• 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.

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  • Article by: Edward Clint

    Ed Clint is an evolutionary psychologist, co-founder of Skeptic Ink, and USAF veteran.