BIBLES REVIEW: A REVIEW OF THE EDITOR’S BELIEFS (PART 1)
In April of 2000 a letter attacking the integrity of the Scriptures appeared in a publication. The complaint involved the two different genealogies given for Joseph in Matthew and in Luke. I immediately wrote a succinct response, but to my knowledge it was never published. In September the same individual, Elliott Lesser, took issue with someone else who had answered him. At that point I sent my remarks directly to him. Below is that letter, dated September 14, 2000.
Elliott Lesser’s assertion…concerning the genealogies of Christ that there is no proof that “Luke’s version pertained to Mary and Matthew to Joseph’s” is false. First of all, it is presumptuous and perhaps arrogant to think Christians throughout the first century were not as clever as Mr. Lesser and that no one therefore noticed the differences in the lists of names. Did it never occur to him that the followers of Jesus had a satisfactory explanation for the differences?
But beyond insulting the intelligence of believers who lived far closer than the critic to the time both of the establishment of Christianity and the recording of this information by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-13), the fact is that both genealogies fit the purpose of their authors. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience concerning their prophesied king and His kingdom; he would naturally refer to Joseph’s descent through the kings of Israel and Judah. Luke emphasized the humanity of Jesus in his gospel account of the Lord’s earthly life; so what could be more appropriate than to trace Jesus’ human parentage from His mother back to Adam, the first human being?
Concerning Luke 3:23, the text states that it was supposed that Jesus was the son of Joseph; then it continues by calling Jesus “the son of Heli.” In genealogies the word translated “son” can also mean “grandson.” There is no contradiction here. Furthermore, the Jewish Talmud mentions that “Mary the mother of Jesus was called the daughter of Heli.”
Although Mr. Lesser assures us that reconciliation of the two accounts is futile, it did not prove to be that difficult; a minimal amount of research was sufficient. Perhaps he would profit from Paul’s admonition not “to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:4, NKJ).
Nothing I wrote here was out of the ordinary. Those who study the Word of God and write commentaries have known for centuries that the word translated “son” is also used of those more distantly removed. The two genealogies are not even considered a serious problem by most Bible students, since the explanation of them is so readily obtained and understood.
But Mr. Lesser refuses to understand even simple things. In his letter of reply (September 27th), he said, “To date, however, no one, not even you, has come up with a satisfactory explanation for the differences and/or their many biblical verse contradictions. You seem to be incapable of acknowledging that the gospels were written by humans and humans make mistakes, lie, and create myths. The assertion that the composers wrote under divine inspiration or guidance borders on blasphemy in light of all the contradictions, errors (biblical, historical, and scientific), as well as the terrible accusations against God which make Him to appear worse than a devil.”
The reader will immediately learn many things about Mr. Lesser from this one paragraph. First, when he says no one has come up with a satisfactory explanation, he means satisfactory to HIM. As the reader will see, Mr. Lesser has appointed himself sole judge and arbiter of what the Scriptures mean and what explanations are acceptable or not. The fact is, of course, that the Word will judge him (John 12:48). Undoubtedly, however, he would say we do not understand that verse, either.
Second, he assumes that, because HE thinks the Scriptures are full of mistakes, lies, and myths, everyone else should think so as well. None of us would be incapable of acknowledging that it was purely a human product–if it were. Lesser believes that his word should be accepted over the teaching of the Bible, which claims inspiration, and has been accepted as such for nearly two millennia–somewhat equivalent to a yapping dog thinking that his incessant barking will bring down the Great Wall of China.
Third, he says that calling attention to the fact that the writers of the Bible claimed inspiration is an assertion. What a person asserts may be true or false; he implies it is false. Everyone who has READ the Bible with the intent of understanding it knows that inspiration is claimed throughout by the writers. Paul wrote: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In just these two verses Paul has endorsed the entire Old and New Testaments. Peter said that Paul wrote Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). These are all that are really needed, but as every serious Bible student knows, there are hundreds of passages that claim inspiration. Therefore, it is not my assertion–but the Bible’s claim.
Fourth, it is not blasphemous to bear witness of the Truth; it is blasphemy to OPPOSE the Truth. Jesus, for example, was adjured to say if He was the Son of God. When He acknowledged the fact, they accused Him of blasphemy (Mark 14:61-64). In similar vein, Mr. Lesser adjures people to tell him if the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God. When they acknowledge that it is so, he accuses them of blasphemy.
Fifth, because Mr. Lesser does not understand the God of the Bible (his obvious animosity gets in the way), he accuses God of being worse than the devil. The man has a reality problem: he feels that HE should be able to define God’s characteristics and tell Him how He should do things, just as he imagines that HE knows how the Scriptures should be written and what they should say. He will never need to worry about being accused of humility.
The Current Situation
A few more exchanges occurred during this past year. On April 30th of this year I received a six-page letter (single-spaced) which included all manner of attacks on the Bible. In my reply I told Mr. Lesser that I really did not have time to spend on voluminous letters of this type–but that just once I would answer each point, just to show that it could be done. I spent between one and two hours answering it on seven separate days and put it in the mail. Within two weeks I had an 18-page letter, which informed me that some of my comments were being published in his publication, Bibles Review, although he had never asked my permission.
Therefore, it seems appropriate to discuss this correspondence openly, since Mr. Lesser has already opened the door to this venue. In my addressing him, I have occasionally thrown in a few barbs, such as that one of his charges was laughable. But his letter is almost solidly vituperative in nature. Below are a montage of his statements from the 18-page letter.
…you are gullible…You fail to understand…you are making a mockery of the biblical God… (2).
You fail to understand that you cannot prove inerrancy by resorting to name-calling, and ridiculing, belittling, and insulting those with whom you disagree. Of course, since you have no facts with which to define your position you have no alternative but to engage in personal attacks. [The reader may decide who is guilty of these charges, GWS.] You also fail to realize that using one biblical verse (one fairy tale) to prove another biblical verse (fairy tale), without showing that the first verse is accurate, is meaningless drivel (2). [Note that Lesser has high expectations of us–to demand that someone prove that a fairy tale is true, GWS.]
You failed to cite…. You failed to explain… You failed to explain… You failed to explain… You failed to explain… You failed to provide any evidence… You failed to support your allegation… You are ignorant… You failed to document your allegation… (2).
You are ignorant… You failed to offer any evidence… You failed to explain… You failed to explain… You failed to explain… You are ignorant… You are also ignorant about… You failed to specify… You failed to explain… You continue to fail to understand… (3).
You continue to show unbelievable ignorance of the gospels… You show your ignorance of Christian history… You are ignorant of Christian denominations… (4).
Of course, I don’t believe the gibberish you just spouted, and I don’t believe that you believe it either. I do find it interesting and amusing how you and your ilk that claim inerrancy twist, distort, and redo verses, which you realize, are clearly not inerrant (5).
If you had studied and learned biblical history and development, you would know how stupid your invented explanations are; and how ludicrous and hilariously senseless they are. I do understand that your mind is so made up that no facts will change it. …you have continually failed… You are also so arrogant that you think you know what the biblical God wants. Your feeble attempts to explain the contradictions are not only ludicrous, but hilariously senseless (notice how he repeats himself, GWS). You are the one who has failed… (5).
Clearly, you are ignorant of these verses… You failed to… Rather than accepting the verses for what they say, you twist them to fit your inerrancy absurdity. You also failed to prove… Among your other failures… If you were not ignorant… You failed… You showed your ignorance of… And, if you were not ignorant … (6).
If you were not so ignorant of Christian history and so filled with stupid prejudice… As usual you demonstrate your ignorance of the gospels, ACTS [sic], and some of the epistles. And you in your hatred… You failed to explain… You have failed to refute anything I have written… You failed to cite… You failed to explain… …your ignorance of it is incomprehensible. You show your ignorance of … You create quite an absurdity… (7).
You show more ignorance… You are also ignorant of… As I said above, you are ignorant of… You failed to explain… You failed to realize… You also failed to explain… Once more, you demonstrate your ignorance of the gospels… (8).
If my comments cause laughter, then yours would induce uncontrollable belly laughs for a year (Ooh, good comeback, GWS). You failed to explain… Your biblical ignorance is beyond comprehension. If you were not ignorant of biblical history and development… You are so obsessed… You finally admitted the truth: you are ignorant and stupid. You also show your hatred… If you spent more time studying about the Bible, instead of misinterpreting, distorting, and mistranslating biblical verses, you might learn something about your Bible. But, then you don’t want to learn that your Bible is fiction, not inspired and inerrant (9).
You failed to understand… If you knew history… You failed to explain… The Bible and you failed to explain… You also failed to prove… Incidentally, you failed to explain… You even failed… You have the habit of misquoting me; apparently you do not read very well, hence all of your errors about the biblical verses. You, meanwhile, failed to present… You again failed to realize… Your ridicule and insulting remarks prove that you are so ignorant of the Bible… If you had facts at your disposal… I have learned, however, from past experience that I cannot expect anything else from biblical ignoramuses like you (10).
You failed to document… You continue to show your abysmal ignorance of the Bible… You failed to explain… You again maliciously misquote me… You know you are lying when you say that… (11).
…this is indeed a peculiar statement coming from someone who is as ignorant of the Bible and devoid of humility as you. You have failed to explain… You, like your ilk, have to pick and choose your verses out of context… You failed to support your claim… It is your alibi that is absurd. You also make a fool out of God… (12).
You claim that one must believe the nonsense about the Bible being inspired and inerrant… There you go lying again. If you will lie about something so trivial… (13).
Your prejudice and hatred… You also failed… You are either lying again or are ignorant… Unlike you, I prefer to deal with facts… …you have failed miserably to show… You are so obsessed with your hatred… (14). If you knew Bible history… What a shame, you don’t use your brain… You really should read your Bible (15).
If you had spent as much time studying Christian history… (17).
You are ignorant… I also do not care to deal with someone who, rather than presenting logical or reasonable arguments, resorts to lies, misquotes, and, who makes nonsensical statements that he cannot defend with evidence (18).
Believe it or not, there were several other comments of this type, but these should suffice to reveal Mr. Lesser’s attitude toward those who deign to disagree with him. He obviously lacks any graciousness whatsoever and cannot sincerely study a subject without becoming abusive. It is important to realize something about this approach: He is arguing from an emotional basis, not a logical one. Most people can stick to the issue without feeling the need to continually belittle someone else. Anyone who was present for the Warren-Flew or Warren-Matson debates (or who has read them) knows that these atheists were civil in their approach to brother Warren. They vigorously disagreed with him, but they did not walk to the platform each evening to spew out invective for the duration of their speeches. In Mr. Lesser, however, dwells an obvious intense hatred, which will always make him the lesser man in any discussion, verbal or written.
He places the letters, Ph. D., after his name, but he does not behave as a scholar. I have only a lowly M.A., but anyone entering graduate work takes a research course, in which the student is taught to DOCUMENT what he writes. In five letters, Lesser has yet to cite a single source adequately (one that provides a source and validates his claims). All of his assertions about what the Christian church teaches and what historians believe he could have just as easily made up off the top of his head. This is not an insult; it is a fact–one that he cannot deny. He has an obligation to show where he gets his historical and religious information; curiously, he never does so. A lack of documentation makes a “scholar” both shoddy and greatly suspect.