Newsweek Does a Hatchet Job on the Bible
In last week’s edition of Newsweek, the cover story was entitled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood, It’s a Sin.” As I read through it, it was hard to know whether to laugh or roll my eyes. Actually, I ended up doing both. The author of the cover article is Kurt Eichenwald, who boasts a reputation as a writer and reporter for newspapers like the New York Times and magazines including Vanity Fair.
Most of Eichenwald’s writing, however, has been in business and financial matters, including business scandals. I could not discern that he has any formal biblical training that would give him credibility to write an article like this. And it shows. His article is filled with numerous inaccuracies, historically and biblically. If he were one of my college students, I would give him an ‘F’ for shoddy research. Newsweek’s reputation will only take a hit for publishing such balderdash and twaddle. In a word, the article is “junk.” Here are a few examples, with my comments afterwards. (His words will be italics.)
Taking a cheap shot at American evangelical preachers, Eichenwald says the following:
Climate change is said to be impossible because of promises God made to Noah; Mosaic law from the Old Testament directs American government; creationism should be taught in schools; helping Syrians resist chemical weapons attacks is a sign of the end times—all of these arguments have been advanced by modern evangelical politicians and their brethren, yet none of them are supported in the Scriptures as they were originally written.
Eichenwald later says that no one has access to an original Bible, so how in the world could he possibly know what was “originally written”? A blatant fallacy of logic on his part. The truth is that, with over 5,000 manuscripts, carefully cataloged in Munster, Germany, the Bible is the best attested book in history, and we have a higher degree of assurance as to the original text than any other work of antiquity. If Eichenwald is going to simply be a radical skeptic about the reliability of the biblical manuscripts, then one would hope he is also doubting the textual veracity of far less attested works of antiquity such as Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Josephus, Tacitus, and Herodotus.
Or check out this disclaimer: “Newsweek’s exploration here of the Bible’s history and meaning is not intended to advance a particular theology.” Seriously?! My pet rock could see through this sleight of hand.
Here’s another whopper: “This examination—based in large part on the works of scores of theologians and scholars, some of which dates back centuries . . . “ The truth is this: virtually no scholars are cited except far-left skeptics. What’s amazing is that, for an article criticizing evangelicals in America, Eichenwald seems utterly and totally oblivious to the vast world of evangelical biblical scholarship.
Here is his claim that we cannot find an original text for the Bible:
No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we’ve all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.
(So back to my question: how does he know what was “originally written” if no one can read their “original” Bible?!)
Here is one of Eichenwald’s most ludicrous statements in the entire article—one that defies ignorance:
About 400 years passed between the writing of the first Christian manuscripts and their compilation into the New Testament. That’s the same amount of time between the arrival of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower and today.
This is just flat-out wrong. The New Testament canon was already well-solidified by the end of the 2nd century. Any biblical scholar—liberal or conservative—knows this. So does any first-year seminary student, for that matter. It’s hard to believe that Eichenwald’s article could pass an editor’s pen; his mistakes are juvenile.
A few other examples will clearly reveal Eichenwald’s worldview . . .
In the opening sentences of his article, he expresses his disdain for evangelical Christianity’s sexual ethic and denies that Christians have any textual basis for a negative view of homosexuality. (Oh and remember, Newsweek has no particular doctrinal axe to grind. Wink, wink.)
Or consider this clear slam on the deity of Christ: “In other words, with a little translational trickery, a fundamental tenet of Christianity—that Jesus is God—was reinforced in the Bible, even in places where it directly contradicts the rest of the verse.” Hold it. Isn’t this statement, in fact, a clear theological statement? Oh, but it couldn’t be because, remember Eichenwald’s earlier claim, “Newsweek’s exploration here of the [Bible] is not intended to advance a particular theology.”
Eichenwald further dismisses 1 Timothy as being falsely attributed to the Apostle Paul. To support this, he cites, oddly enough, Friedrich Schleiermacher, the German theologian, who is the father of modern theological liberalism and who first formulated this argument in 1807. There is no other perspective offered in the article.
Bottom line: Eichenwald’s article is shabby writing and “scholarship.” His essay is not ground-breaking in any sense of the word. The arguments he offers have been around for centuries in various forms. He simply regurgitates old, worn-out liberal ideas. He has an axe to grind, and he wants to make sure you agree with him—forget the real facts.
Book recommendations: 1) a popular level book, Craig Bloomberg’s Can We Still Believe the Bible?: An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions; 2) a scholarly level book, Michael Kruger’s The Question of Canon. Both Bloomberg and Kruger are top-rate New Testament scholars.
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor