Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Bible Factor

I’m sure millions of faithful Christians are tremendously affected, perhaps disheartened by, last month’s unexpected announcement. What will such a pronouncement do to his fellow Catholics?  

I’m speaking of course of Bill O’Reilly’s attack on the Bible.  

In a hard-nosed, bare-knuckled interview with theologian, Roma Downey, regarding her 10 hour TV miniseries, “The Bible,” Mr. O’Reilly made the following remarks. 

When you say you’re a believer, do you believe in the Bible literally? I mean you believe that Adam and Eve were out there, and the snake and the apple and all of that business? 

Look, a lot of the Bible . . . is allegorical . . . Are you telling people that they should believe in Adam and Eve? That they should believe in Noah’s Ark? Jonah and the whale? Are you telling people that this is the way to go? 

When you were producing ‘The Bible,’ there are some things in the Bible that are obviously allegorical as I just mentioned. Did you take that into account?

What exactly does O’Reilly mean, when he asks, “Do you believe in the Bible literally”? Is it logically possible or sensible to believe in something non-literally? For example, what is the import of: “I non-literally believe in Smurfs”? What does such a statement mean? 

I think what Mr. O’Reilly intends is: Do you interpret the Bible literally? This question is, of course, another matter entirely; and it’s simplistic to the point of being insulting.  

One who properly interprets the Bible literally fully understands that scripture is filled with various genres, figures of speech, and stories. A literal interpretation recognizes allegories, apocalyptic metaphors, poems, parables and so on.  

In other words, a literal interpretation understands biblical passages within the genre in which they are written. For example, I don’t approach “The trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12), as I do “And the soldiers . . . struck Him with their hands” (John 19:2, 3). 

Perhaps someone should explain to O’Reilly (because he’s always open to correction) the difference between “allegory” and “allegorical interpretation.” 

Frankly, it seems unfathomable to O’Reilly that a person who actually believes the Bible would make a movie about it.  

But we now come to the real reason for the diatribe—it’s not Mrs. Downey’s movie, no. It seems Billy’s working on a new book: “Killing Jesus.” (To which my wife quipped, “O’Reilly’s been on quite a ‘killing spree’ here lately.” Hear, hear!) 

I’m writing a book, ‘Killing Jesus,’ about why Jesus of Nazareth was executed. It’s a history book. But obviously, the Gospels that discuss this were involved with that. But there are some contradictions among Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And then it’s my job and Martin Dugard, my co-author, to cut through the contradictions and to try to give a narrative of what actually happened to Jesus, because he was executed.

Finally! Finally someone of Bill O’Reilly’s stature will tell the world why Jesus died on the Cross. Finally someone is going to give us an authoritative “narrative of what actually happened to Jesus.”  

(Gee, if only there were reliable historical narratives concerning Jesus…) 

O’Reilly opines that it’s his “job” to “cut through the contradictions” contained in the Gospels. (Well, he is the number 1 rated show in all of cable news…so, sure…who could possibly be more qualified for such an endeavor?)  

I wonder if O’Reilly knows that, for years on end, the supposed contradictions within the Synoptics and John have been more than sufficiently dealt with.   

Yes, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have weathered—unscathed—two millennia of scholarly scrutiny and higher criticism. But then again…they ain’t never been in the “No Spin Zone.”


  1. How sad! Our "No Spin" friend seems to now be doing some of his own spinning to improve upon the Gospel accounts. After all, he has the advantage of 2000 years of perspective.

    1. Yes...2000 years of perspective, funny!

      Thanks for reading and thinking.

      Blessings to you and yours.

    2. Since the four gospels were not even written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John it is hard to say they have survived unscathed. The early Catholics were the first to apply the "Spin" to them, since these are merely second-hand accounts from generations after the purported events, and they definitely disagree with one another on some important points and facts.

    3. You're entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts, Douglas.

      "There is a growing acceptance of earlier New Testament dates, even among some liberal scholars. Two illustrate this point, former liberal William F. Albright and radical critic John A.T. Robinson.

      William F. Albright wrote, 'We can already say emphatically that there is no long any basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today.' (Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands, 136). Elsewhere Albright said, 'In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptised Jew between the forties and eighties of the first century (very probably sometime between about A.D. 50 and 75)' ('Towards a More Conservative View,' 3).

      This scholar went so far as to affirm that the evidence from the Qumran community show that the concepts, terminology, and mind set of the Gospel of John is probably first century ('Recent Discoveries in Palestine'). 'Thanks to the Qumran discoveries, the New Testament proves to be in fact what it was formerly believed to be: the teaching of Christ and his immediate followers between cir. 25 and cir. 80 A.D.' (From Stone Age to Christianity, 23).

      "John A. T. Robinson. Known for his role in launching the 'Death of God' movement, Robinson wrote a revolutionary book titled Redating the New Testament, in which he posited revised dates for the New Testament books that place them earlier than the most conservative scholars ever held. Robinson places Matthew at 40 to after 60, Mark at about 45 to 60, Luke at before 57 to after 60, and John at from 40 to after 65. This would mean that one or two of the Gospels could have been written as early as seven years after the crucifixion. At the latest they were all composed within the lifetimes of eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the events. Assuming the basic integrity and reasonable accuracy of the writers, this would place the reliability of the New Testaments beyond reasonable doubt."

      Hmmm...it sounds like somebody's been reading out-dated and discredited "scholarship." ;)