Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Known and Unknown

Americans say that the Bible is central to them—a divine instruction manual for life on earth. How is it, then, a new book asks, that they know so little of it?

Print Email
A billboard of an open Bible stands next to a Amish schoolhouse August 7, 2002 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

America and England, an old joke has it, are divided by a common language. In the same way, you could say that Judaism and Christianity are divided by a common Bible—except that, historically speaking, the consequences of that division haven’t been a laughing matter. It is exactly because Jews and Christians agree on the divine status of the Hebrew Bible that their disagreement about the New Testament has been so fraught. To a believing Christian, a Hindu who venerates the Vedas would simply be an unbeliever, a heathen, and so he would present no particular theological challenge. But a Jew, who accepts part of the Christian Bible but not the whole, is something more troubling—a critic, a breeder of doubts. From the Jewish perspective, meanwhile, the Christian demotion of the Hebrew Bible to the Old Testament is especially bitter: The suggestion that Judaism has been superseded is more objectionable than the idea that it was never true in the first place.

In America today, thankfully, the ancient theological ire between Christians and Jews has been almost forgotten. But as Timothy Beal shows in his personal, accessible new book, The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25), there is still a profound difference between the ways the two faiths read their Bibles. The kind of Jewish education that most non-Orthodox American Jews receive leaves us familiar with the major biblical stories; and of course, many Jewish holidays revolve around biblical episodes, from the Exodus on Passover to the Maccabees on Hanukkah. Jews who receive a traditional Orthodox education learn the Bible much more thoroughly, but the core of their study has to do with the Talmud and commentaries—a way of thinking about Torah that treats the original divine text primarily as a subject for interpretation.

Neither of these Jewish approaches to Torah has anything in common with the fundamentalist, Bible-centered Christianity that is so potent in the United States—especially the parts where Jews do not live. Beal, a professor of religion at Case Western Reserve University, is now an academic scholar of the Bible, accustomed to thinking of it as the work of historically situated human beings. But he was raised in an evangelical Christian home, where the Bible was held to be quite literally the Word of God. He hastens to explain that this does not mean his parents were naive or uneducated: “My parents’ biblical faith … was as seriously intellectual as it was devout.” His mother, who studied Greek in college, would “sometimes … pull out her old Greek New Testament to see how else the text might be translated.”

Still, growing up in this bibliocentric culture gave Beal an early sense that the Bible was “the go-to book for any serious question we might have, from sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll to heaven, hell, and why bad things happen to good people.” The Bible was “God’s book of answers, which if opened and read rightly would speak directly to me with concrete, divinely authored advice about my life and how to live it.” In short, to use an evangelical acronym that I, for one, had never heard before, it was “B.I.B.L.E.: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”

The Rise and Fall of the Bible is Beal’s attempt to shatter this popular understanding of the Bible as a combination of divine instruction manual and self-help book. While there’s no denying that the Bible remains central—Beal quotes polls indicating that “65 percent of all Americans believe that the Bible ‘answers all or most of the basic questions of life,’ ”—he, at the same time, notes that Americans are surprisingly ignorant of what is actually in it. “More than 80 percent of born-again or evangelical Christians believe that ‘God helps those who help themselves’ is a Bible verse,” he writes. Less than half of all adults can name the four Gospels; only one-third can name five of the Ten Commandments. In his own experience as a college teacher, Beal says, students “come to class on the first day with more ideas about the Bible derived from … The Da Vinci Code than from actual Biblical texts.”

What explains this disparity between Americans’ absolute faith in the Bible and their evident ignorance of it? To Beal, the problem lies with the notion that the Bible is “a divine guidebook, a map for getting through the terra incognita of life.” For as soon as you open it and start reading, it becomes troublingly apparent that the Bible is no such thing. It does not offer answers to problems, especially not 21st-century problems; only in a few places does it even offer straightforward moral counsel. Depending on where you open it, the Bible might give the impression that it is mainly composed of genealogies and agricultural regulations.

The gulf between what readers expect to find in the Bible and what they are actually given produces a kind of paralysis, Beal writes. “For many Christians, this experience of feeling flummoxed by the Bible … [produces] not only frustration but also guilt for doubting the Bible’s integrity.” The Bible-publishing industry feeds on this anxiety, he argues, by endlessly repackaging the Biblical text in ever more watered-down and over-explained forms. Most Jewish readers will probably be unfamiliar with the world of Christian “Biblezines,” in which biblical texts are interspersed with magazine-style articles and quizzes: “There are Biblezines for just about everyone. Becoming targets college-age and young professional women. Explore is for preteen boys, and Refuel is for teenage boys. Blossom is for preteen girls, and Revolve is for teenage girls.”

What troubles Beal about these publications is not just the way they dumb down the Bible—Blossom is a long way from Beal’s mother reading the New Testament in Greek—but the way they translate and interpret the text according to an undeclared social and political agenda. Beal shows how the Manga Bible turns Eve into a simpering temptress (“Hee hee … girls can make guys do anything,” she titters in one panel), while the Life Application Study Bible makes Leviticus sound like an anti-gay tract.

All these quasi-Bibles are designed to eliminate what Beal regards as the Bible’s most inspiring feature—its refusal to speak with a single voice. The Bible isn’t really “a book” at all, but a library of books (the Greek word biblia, Beal points out, is a plural), written over a span of centuries, in a wide range of genres—myth, history, law codes, poems, proverbs. The middle section of The Rise and Fall of the Bible is devoted to a capsule history of the writing and editing of the Bible, designed to show readers new to the subject that the book in the hotel nightstand is not a divine artifact.

In asking “What Would Jesus Read?” Beal also ends up explaining what is still apparently unknown to many Christians—the fact that Jesus was a Jew, and Christianity initially a Jewish movement. The episode in Luke 4 where Jesus preaches in a synagogue leads Beal to discuss Torah reading and Shabbat services. Later on, he examines the Hebrew text of the Bible to demonstrate how every English translation is inevitably an interpretation—sometimes, a Christian apologetic interpretation, as when the Hebrew word almah in the Book of Isaiah is translated as “virign,” rather than “young woman,” in order to produce a Christological reading (“Behold, a virgin will conceive and bear a son …”)

By insisting on the Bible’s human making, however, Beal does not want to convince Christians to stop reading it—the way Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris would. Rather, he wants them to read the Bible with more tolerance for ambiguity, recognizing that the text cries out for interpretation. In short, as Beal puts it, Christians need to read more like Jews:

Here again we may find insight from Jewish tradition’s understanding of Torah. One legend says, ‘When the Holy One, blessed be He, gave the Torah to Israel, he gave it only in the form of wheat, for us to make flour from it, and flax, to make a garment from it.’ The idea is that God depends on the community to fulfill biblical meaning. The Torah is incomplete without its interpreters who make something new of it.

Naturally, the kind of interpretation Beal has in mind is not the kind the rabbis had in mind. Talmudic interpretation is based on the premise that, since the Torah is God’s word, every meaning that can be found in it is divine. That is how a whole legal system, and then, in Kabbalah, a whole mystical system, could be deduced from the biblical text. Beal’s reading of the Bible depends, conversely, on the premise that the Bible is not divine writ, but rather a precious human inheritance, which can be used to support and enhance contemporary moral intuitions. As he puts it, the Bible “hosts the human quest for meaning without predestining a specific conclusion.”

This is not talmudic, but it is exactly the same spirit in which liberal Jewish theologians now interpret the Bible. Like Beal, the authors of a book such as Jewish Theology in Our Time are attempting to salvage the vocabulary of faith they grew up with, while discarding the dogmas in which they can no longer believe. The Bible, read this way, is historically and emotionally primary, but not theologically primary—not, in fact, essentially different from the sacred texts of every faith, or the great works of secular literature. Perhaps it is on these ironic terms that Jew and Christian, after so many centuries, can agree to read the same Bible after all.

Print Email

An excellent informative review. I am a member of a talmud group that deals with many of the issues discussed although we occasionally reflect on the Christian interpretation. The writer is correct about general ignorance of the bible especially among secular Jews in my circle. My own view as a novelist is that the bible is the most enduring novel of all time.

It is amazing to watch Christians in their treatment of the “Old” Testament without any of the rich heritage of Jewish Culture nor any hint of Talmud or Rabinic influence in their thinking.

Two things more than any other cause me the greatest entertainment:

Protestants engaged in highly selective quotation of the Torah simply as a means of attacking individuals/groups that they dislike – can we mandate that they must read the Talmud?

Catholics sitting through a mass every Sunday oblivious that they are engaged in an Italian/Roman adaptation of a seder meal – not a clue on the Baruch Atah Adonai embedded in their Blessed are you Lord’s

RE: “many Jewish holidays revolve around biblical episodes, from the Exodus on Passover to the Maccabees on Hanukkah.”

Where, exactly, in the Jewish Bible, aka TaNaKH, do we find the Maccabees?
Perhaps it is not just evangelical Christians who are unfamiliar with the Bible.
I think some of the books of the books Maccabees may be in the so-called “Old Testament” for Eastern Orthodox and perhaps some other Christian groups, but not Roman Catholocism and certainly not the Jewish TaNaKH.

Mike Shapiro says:

Unfortunately, what the author (or critic) tap dances around is that neither Orthodox (and certainly the ultra-Orthodox) Jewry nor fundamentalist Christianity have any relationship to either Tanach or Christian Testament. The so-called “Torah True” Jewish sects virtually ignore Torah in favor of 2,000 years of interpretation and interpretation of interpretation. The fundamentalist Christians simply ignore the fact that the English Bible (usually taking KJV as primary) was, primarily, a translation of a translation and greatly effected by the politics of the time.

If anyone wants to know why more and more people are either taking all of Biblical history with a grain of salt or becoming increasingly secular, one needs only take a look at the nonsense that is propounded by many in these groups and viewed by much of the mainstream as some sort of ideal that exists.

There will only be a generation that is intelligent and takes Judaism and Christianity seriously when the mainstream religions have the backbone to say: No! this is nonsense, when a Pat Robertson or a R. Elyashav comes out with some off the wall interpretation. Add to this such nonsense as the so-called Shroud of Turin, Ultra-Orthodox Jews dressing like 17th century Polish nobles, and you have a prescription for the growth of Agnosticism and Atheism.

Michal says:

@dovi: Of course, Maccabees does not appear anywhere in the Jewish Bible, and never did. It does appear in the Apocrypha, which is part of the Catholic Bible. That fact alone speaks to the long histry of the composition and collection of the Bible into the text(s) we now have.
I, too, teach Bible, and have encountered many students (college aged and adult) who are shaken to their very core by the approach and content of a university course on biblical texts. What is miraculous about the text is how long it has survived, and how it has managed to speak to so many generations of readers, in so many different ways. To my mind, it is one of the singularly great contributions of the human imagination. The often destructive purposes to which its religious adherents use it it is another story altogether.

Katie Hanley says:

For what little it may be worth, I’ve always heard the term transformed, not superseded. We can be different together. It’s much better than making our mothers mad by getting in a fight :)

I agree that mainstream America is illiterate (and somewhat blase) when it comes to the Bible. There is little constructive historical analysis of the different translations in the mainstream, lay (non-ordained), (media and entertainment-driven) dialogue about language and faith.

Living in a dominantly secular society that is persistent (and pernicious, perhaps) in clinging to an ethic and image of superstitious (c)hristianity, I have always found my orthodox brethren (I prefer the old-fashioned to the gender-sensitive term here) to be my strongest allies in forging an intelligent, well-educated, and compassionate American society.

All of that said, there are many “active” and nominal Christians who fail to confront the central and most necessary reality of their own faith: the Crucifixion and Resurrection and Assumption into heaven/the Trinity of the risen Christ. It is both emotionally scary (but don’t tell anyone) AND intellectually demanding to confront that reality, let alone to incorporate that confrontation into one’s daily life. (It’s much easier to televangelize dime-store common sense and feel-good psychology. And it’s exhausting and overwhelming to try to bring others to a continuing point of [re]conversion to their own faith.)

I’ve not been to seminary, but it seems to me that an alternate way to view the transformation of the covenant is by considering it as a counterweight to the command to evangelize, or spread the good news of Jesus Christ’s saving grace SO well that you bring others to conversion. Just a thought.

Many Christians tiptoe around Jesus’ Judaic origins and identity because they cannot comprehend fully how some scholars might accept his existence and even part of his message without becoming believers in his mission.

Hyman Rosen says:

Given that the bible does seem a bit like our DNA, with isolated interesting bits separated by junk, not knowing much about it may fall into the same class of “rational ignorance” that includes not knowing how laws are made or how computers work. After all, no people really go to the bible to decide what their morality should be. They go to the bible to justify their morality as it already exists, and since the Devil can cite scripture for his purpose, they will find whatever they need.

We’ve added another “quasi-Bible” to the mix with G-dcast, this time for Jews. Our premise in creating a very, very Jewish multimedia document was to help people understand not only the stories – which most of us haven’t read, as noted above – but that it is a very Jewish act to make meaning out of the stories. What has surprised us is that so many Christians have found value in the content as well. I also understand that many Christian reads on the Bible are different, more literal, more immediate. But I am told time and time again that “we have so much to learn from the Jews about
their texts.” Neat.

At the risk of alienating some of you, I want to say up front that I am a Messianic believer. In other words, I believe fully in both the Tanakh and the B’rit Hadashah. Among the things we find in the B’rit Hadasha is a statement that all scripture is G-d-breathed. Both covenants admonish us to not add or take away anything from the word of G-d. It therefore somewhat astonishes me that a Bible teacher thinks this book is simply a man-made collection of literature. As a Gentile convert to Messianic Judaism, I often find myself envying my Jewish counterparts their deeper teaching and understanding of the events described in scripture as well as their time in Hebrew school. My understanding has deepened considerably over the years but I don’t have the instinctive grasp. It comes as a surprise to many who call themselves Christians, let alone ones who claim to have no belief, that Yeshua (whom they call “Jesus” in English) was a Jewish rabbi, thoroughly versed in Jewish law and practices and lived a completely Torah-compliant life! He understood the importance of living according to G-d’s commandments and the mo’edim. My as-yet-unconverted, Christian relatives do not understand why I have a problem with Christmas and Easter and communion, etc, because even good Bible-teaching seminaries and teachers have been fed a lot of false doctrine over the centuries. G-d willing, at some point He will unite all of us who recognize Him as L-rd and reveal the deeper understanding of His word and His plan. At this point, however, we seem to be very, very far away from such understanding.

Cheveldi says:

Thought provoking review. Yet, it still leads me to one of my beliefs Amos 3:7, Surely, the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the prophets. and that the Lord God is the same today, yesterday and forever.

Why would our Creator leave us to interpret this material on our own? He has given mankind prophets until Malachi, why did he stop. Or did he. Whether you are Jewish, Christian, or Islamist, God has changed. He has left us up to our devices with no real guidance, but studious men. Moses, Noah, Abraham, David, etc. were not learned men. They we’re not students of the Words of God, the were men called of God, unlearned and humble, easy to form in the spiritual men of stature they became. Not bogged down by conventional wisdom.

Why are their not prophets today? Is it because we do not read our scriptures, our bibles? Or because we are arrogant enough to think we can understand His Wisdom without His Guidance.

Tim Solon says:

I recommend for some of the commentators a study in the development of the Jewish and Christian Canons of Scripture and the changes in the latter made in Western Christianity at the Reformation and Council of Trent. The study should also include references to the politics involved in the decision making and the assumption by many, then as now, that the Spirit of God, a.k.a. the Wisdom of God, completely guided the choices free of human desire for fulfillment of personal preferences.

Popescu says:

In my experience, and I am talking about Orthodox congregations, very few know anything about what’s in the Bible beyond the weekly Torah readings and the Haftarot. The only context for the prophetic extracts that comprise the Haftarot is the Torah portion; whatever occurs before and after the Haftarah in the prophetic text is unknown. And certainly the rest of the Tanach is terra incognita.

Arnold Conrad says:

A couple of commenters mentioned the Book of Maccabees and the Apocrypha. As I understand it, the books of the so-called Apocrypha were part of the Jewish scriptures, at least the version called the Septuagint translated into Greek by (70)Jewish scholars at Alexandria and widely used in the first century A.D. The early Christian church (i.e. the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches) adopted this version since it was the one used widely in the Empire. There is evidence in the Gospels and the Epistles that those books were well known and accepted in apostolic times. Around the year 100 a group of rabbis at Jamnia excluded the books of the Apocrypha from the Jewish canon, unhappy that Christians were using them. Martin Luther in the 16th century used that decision as his justification for removing those books from his translation of the Bible, as some suspect, because the Book of Maccabees provided support for the Catholic practice of praying for the dead. That is why Catholics and Orthodox use those books while most Protestants do not and evidently, many Jews do not even realize they were part of their Scriptures 2,000 years ago. Re Conor’s comment: As a Catholic, I do realize that the Mass is largely structured on the Jewish Seder and Temple worship. I remember an article years ago about a Catholic parish and a synagogue having an exchange of their young people to attend each other’s services. The Jewish children commented that the Mass reminded them of synagogue worship and the Seder.

@Cheveldi
Good point. God did not leave us to our own devices. He founded the Catholic Church and gave us the Magisterium. Remove the magisterial authority of the Church, and you wind up with thousands upon thousands of Protestant denominations.

M. Burgh says:

I am currently teaching what is called “The Hebrew Bible” in the Norton Anthology of World Lit here in Bible Belt, and I can attest to not only a general lack of knowledge of any of the bible, but a lack of interest in it, and even some hostility towards it. One student, who avers her deep Christian belief told me she had never read Revelations in the NT. Typical. By the way, fellow Red Sea Peds, if you’ve never read Revelations, I’d advise you to, as it will explain the mindset of so many fellow Americans. It’s the most frightening book I’ve ever opened.

Mark Caswell says:

Having read the article and the comments, I am struck by the faithless words set forth by nearly all contributors. As one comment stated, the Bible states clearly in both Testaments that Scripture is “God Breathed” and I find that the intellectual elite take it upon themselves to fight against God’s Word finding any all reasons they can to raise doubt and the more the better. This is not what faith is about and the undermining of the Bible as God’s Word destroys the foundation of faith. Once you start picking apart and stripping portions, on what basis do you believe any of it. I rely upon Strong’s Concordance to take me back to the original Hebrew and Greek to gain a better understanding but for me, it is far safer to accept God’s Word than to elevate my “wisdom” above the work of the Holy Spirit in the original greek translation from which the King James came into being. By the way – my experience with “born again” Christians is characterized by a deep appreciation for our Jewish brothers and strong support for the nation of Israel. I have never seen or sensed anti-semitism from Bible-literate Christians. There is, however, a big difference between the “mainline protestant denomination” and the more conservatvie/ fundamental denominations as far as biblical knowledge and belief in God’s Word.

Tracy Hall Jr says:

The Pew survey on religious literacy found that Mormons score higher than any other group on questions about the Bible. [aliases such as gcQQlZ refer to bit.ly]
http://bit.ly/gcQQlZ

Mormons, of course, have additional scriptures: we believe all that the Lord reveals, past, present, and future. (Articles of Faith 1:9 fB5WUQ )

The Book of Mormon message of the redemption of Israel is in the context of biblical covenants that the Lord made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and it repeatedly affirms the truth of the Bible. (1 Nephi 15:12-19, Mormon 7:9 ekGU5L iiXkrh )

Published in 1830, 30 years before the birth of Theodor Herzl, it asks, “O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them, but . . . I the Lord have not forgotten my people.” (2 Nephi 29:3-5 grSuFn )

Accordingly, Joseph Smith sent Orson Hyde to Jerusalem in 1841 to dedicate the land for the return of the Jews. ( efo0xC )

The Book of Mormon asks the reader of scripture to seek the gift of prophecy. Thereby scripture is revealed anew. (2 Nephi 25:4, hjwdWW )

Midrash should lead to the Source of all truth. Nephi wrote, “I did read . . . unto them . . . Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them . . . Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” (1 Nephi 12:23 dJQbIZ )

The FAQ for soc.culture.Jewish says, “[Midrash] allows for the reader to project his or her inner struggle into the text . . . . The great weakness of this method is that it always threatens to replace the text with an outpouring of personal reflection. At its best it requires the presence of mystical insight not given to all readers.” ( gy2qOx )

But the Book of Mormon promises such “mystical insight” to *all* honest seekers of truth! (Moroni 10:3-5 guPWYg )

Tracy Hall Jr
hthalljr’gmail’com

I don’t know an Orthodox family that does not have a copy of Tanach in their home in one form or another. From the Me’am Loez (The Torah Anthology), the Artscroll Tanach or the Tanach in Hebrew. While not as “famously” studied as the Gemara, it is certainly studied and learned as an intrinsic part of Orthodox life.

Job 8:8-15

“For inquire, please, of the former age,

And consider the things discovered by their fathers;

For we were born yesterday, and know nothing,

Because our days on earth are a shadow.

Will they not teach you and tell you,

And utter words from their heart?

Can the papyrus grow up without a marsh?

Can the reeds flourish without water?

While it is yet green and not cut down,

It withers before any other plant.

So are the paths of all who forget God;

And the hope of the hypocrite shall perish,

Whose confidence shall be cut off,

And whose trust is a spider’s web.

He leans on his house, but it does not stand.

He holds it fast, but it does not endure.”

There is no such thing as “blind faith”–that term is an oxymoron. Faith defined in the Bible is resting on the sufficiency of the evidence and complete trust in the revealed promises of God. If the Bible is not the “Word of God”–there is no word of God. Spiritual discernment and “common sense”, as the late Sir Robert Anderson stated, are necessary for proper interpretation. Common sense keeps us from resorting to magic to explain mysteries. But in the final analysis, spiritual discernment is needed to interpret and understand spiritual truth–and scholarship, so-called, is not the same as spiritual discernment.

Vulcan Alex says:

Please note Jews have and do live in the deep south, not in large numbers but that does not matter.

I am enjoying this thread and the courtesy being shown to commenters of widely different beliefs. For both Jews and Christians who are interested in a good translation of the Tanach, I strongly recommend the Jewish Publication Society’s “Jewish Study Bible.” It has priceless comments explaining the background and context of many previously obscure verses.

Shomer Yisrael says:

After accepting Yeshua as my savior in a Baptist Church in Canada 21 yrs. ago, I began to wonder about Jesus as a Jew and about the Jewish roots of Christianity. Zola Levitt’s TV program began my education. Eventually, I started attending a Messianic synagogue recognized by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America. I have now had 12 years of incredible Bible teaching and study with attention to the Jewish context of scripture, Old Covenant and New. Two years ago, I even started attending Chassidic classes to broaden my exposure to and understanding of Jewish (Rabbinic) concepts and theology. The Messianic Jewish movement is incredibly enriching. Originally, Jews were debating Gentile admission to The Way, the Jewish sect of believers in Yeshua. Today, mainstream Jews resist the Jewishness of belief in Messiah, Yeshua. This tragic reversal was ensured by Constantines’s removal of the Jews from the Council of Nicea. The subsequent anti-semitic horrors committed by the Church in G_d’s name further exacerbated this divide. Messianic Judaism brings Jew and Gentile back together as G_d intends. If one loves Yeshua, one must love His people. Sadly, for centuries the “Church” denied this love and instead offered hate and murderous persecution. Today, we are seeing the heart of the Church opening to the blessings of the Jews. High profile mainstream Christian leaders such as Jack Hayford and John Hagee, are recognizing, investigating and embracing the Jewishness of Yeshua. Baruch Hashem!

J. Michael Poapst says:

The 53rd chapter of Isaiah is the greatest text on the life of the Messiah. Before Rabbi Rashi it was considered to be a messianic prophecy. It isn’t as the rabbis say a ” symbolic ” picture of Israel. The pronouns make it clear it is a person. The 6th chapter states that Isaiah was a man of unclean lips and he lived among a people of unclean lips. The 1st chapter verse 4 says that Israel was a sinful nation ( no worse than anyone else ), so the entity of chapter 53 CANNOT be Isaiah or Israel!! Also why isn’t the 53rd chapter included in the yearly synogogue readings? The rabbis have purposely kept this prophecy from the beloved Jewish people. Shalom.

JCarpenter says:

“Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” rules in American evangelical circles—little is known or studied or preached of the Scriptures, other than target verses or proof-texts to fit topical studies or sermons. Little if any biblical scholarship is promoted to the average believer, unless they attend religious-based schools or colleges. Pew’s survey last fall shows this. The average American Christian knows as little about his faith tradition as he does about his political tradition–thus the fuzzy blend of politics and religion into a generic belief system of god and country.

If God intended to lay a trap for the highest of intellectual vanity and spiritual pretensions, so that one [judgment] day he might expose just how far reasoned ignorance can carry the step of man, to demonstrate just how far human nature is from true righteousness and deaf, dumb and blind to the living truth of the living God, he would have left a Bible someplace to be discovered! http://www.energon.org.uk

I’ve said that least 4662647 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Known and Unknown

Americans say that the Bible is central to them—a divine instruction manual for life on earth. How is it, then, a new book asks, that they know so little of it?

More on Tablet:

A Grandfather’s Hidden Love Letters From Nazi Germany Reveal a Buried Past

By Vox Tablet — Reporter Sarah Wildman’s grandfather escaped Vienna in 1938. Long after he died, she discovered the life—and lover—he left behind.