshi$ was anything but ob3e tive) 4eading 5uestions suggested the most absurd on lusions, and half#truths mas+ed the real ob3e tivity found in se ular s holarshi$, whi h is a$able of being fair and res$e tful of religious faith) (n what follows, ( will e2amine many of the laims made by the first e$isode of Bible Se rets !evealed" and then dis uss a $arti ular 6rthodo2 Christian res$onse)

%he $rogram begins with a leading 5uestion, Has the Bible been translated, edited, and even ensored so many times that its original stories have been om$romised by time7" *t the outset, we find the ideologi al stan e of the $rogram, a notion that $ervades se ular views of religion as well as many of the religious themselves, namely that the only truly legitimate and valuable stories of the Bible are original," untou hed by reda tor or leri ) (t is assumed that any story" whi h has lost its su$$osed original" histori al a ura y is not valuable to the $erson of faith) (n other words, the only value the Bible ould $ossibly offer is what is original and untou hed by later religious ideology) 8urthermore, the narrator as+s the leading 5uestion, (s the Holy Bible the ins$ired word of an almighty 0od, or a olle tion of stories authored by a number of largely anonymous men7" Su h a statement unfairly assumes that divine ins$iration must involve verifiable authorshi$) 9hile a segment of religious $ersons may indeed believe this, it is by no means shared by others who have no $roblem with divinely ins$ired, anonymous authors)

%he $rogram ontinues by offering the dis overies of the :ead Sea S rolls in eleven aves near ;hirbet <umran as $roof that su h original" ontent of the Bible has been lost, edited away, and overed u$) * leading 5uestion by the narrator suggests that the :ead Sea S rolls ontained information of great religious onse5uen e" and ontained ontradi tions, dis re$an ies of detail, and language that have left theologians and Bible s holars s rat hing their heads)" %his sort of hysteria, ommon to ontem$orary media treatments at the time of the s rolls= dis overy, has shown to be em$ty hy$e) (n fa t, the bibli al manus ri$ts found among the :ead Sea S rolls largely onfirm the readings of the /asoreti te2t of the Hebrew Bible, and many of them onfirm readings of the the Hebrew te2t behind the Se$tuagint) Nothing in the non#bibli al manus ri$ts found among the

S rolls has drasti ally hanged the way we view the history of early Christianity or its laims) %he S rolls merely give us a fuller, more nuan ed understanding of the &ewish world immediately $re eding the oming of Christ) (n this first e$isode, entitled 4ost in %ranslation," several e2am$les of su$$osed mistranslations are offered in order to show that what the Bible really says has been altered by later revision and mistranslation) Some of the e2am$les they give, however, are $resented as half#truths and distortions of reality) 8or e2am$le, it is noted that the Hebrew word adam, usually translated as man" is a tually a word en om$assing all of humanity, a general word for human $erson)" %his is true to a ertain e2tent, e2 e$t for the fa t that adam is used in the narrative to refer to a s$e ifi male $erson> the Hebrew ish ,man"- is 3u2ta$osed with his wife ,ishah-) So, ontrary to the statement of !obert /ullins of *1usa ?a ifi 'niversity, the Hebrew word adam arries with it both a general sense of human +ind as well as a s$e ifi male $erson who has the name Adam) Su h $ra ti e is in +ee$ing with an ient Near .astern mythology, whi h ty$i ally names mythologi al figures after the natural elements they re$resent su h as the Canaanite gods yam ,Sea"- and mot ,:eath"-)Adam, the $erson, re$resents and embodies adam human +ind" in himself, a $oint that St) ?aul ta+es u$ in !omans @) Similarly, Cargill e2$lains that the *ramai term bar enash ,son of man- used by &esus in /ar+ 2A23 is sim$ly a term for a dude" or anyone) (n other words, as &esus e2$lains that the Sabbath was made for the servi e of $eo$le, $eo$le are lords of the Sabbath) 9hile it is true that the term bar enash is used in *ramai as a general word for man" or $erson," it is also generally re ogni1ed by s holars that the term is elevated to a messiani term in the $ortions of 1 .no h +nown as the Similitudes and is used by &esus to refer to himself in numerous $la es) * well#+nown ase of su$$osed mistranslation is ta+en from (saiah BA1C, the famous 5uotation in the 0os$el of St) /atthew that Behold, a virgin will give birthD" ,1A23-) %his verse in the Se$tuagint uses the word parthenos ,virgin"- whi h translates the Hebrew word almah, meaning a woman of marriageable age)" (t is often said that the 0ree+parthenos is a mistranslation of almah, but this is not te hni ally a mistranslation" but a shar$er translation, a term of more s$e ifi meaning for a term with more general meaning) * young woman of marriageable age would have been a virgin until her marriage, at whi h $oint she would then be alled ishah ,woman" or wife"-) %he Se$tuagint translators were a$$lying a +een understanding of Hebrew so ial terminology, whi h were not easily translated into 0ree+) %hey hose to $reserve in their 0ree+ translation what was to them the most stri+ing feature of the Hebrew te2t, * young woman ,understood to be unmarried or newly married and a virginwill give birth)" (f there is any mistranslation," it is the failure of s holars su h as 8ran es a Stavra+o$oulou of .2eter 'niversity to a ount for the full im$ort of the Hebrew term almah) *nother rather glaring error be omes a$$arent if one has a ess to a Hebrew Bible) :uring a who dunnit7" dis ussion of the real +iller of 0oliath, the $rogram draws attention to the fa t that 2 Samuel 2A1E laims that .lhanan +illed 0oliath the 0ittite rather than :avid as $resented in 1 ;ings 1BACE#@1) %he $rogram then shows that 1 Chroni les laims that .lhanan slew 4ahmi the brother of 0oliath the 0ittite) However, we are led to believe through the gra$hi al $resentation that this hange is deliberately made in the .nglish translations, not in the original Hebrew te2t of 1 Chroni les) %he $rogram routinely uses Hebrew te2t dissolving into .nglish to indi ate the a tual te2t of the Hebrew Bible, even in the segment about :avid and 0oliath, yet in this instan e, only .nglish is used) So we find in these ases, what is $resented as mistranslations are not mistranslations at all, but twisted half#truths serving an anti#religious ideology) /oving from translation issues to more general statements about the Bible and some individual boo+s, we find similar, absurd leading 5uestions and half#truths) :uring a dis ussion of Constantine, the narrator even as+s, *n em$eror authoring the Bible7" .laine ?agels of ?rin eton 'niversity states, 9e had Christianity for 300 years before we had a New %estament," leading one to believe that the New %estament boo+s did not e2ist for the first three enturies of Christianity) Fet, we +now that the e$istles of ?aul and the four gos$els ir ulated in the early hur h, were read during liturgi al servi es, and were e2tensively 5uoted by the se ond and third entury fathers) 9hile the New %estament may not have been anoni1ed until the Synod of Hi$$o in 3E3 C., the New %estament boo+s themselves did e2ist and were heavily utili1ed) %he $rogram draws attention to the widely#+nown fa t that the 0os$el of /ar+ is missing its original ending and that two alternate endings were om$osed at later times) (t is insinuated that, be ause the 0os$el of /ar+ is missing its original ending, the resurre tion of &esus was made u$ enturies later) /ar+ 0ooda re states rather uriously, %he story of the resurre tion a tually emerges as an interesting literary story $artially be ause $eo$le are so dissatisfied with /ar+=s story)" %he narrator then as+s, (s it $ossible that the resurre tion was the onse5uen e of a missing $age7" %his is the most ridi ulous laim made by the $rogram, for the verse immediately $re eding the su$$osed bro+en off ending of /ar+ says, :o not be alarmed) Fou see+ &esus of Na1areth, who was ru ified) He is risenG He is not here) See the $la e where they laid Him" ,1HAH-) %he $rogram fo uses u$on the ending of /ar+, a red herring, while ignoring the a tual te2t of /ar+ itself) 8urthermore, the undis$uted letters of ?aul, written de ades before the 0os$els, ontain our earliest witness to the fa t that Christians believed in the resurre tion) 8irst %hessalonians and 0alatians, the two earliest e$istles of ?aul, demonstrate su h belief about a de ade after the resurre tion would have o urred) 6ther 5uestions regarding the te2t of the New %estament are e2$lored as well, su h as the story of the 9oman Caught in *dultery," also +nown as the pericope adulterae, found in the ;ing &ames Bible in &ohn BA@3#IA11) Candida /oss of the

'niversity of Notre :ame suggests that, be ause the story is not found in the earliest manus ri$ts of the 0os$el of &ohn, it $robably never ha$$ened)" Su h a swee$ing statement s+irts 5uestions of orality, i)e), how authenti &esus traditions may have been transmitted orally without being written down in any $arti ular $la e) (n fa t, this story is +nown as a floating tradition" be ause it a$$ears in 4u+e=s 0os$el in some manus ri$ts) (t is also +nown from the third entury Syria te2t Didascalia Apostolorum) Su h a story may have been authenti , though its $la e in the written a ounts of &esus= life was less sure) Se ular s holarshi$ is a valuable enter$rise when the bare fa ts of its findings are $resented ob3e tively and without bias) (f we believe, as ( was taught as an undergraduate at 6+lahoma Ba$tist 'niversity, that all truth is 0od=s truth," then Christians need not be afraid of se ular Bibli al s holarshi$) Fet su h ideologi ally harged $rograms as Bible Se rets !evealed" $resent se ular s holarshi$ in a very negative light that e2 ludes religious faith before the fa ts may be onsidered from multi$le $ers$e tives" as the $rogram itself laims) 9hat is not admitted in the $rogram, at least not until the very last line s$o+en by Cargill, is that religion and faith go far beyond the Bible) &ust be ause the Bible may or may not have said something, or 3ust be ause someone wrote a bibli al te2t in another=s name, or 3ust be ause a te2t was written late, does not a priori invalidate laims of faith) ( am horrified, though not sur$rised, that a sort of sola scriptura hermeneuti has invaded the realm of se ular bibli al s holarshi$, whereby religion is invalidated solely be ause of the findings of bibli al s holarshi$) (t is a failure to understand the true om$le2ities of religious faith) (nstead, religious faith is $resented as a sola scriptura and fundamentalist straw man, easily destroyed by fa ts about the Bible) ,%hese are not se rets" as the $rogram laims, but are widely +nown and a e$ted even among onservative Christian s holars)- %he $rogram tries to lean u$ its mess in the end with a few bou5uets thrown at religion, but it fails to onvin e after so thoroughly tarnishing the laims of traditional faiths with its odd sola scriptura hermeneuti ) Certainly there is room for honest e2amination of bibli al s holarshi$, but it should be done in a manner that is res$e tful of religious faith, otherwise su h s holarshi$ leaves its own a ademi boundaries and transgresses in the inter# religious dialogue itself)

*s 6rthodo2 Christians, we believe in the divine ins$iration of S ri$ture, but we need not $ut artifi ial stri tures on what this means or how it o urs) (n fa t, we may re ogni1e the divine energy of ins$iration in a more om$rehensive manner, from the om$osition of S ri$tural te2ts, to their reda tion, olle tion, transmission, even through their translation, liturgi al reading, and $ubli e2$osition in $rea hing) .ven $rivate, devotional reading of S ri$ture brings the ins$iration of the Holy S$irit to the heart attentive in faith) Fet in all of these instan es, ins$iration is never me hani al, automati , or without human interferen e) %he limitations of s ribal te hnology, human ulture, and the im$erfe tions the individuals who inter$ret the te2t serve to mar+ the S ri$tural te2ts= essential, mysterious nature) %he divine S$irit is found in the Bible as a mystery> that is a hidden reality, revealed in the hearts of men and women who attend to it in faith) Bibli al s holarshi$ may be able to un over many se rets" about the history of *n ient (srael and the 0rae o#!oman world that ontradi t ertain as$e ts of the Bibli al te2t, most of whi h the hur h fathers have inter$reted ty$ologi ally) (t may un over many as$e ts of the transmission of the Bible that sur$rise us and to$$le our sim$listi assum$tions of divine ins$iration) But, if all truth is 0od=s truth, nothing an to$$le or ontradi t the essential truth of &esus Christ witnessed to by the 4aw and the ?ro$hets and $ro laimed by the *$ostles throughout the world)

Eric Jobe is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Ci ili!ations at the "ni ersity of Chicago. #e speciali!es in #ebre$ poetry% the Dead Sea Scrolls% and Second &emple Judaism. #e is an instructor of 'ible and biblical languages for the (rthodo) Church in America% Diocese of the *id$est% Diaconal +ocations Program.