Top 10 Things We Believe That Aren’t in the Bible

Now, the title is a bit, how shall we say, debatable. First, I don’t know if these are the “top” 10, they were just the first 10 I thought of. Second, there are many Christian traditions that would still affirm some or all of these beliefs. But “A Random 10 Things I Used to Believe But Don’t Anymore Because I Have Decided They Aren’t Biblical” isn’t nearly as catchy, so just work with me here. Some may say it’s because I’m liberal, ignorant, or (paradoxically) because I drank the Kool-Aid of arrogant academia, but whatever the cause, I just no longer buy the arguments that the following are in the Bible.*

10. The Rapture // This is the easy one since most people will be surprised at how something that has become so important in the theology of so many comes from such little biblical support. Here is a quick look at a much simpler and actually-in-context way of reading the 2 (that’s right, only 2) verses used to back up the idea of a Rapture. Another great argument is the fact that basically no one in church history believed it and neither does anyone now, outside of America.

9. God doesn’t change (his mind) // You might say, but what about Mal 3:6, “I am the LORD, I do not change?” And I might say, you forgot about Num 23:19, 1 Sam 15:29 and Psalm 110:4. But then I would say, you forgot about all the verses that use the exact same word to say the exact opposite, that God does change his mind, like Jer 18:5-10, Joel 2:13, Jon. 4:2, Gen 6:6–7, Exod 32:14, Amos 7:3, 6, and Jon. 3:10.

8. The words “Word of God” always refers to the Bible you hold in your hands // Sometimes it might. But mostly it doesn’t. The Word of God mostly just means “this speech that this prophet is speaking in the name of God,” the person of Jesus, or “what God said in this specific context.”

7. Bodiless Souls Floating in Eternal Heaven // When we die, our body gets buried while our souls go to heaven for eternity. Correct me if I’m wrong but almost every part of that sounds extremely Greek philosophy-ish, not really Ezekiel 37ish, Paulish, or well, biblical. For an excellent corrective, see N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope.

6. Church refers to the local 501 (c) 3 you attend // Yes, I know sometimes Paul uses the word to describe a local congregation, for instance “the Church at Corinth.” But it still refers to people, not a non-profit, not an institution, not a model or system, and certainly not a building.

5. Almost everything about the Christmas story // Too much to mention. Read this.

4. A person who will appear called “The Anti-Christ” // Despite the fact that I am entirely against reading Revelation as a novel (or a series of novels, hint hint) describing what will happen at the end of time, here are also two good reasons to dismiss the notion. First, the title “antichrist” appears only 4 times in the entire New Testament, and never in Revelation. Second, all four occurrences are in John’s epistles (1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22, 1 John 4:3, 2 John 1:7) and they all either assume that there are many antichrists and/or that these antichrists were already alive and well in John’s day.

3. That Jesus knew everything // “Jesus grew in wisdom.” – Luke 2:52. How do you grow in wisdom if you already know everything? There are other examples where Jesus seems not to know what is happening. And besides, if Jesus is 100% human, I am not sure how he could be omniscient.

2. That Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible (Pentateuch) // Pete & I tackle it a little bit in our book and others have spent much time on it. Besides the important fact that Moses isn’t mentioned as the writer, the basic gist is this: the Pentateuch records Moses’ death (Deut 34), which would be creepy if he wrote it, it mentions that Moses was the humblest man to ever live (Num 12:3), which would be weird/oxymoronic if he wrote it, and it mentions things that would not have existed in Moses’ day (off the top of my head, Gen 36, Gen 14:14, and Gen 26:1), which would be, well, impossible, if he wrote it.

1. 3 Ways to Get out of Debt that all start with the same letter // Okay, maybe this last one was uncalled for.**

*Of course, I’d like to think it’s because I have studied my Bible properly. But so does everyone else. That’s the problem. Who gets to decide who is right?

**Please note that this post is mostly meant to be tongue-in-cheek. While I do think these are not in the Bible and also think that they point to a larger problem of biblical illiteracy and simple misunderstanding about what the Bible actually is or how we should read it, I am not trying to be dismissive or condescending. Granted, it might be dismissive or condescending, but just note that I am not trying.

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28 responses to “Top 10 Things We Believe That Aren’t in the Bible

  1. Regarding Numbers 4 and 10 – The biggest problem I had with the book on Genesis that Peter Enns wrote with you was that you billed it as ‘” A Guide to the Most Controversial, Misunderstood, and Abused Book of the Bible.”

    Almost everyday I look at your sub-title and say to myself “what about the apocalypse?”

    You cannot use a subtitle like that twice.

    • You could say β€˜β€ A Guide to the Second Most Controversial, Misunderstood, and Abused Book of the Bible.” : )
      What it should say is β€˜β€ A Guide to the Most Controversial, Misunderstood, and Abused Book of the Bible, by American Christians.”

  2. On the Rapture, Wright’s is a good article, but for the lay reader I’ve put together a few simpler explanations:

    http://www.examiner.com/article/according-to-jesus-you-want-to-be

    http://www.examiner.com/article/why-belief-the-rapture-should-be-left-behind

    And here’s a quick video that explains where the idea originated and how it became so popular among American evangelicals and conservatives: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rpERQvSaMg&feature=player_embedded

  3. I was surprised how “safe” this list was. I thought you were referring to the fact that many scholars think the the nativity stories are very midrashic (in a way that preserves the virgin birth) and the wise man thing never actually occurred but was written from the perspective of Christ already risen and glorified and was a historical embellishment on Matthew’s part.

    • Being gay is not the sin, the sexual act is a sin. The same as lying, or murdering are sins. Any sinner can be a christian. Even an active homosexual, or an active unmarried heterosexual. They just have to repent of the act. A person with an urge to want to lie or kill wouldn’t be accepted as doing the right thing by embracing the sin. And the bible does tell us to judge our Brothers (believers in Christ), in love, when they are doing wrong. Homosexual acts are just as unnatural as any sinful act. It is not biblical and has no spiritual benefit. I feel that homosexuals shouldn’t be banned from a civil union, but shouldn’t be married under God’s blessing. It is not blessed. And it is not a christian act to accept marriage that way. But i do not believe that Christians should show such hate for homosexuals, we need to love and spread the gospel. The same way we should love any active sinner. We all have sin and should all be repenting of it. No one says it will be easy. Ihave sin that I have need deliverance from and i pray about it And seek forgiveness and repentance. God bless

  4. This is one of the most uninteresting posts about the bible I’ve read in a long time. Congratulations on saying nothing significant but acting like you’re a genius for making fun of pop culture.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, they are always welcome. But the great thing about the internet is that you can come and go as you please and there are plenty of interesting things out there. Secondly, I am not sure what culture you are a part of but I would guess that 75% or more of Americans couldn’t care less about this post or any beliefs listed on it. So I am not sure how it’s “pop,” as in “popular.” And I apologize if I came off “acting like I’m a genius,” I certainly don’t believe that about myself.

      • You are right that I am free to not read blogs on the internet. Perhaps I should exercise that freedom more often. As for “pop culture” I was referring to American Christian pop culture specifically, which is a very small phenomenon, as you seem to imply. For that reason I find it at best unhelpful for educated scholars such as yourself to spend time picking at it. It’s easy to make fun of popular culture. That’s why it’s popular.

        Perhaps I’m also bothered by this kind of blog entry because it joins with other scholars who take pleasure in dropping “surprising” or “insightful” idea bombs on people not extensively educated in scripture or religion who may know no better, as if making statements like “the Pentateuch records Moses’ death (Deut 34), which would be creepy” are unrivaled and somehow helpful or “honest”. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with almost everything you say in this post, but if you’re going to spend time tearing down (as many do), why not spend at least a few words building up? I do hope you believe there is a time for both, and I think we both know which is easier.

      • I really appreciate your second paragraph. You are quite right that it is easy to be dismissive of concepts that other still affirm, which is why I mentioned that in my opening paragraph. I also take to heart that my post (most of them?) spend way too much tearing down and not enough building up. As you say, it is much easier to criticize. Thanks for your reminder. I will need many more.

  5. How about any number of commonly held notions about the devil? For instance, many believe he has a name, has a well-understood origin story, and so on…

    Some of these depend on transliterations of latin, or very particular interpretations of fairly metaphoric text.

  6. I agree with more of these than I disagree with!

    I think I’ll push back on the disembodied soul thing. What do you do with the verse where Paul said, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor 5:8 ESV)
    Being “out of the body” is not a foreign concept to Paul. In his discussion about the “man who was caught up to heaven” he made the intriguing comment, “whether in the body or out of the body, I don’t know.” It was altogether possible in his mind that someone could be “out of their body” while alive. The first verse I mentioned seems to suggest he is fine with the idea after death as well.
    In 1 Corinthians 15 different “types” of bodies are discussed. One of those is a “spiritual body” which is different from a corruptible “fleshly body.” This opens up all manners of possibility here.

  7. Great post; very interesting. Thank you for speaking on this. I agree with every point, though I’m curious how you came to the conclusion you did in #9? It would appear (at least on the surface) that there is a deliberate tension between God changing and not-changing. I don’t think any passage(s) should be allowed to trump any other passage(s). Should we live in the midst of the tension then? Keep up the great work Jared; and remember that in the processes of tearing down lie the seeds of building up as well.

    • I agree completely Tony. It is a tension that we must live in. That’s why I made sure to quote passages for both sides. I have no idea how (or if it’s even a good idea) to reconcile them.

      • Thanks for the follow up. I apologize, I erroneously assumed you had come to the conclusion that God does change. Thanks for clearing that up.

    • I always appreciate critique and criticism, so long as it’s founded on good arguments and not witty, albeit completely fallacious, wordplay.

  8. Pingback: Things we believe « Insomniac memos

  9. Pingback: Blog Rewind | Jared Byas

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