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Misrepresenting the Bible

By Scott Tibbs, April 17, 2009

In his April 9 letter to the editor, Jack Buchanan attempts to discredit the Bible, but engages in willful misrepresentation to do so.

In Exodus 21:2-6, the Bible does not condone "torturing" slaves. What we have here is basically a voluntary ear piercing. When a slave has served 6 years and is to be released, he may choose to stay with his master. If he does, then his ear is pierced as a sign of that decision. Saying that an ear piercing amounts to "torturing slaves" is meaningless hyperbole, and just plain silly. Buchanan's example of Exodus 21:20-21 is dishonest, because later in the chapter, slave owners are required to release a slave if the master strikes the slave and puts out an eye (v. 26) or knocks out a tooth (v. 27).

The claim that the Bible "condones" gang rape based on Genesis 19 is also dishonest. The account of Lot offering his daughters to an angry mob is a historical account, not a value judgment. The Bible no more "condones" gang rape than a history book "condones" the Holocaust by recording Germany's crimes against the Jews. Context is also important, because the angels of God that Lot was protecting intervened and blinded the crowd.

The text of Judges 19-20 is not clear that the concubine who was gang raped was still alive in the morning, only that she did not answer her master. (This is the case in NIV, KJV, NASB and the ESV.) The reason she did not answer could be that she was dead. Again, this is a historical account, not an endorsement. After the concubine was cut into pieces and sent to the other tribes to tell them of this wickedness, the rest of Israel waged war against the tribe of Benjamin to avenge the gang rape of the concubine and threatened gang rape of her master.

Buchanan also alleged that the Bible condones "child abuse." That probably depends on what one's definition of "child abuse" is. I do not consider reasonable corporal punishment to be child abuse, though I do agree with Proverbs that withholding discipline is abuse. Some do not believe in corporal punishment, but there is no consensus that reasonable corporal punishment is abuse. Furthermore, it is silly to argue it is a "lie" that the child will not die if subjected to reasonable corporal punishment, because tens of millions of children in America alone have managed to grow up with corporal punishment and survive it. Some have even survived severe abuse.

Buchanan also argues that Jesus lied when He told the disciples that "some would live to see the second coming." Again, as is so often the case in Scripture, context is important in understanding what the text means. In John 18:36, Jesus tells Pilate that His "kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." In the context of the Gospels and later books, the "kingdom of God" does not refer to the second coming, but the spiritual kingdom established through the church and the power of the Holy Spirit.

There will always be those who try to tear down God, some of them misusing His Word to do so. I have to wonder why atheists like Buchanan are so determined to "disprove" the existence of a God they are convinced does not exist. Why is it so important for some atheists to disprove what they believe to be superstition? I suspect that some are convicted by God of their sin, and this is one way to absolve the guilt they are harboring. The good news is that the door is always open for salvation, no matter what sin has been committed.