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Posted by on Mar 27, 2014 in Critical Thinking, featured, Featured Inc, humor, skepticism | 19 comments

Beyond Noah: Inexplicable Bible Passages Nobody Talks About

huhThink you know all the really strange and not-talked-about Bible passages? I beg to differ. I have seen every list and meme of Biblical weirdness, perversion, and atrocity. Which is to say, I visited Cracked.com once. The following bits of Biblical weirdness are rarely mentioned even in lists of such.  I won't be covering tired old bits like bears mauling children, salacious psalms, or Lot's incestuous misadventures, nor the embarrassing confusions of the 10 Commandments which I have previously written on.

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be Biblical scholarship or exegetical. Do not write a comment explaining to me about mistranslated Hebrew or Greek or the historical context. That said, I am also not attempting to be deliberately uncharitable or unfair. These are just things that stand out to me as a regular guy reading the Bible, which many claim is God's self-evidently valuable and graspable word in spite of a multitude of translations and millennia of social progress casting bronze age ethos as hopelessly barbaric and twisted. Some of these are also correctives to popular religious takes on aspects of the Bible, which I find unjustifiable and self-serving. Also, I know some atheists and other critics of Christianity do discuss these bits. Many are observed in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible which I will link passages to. But I by and large, I find these are just not part of the discourse.

Click on an item to expand.

1. God is afraid of Adam and Eve.

And it is why they were evicted from the garden.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the groundfrom which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3:20-22

Genesis is a treasure trove of nonsense and craziness, and it's packed in tight. In the passage above, who is the "us"? Later on, God is never plural. The forbidden fruit bit is daft in the first place. God wants Adam and Eve not to know what sin is, but this is really another way of saying he wants them to remain imbecilic children deprived of minds that can parse moral truths, and therefore consigned to remain amoral forever.

But more to the present point, God does not give them the heave-ho because of their betrayal, even though all of modern Christianity depends on this being true. Note the word So immediately after God's strange admission that Adam might eat a magic fruit and become immortal in addition to having apparently Godly moral senses. This raises lots of questions.

God had just invented death two verses earlier. Before that, there was no such thing. Why could a magic fruit, which had evidently always been there, undo God's curse? God is the almighty creator of the universe, but his will can be undone with the equivalent of a trap card? Is this theological Rock-Paper-Scissors? My Fruit of the Tree of Life defeats your curse of Dust-to-Dust! Why create the tree in the first place, that grants immortality to beings who were already undying at the out-set? What is God afraid of? Why does he need to create a guard for the gates of the garden that sounds like an 8-bit video game boss?  For that matter, why have God's eternal curses damning mankind for all time been readily defeated by scientific advances? Childbirth isn't painful if you opt for the epidural. Life is no paradise, but many modern people hardly "toil in the fields" and in the future probably even fewer.

2. Is Jesus... Satan?

There are four scriptural reasons to think so.

(1) Who exactly is the light-bringer? Related, but (2) who exactly is the morning star aka the planet Venus? In Latin, Lucifer literally means light bringer. Sound familiar?

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world.  (John 8:12)

These passages each describe Satan and Jesus as the "morning star", Venus. 

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
(Isaiah 14:12.This passage describes Satan's fall from heaven, in case there's any doubt about who Lucifer is)

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
(Rev 22:16)

Jesus is also referred to as morning star in Rev 2:28 and 2Pet 1:19. Not convinced? (3) The story of King David's rule is told twice in the Bible, in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. Note how each account describes the same event.

And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah. (2 Sam 24:1)

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. (1 Chr 21:1)

(4) Beelzebub is a name of the devil, based on Baal-zebub of the old testament. The name is variously translated from Ugaritic as "lord of the flies" or "lord of the high house(heavens)". Lord of the flies sounds sinister, but actually refers to the power to heal disease and infirmity, removing the flies. This usage is consistent with 2 Kings in the OT when injured king of Israel Ahaziah sends messengers to consult with Baal-Zebub about his injury. Who else is named as lord of the highest and a healer of the sick? Jesus.

In fact, the gospel of Luke (and Mark and Matthew) even records people making this connection. In chapter 11, when Jesus performs an exorcism of a demon, "some of them said, It is through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, that he casts the devils out." Jesus protests the contrary, but we should wonder why the gospel needs to include a defense articulating that Jesus is not the devil. 

This is the only item on my list that actually makes the Bible make more sense. God, Jesus, Lucifer, and Satan are the same.

3. Job lost his faith.

The story of Job is a staple of pulpit barkers exhorting the value of faith in the face of adversity. South Park provides a reasonably good summary of how the story is often told.

Much could be written on the bizarre pass Christians give God for murdering innocent men, women, and children for the sake of winning a bet against Satan, a creep whose opinion matters... why? It matters more than the lives of a dozen or more people, apparently.

But the story gets some basic details wrong. It is not about faith at all, with current connotations of love and loyalty. It is about dominance and blind obedience. Satan's bet is specifically that Job will curse God to his face. That is not a mere "lapse in faith", but a ballsy act of defiance against a horrifying monster capable of killing all of your friends and family to win a bet. Job utters the famous line about "the lord giveth, and the lord taketh away" which the Bible congratulates him for, but these are the closing verses of chapter 1 of the book of Job— out of 42 chapters. Why does the traditional account end with chapter 1 of a 42 chapter book? Because Job loses his faith and rails against God, and that's too embarrassing to mention.

The middle chapters of Job are basically Job complaining of his ills, and about the lack of justice in the world as three other men (acquaintances ?) show up to disagree. They say the world is just and God's rewards and punishments should not be questioned, and Job thinks they're worthless liars. By the way, [Spoiler] as you read what Job and his three dissenters say about God, bear in mind that in the epilogue God himself says that Job never lied about him, and that all of the three men who speak to Job do lie about him.

A good place to start is in chapter 6. Job openly wishes that God would kill him so that he could die before he defies the Word of God, as he knows that he will, and does

8 “Oh, that I might have my request,
that God would grant what I hope for,
9 that God would be willing to crush me,
to let loose his hand and cut off my life!
10 Then I would still have this consolation—
my joy in unrelenting pain—
that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.

11 “What strength do I have, that I should still hope?
What prospects, that I should be patient?
12 Do I have the strength of stone?

In chapter 8 Bildad the Shuhite promises Job he will yet be restored because he is blameless and good. Job replies that there are no means for a person to prove their innocence to God, because God is vast and humans are pitiful microbes he barely notices. Job notes that there is no hope for justice because God is a violent amoral thug who will crush you just for complaining. He continues by wishing there were an uber-God who could bring justice, because God is unjust:

16 Even if I summoned him and he responded,
I do not believe he would give me a hearing.
17 He would crush me with a storm
and multiply my wounds for no reason.
18 He would not let me catch my breath
but would overwhelm me with misery.
19 If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty!
And if it is a matter of justice, who can challenge him?
20 Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me;
if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty.

22 It is all the same; that is why I say,
‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’
23 When a scourge brings sudden death,
he mocks the despair of the innocent.
24 When a land falls into the hands of the wicked,
he blindfolds its judges.
If it is not he, then who is it?

33 If only there were someone to mediate between us,
someone to bring us together,
34 someone to remove God’s rod from me,
so that his terror would frighten me no more.
35 Then I would speak up without fear of him,
but as it now stands with me, I cannot.

Job rages on as well in chapters 14, and 19, an unadulterated indictment of God's psychopathic attitude toward his children. Reminder, God later says that Job spoke the truth about him.:

14:19 as water wears away stones
and torrents wash away the soil,
so you destroy a person’s hope.

19:7 “Though I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response;
though I call for help, there is no justice.

The three men who visit Job continue to assure him the world is just, evildoers face punishment and the good are rewarded. They also argue, contradicting their previous point, that the ways of God are unknowable to mortals as feeble and small as they are. Job finds their arguments utterly idiotic and/or deliberate lies and incredulously calls them out:

13:2 What you know, I also know;
I am not inferior to you.

4 You, however, smear me with lies;
you are worthless physicians, all of you!
5 If only you would be altogether silent!
For you, that would be wisdom.
6 Hear now my argument;
listen to the pleas of my lips.
7 Will you speak wickedly on God’s behalf?
Will you speak deceitfully for him?
8 Will you show him partiality?
Will you argue the case for God?
9 Would it turn out well if he examined you?
Could you deceive him as you might deceive a mortal?
10 He would surely call you to account
if you secretly showed partiality.
11 Would not his splendor terrify you?
Would not the dread of him fall on you?
12 Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses are defenses of clay.

And later,

21:34 “So how can you console me with your nonsense?
Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!”

Finally, in chapter 38, God shows up "out of the storm" to speak to Job. God answers Job's plea for justice by reading his Divine resume. This includes:

  • commanding the dawn to shake the earth by its "edges"
  • shutting the seas behind doors to limit their boundaries
  • deliberately making Ostriches stupid and indifferent to their own eggs, laid in sand where anything can crush them or eat them, but it's cool because they can run fast
  • putting the mane on horses
  • being able to command and defeat two monsters, the "behemoth" and the leviathan

Now, properly bullied by "I'm bigger than you so STFU" God, Job relents, admitting God's omnipotence and his own ignorance. Which is exactly what Job said would happen in chapter 9.

God does not offer reason or evidence compassion or love. He is petulant and neurotic as an insecure cop throwing his weigh around because he was bullied too much in high school:

Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?

Not only does Job never take anything back, but in a bit of extra weirdness God punishes the three counselors for lying about Him while saying Job spoke only the truth. 

God rewards Job with riches and new, pretty children to replace the ones who were murdered.  The moral is clear, and clearly not about faith but rather obedience to a self-confessed non-just dictator: do as you are told and be rewarded with material wealth, or disobey and be punished.

4. God believes in other gods.

Old testament God's occasional neuroticism (naming himself jealousy, demanding elaborate worship rituals, making loyalty a top commandment but not, say "don't rape") is more understandable if you realize that God knew there were other gods around that people might choose to follow and who actually existed. I will not debate and it does not matter if the other gods are lesser gods than Jehova, or non-ultimate creators. The point is, if you believe the Bible is the holy word of God, then you must believe what God apparently believes to be true: there are other gods.

There are some ambiguous passages, like when God refers to himself in the plural in Genesis, or when Godly people are describing what heathens believe. I will limit my citations to passages which clearly premise the reality of other gods.

Jeremiah makes predictions about the fates of some gods (10:11)

The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.

Who did God destroy? (1 Chr 5)

25 But they were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them.

Working on behalf of Israel and God, the warrior Jephthah appeals to the Ammonites' reason. He recounts how Israel's God gave them lands and favors, just as Chemosh (a god) did for the Ammonites. (Judges 11)

24 Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the Lord our God has given us, we will possess.

First Corinthians is sure there's just one God, but even if there are other gods, team Jehova is numero uno. But there isn't. But just in case. We're pretty sure. (1 Cor 8)

5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many gods and many lords),
6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father...

King of Israel Ahaziah is astonishingly skeptical of God, but worships Baal. He sends a messenger to Baal-Zebub (in the OT, BZ is just a god, not the devil; 2 Kings 1). In a circuitous reply, God sends and angel to talk to Elijah, to talk to  Ahaziah's messengers, to relay God's message to Ahaziah. God's message is not that Baal is a fake God, but instead a petty complaint that the king had not called on him instead, saying, "Is it because there is no God in Israel for you to consult that you have sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?"

2 Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.”

Worship him, who? (Psalm 97)

7 All who worship images are put to shame,
those who boast in idols—
worship him, all you gods!

Psalm 82. Like mere mortals?

1 God presides in the great assembly;
he renders judgment among the gods:
6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’
7 But you will die like mere mortals;

The apologist answer to these passages is that "god" sometimes means "ruler" or that what is being talked about is the mere belief, idols, or temples of people in false gods which are not real gods. The first problem with this objection is that doubt may be cast on many uses of "God" thought to refer to the Christian God. But more the problem is when gods are referred to by name (proving they are not mere rulers or kings), and when they are acting or acted upon as agents (proving they are not inert idols). To wit:

25 The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “I am about to bring punishment on Amon god of Thebes, on Pharaoh, on Egypt and her gods and her kings, and on those who rely on Pharaoh. (Jeremiah 46)

7 For because thou hast trusted in thy works and in thy treasures, thou shalt also be taken: and Chemosh shall go forth into captivity with his priests and his princes together. (Jeremiah 48)

You are obliged to believe many gods exist or existed, but only if you trust the Bible.

  • Curious Colin

    Of course there is also reference to a Mrs God Ashira maybe that what the ‘we’ in some passages means http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asherah i rather like the idea of a Mrs God, nagging him about never getting on with the little jobs and cleaning up the mess he’s left behind.

  • kraut2

    “God, Jesus, Lucifer, and Satan are the same.”

    God as the creator larger than his creation (claims by the believers) has to contain everything and everything is part of him. So by necessity he contains good and evil at the same time.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      The point is not about abstract forces of good and evil, but about particular persons which the Bible delineates as distinct.

  • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

    Ed, in my The Little Book of Unholy Questions I devote not a little space to the utterly inane passages concerning the Law of the Leper.

    That is, Leviticus 13 AND 14:

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+13&version=NKJV

    Fricking insane waste of textual energy, not least incredible that people believe God came down and demanded this shit.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      Seems like it was maybe useful for a bronze-age health class. I’ve noticed a good portion of the Bible is really tedious, dull, and irrelevant. Many chapters of Leviticus are this way.

    • Nerdsamwich

      Gotta love the way YHWH apparently thinks leprosy, eczema, and mildew are the same thing.

  • Shane

    2. Is Jesus… Satan?

    I’ve been told be an ex-Christadelphian that Satan is a transliteration, and actually means ‘adversary’ in Hebrew. There is no such entity as ‘Satan’ any more than there is an actual and permanent ‘opposition’ in government.

    When taken in this light, satan can be applied to anyone who is taking an adversarial position.

    Checking Wikipedia, this seems to hold true: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satan

    Why someone decided that ‘the adversary’ needed to be personified, I have no idea.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      In the transition from OT to NT, sociopolitical concerns seem to transit from physical to the metaphysical. Job’s book never mentions heaven or hell, just offspring and wealth. Half of the OT is about wars among clans, and who gets to control what land. An adversary is not required for the Hebrew authors, adversaries are in every direction all the time. They and their gods are adversaries against the faithful and God, but they are numerous so none of them needs to be “ultimate” or an embodiment of the idea of evil.

      But the NT authors are obsessed with war and conquest, or fear of same due to the Pax Romana. Can’t sell your story with promises of military might, and you can’t promise God will help you beat the Romans, they are too powerful. But what you can do is sell them on an afterlife, or make them fear one. Especially when the narrative mirrors your situation as a conquered religious minority. Now you need an adversary on which to blame things you can’t name for political reasons, and you need a way to defame other people’s gods because you can’t simply conquer them anymore and force them to follow yours.

      Well that is perhaps, a piece of it.

  • Felix Zamora

    On the 4th point and apologists, some Christians do follow the “many gods exist” indicated by the, primarily, the Old Testament text, just with the God of Israel being the “most God”. Michael S. Heisler probably has one of the most “gods”-focused reading of the whole Bible.

  • http://www.religiouscriticism.com/ Religious Critic

    Genesis 1:26 is usually translated as ‘In the beginning God made heaven and earth’, but in fact any biblical scholar will admit, even if only when pressed on the subject, that the word ‘Elohim’ here translated as ‘God’ is plural. The passage properly reads:

    ‘In the beginning the gods made heaven and earth’.

    It is not until later in Genesis that ‘Jehovah’ is used, meaning the singular ‘God’.

    Much of the old testament is actually based on stories about astronomical deities: the Sun (God), Saturn (Satan), Venus (Lucifer) – that’s right, in the original bible, Satan and Lucifer are actually two different entities as well!

    Today’s church preaches an extreme and radical monotheism. This is perhaps partly because of the dominance of science. In science-friendly Christianity, God has been reduced to an undifferentiated and undetectable immanence in the universe, and spirituality is nothing more than a vague and fuzzy feeling of “at-one-ness” with this immanence.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      Fascinating stuff. I wonder what you mean by “original Bible”?

    • Felix Zamora

      Plurals forms are occasionally used for the sake of emphasis in Old Testament writings, and ‘Elohim’ in particular is a term several times used in reference to singular Pagan deities (e.g. Dagon is referred to as an ‘elohim’). You need to at least get to an ‘us’ passage to start making the multiple gods argument, or at least have some cross-references.

      • http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

        There are no cross references until the New Testament.

        • Felix Zamora

          I meant the writer ought to refer to other portions of the Old Testament text. It is possible to cross-reference (on your part) even within one text (e.g. Genesis). Compare this portion to another portion to draw out similarities in the usage of terms or description of the subject to build up your case.

          Thank you both for replying.

      • http://www.religiouscriticism.com/ Religious Critic

        Have a look at this video (based on “A History of God” by Karen Armstrong – references in the description). It’s a very accessible description of the evolution of monotheism from pagan polytheism:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlnnWbkMlbg

  • Gus

    go commans for our good. you are all vile sinners destined for hell.

  • dr__pepper

    God’s apparent fear of A&E gaining power from the Tree of Life fits pretty well with the gnostic idea. If Yaweh is merely a demiurge, then there is a higher power that could have put things into his creation that he cannot control.

  • Nerdsamwich

    I’ve been telling people for years about Elohim’s fear of humanity. It surfaces again at Babel: “If they accomplish this thing, then nothing that they propose to do will be impossible for them. Therefore let us confuse their tongues, and divide them one from the other…”

    • http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      Yes, the Babel story is equally puzzling, at least it is if taken seriously. My impression is that fewer theists take that literally. Either way, it makes little sense. God “confuses their tongues” which means they have different languages. As if God (or his editor) isn’t aware that any average child is quite adept at learning several languages. The tower project could only have been delayed one generation, after which men would reach God’s sky-rise, causing its market value to plummet.