Salon deletes an article pointing out that the Bible is not divinely inspired or written, and is full of flaws as well

The name Valerie Tarico rings a bell with me; I suspect I’ve heard her name around secular or atheist meetings. And yes, her website confirms that she’s a secularist:

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington.  She completed her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Iowa and postdoctoral studies at the University of Washington. . . .

As a writer Valerie tackles the intersection between religious belief, psychology and politics, with a growing focus on women’s issues and contraceptive technologies that she thinks are upstream game changers for a broad range of challenges that humanity faces.

Valerie is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light, and Deas and Other Imaginings: 10 Spiritual Folktales for Children. She currently writes for the Alternet, and occasionally for Huffington Post and Truthout.

According to the Daily Wire, Tarico wrote an article for Salon called “Why is the Bible so badly written?”, and, after it was up for a while, there was sufficient pushback from readers that the piece was pulled. Here’s the evidence from Twitter, plus you can see the vestigial remnants of the piece on this page, with its URL and title remaining. Otherwise, the page is blank.

Why was the article pulled? Well, it’s still up on Alternet in what appears to be its original form (I’ve also archived it here), and I’m not sure why it didn’t meet Salon’s abysmally low “editorial standards”. There are parts of it that aren’t written particularly well, but they’re no worse than the fare you usually get at Salon.

No, the article was pulled because it points out something that every rational person knows: the Bible is a human-made document; contradicts itself (e.g., the conflicting two creation stories as well as the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection); is subject to translation errors (e.g, Mary being a “virgin”); is poorly written and tedious (something I’ve always maintained, contra Dawkins; and was cobbled together over hundreds of years, with the Gospels that we have being a selection from a greater number.

Her most damning accusation is that there’s no evidence that the Bible was dictated by God (or written by Moses et al.). Her argument that God would have produced more beautiful language is a bit weak, but this part, a version of Carl Sagan’s critique, is telling:

 As a modern person reading the Bible, one can’t help but think about how the pages might have been better filled. Could none of this have been pared away? Couldn’t the writers have made room instead for a few short sentences that might have changed history: Wash your hands after you poop.Don’t have sex with someone who doesn’t want to.Witchcraft isn’t real. Slavery is forbiddenWe are all God’s chosen people.

At the end, Tarico made a fatal mistake: she compares the Bible to her friend’s collection of pigs, which, like my own collection of penguins, was a grab-bag of various effigies given by friends and acquired at thrift shops.  As she says, “The texts of the Bible are a bit of a pig collection.”  Oy! Pigs!  She should have used another simile, for that one—and the rest of the article—brought out the termites. Here are a few objections reproduced by The Daily Wire:

It goes on.  Have a look at Tarico’s piece, which would surely be enlightening to Biblical literalists with an open mind (is that an oxymoron?) who didn’t know the evidence for its human origins. Tarico’s is not the greatest piece in the world, but it’s no worse than most of the stuff on Salon (and is better than some); but it was apparently deep-sixed because it criticized the Holy Bible.

Salon, of course, has a deep history of damning atheists (including indicting us for sexual malfeasance), going after Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, and so on. It’s no surprise that they’d excise an article revealing that the Bible isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

The only issue is why The Daily Wire revealed this. The site is a right-wing venue run by an orthodox Jew, Ben Shapiro. The editors are surely sympathetic to at least the Old Testament, but Tarico goes after that, too. All of their articles have an ideological agenda, and I suspect that what they’re doing is simply gloating about Salon having removed Tarico’s piece.

96 Comments

  1. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I think Tarico is a marvelous writer. She is heavily involved in the website exchristians.net .

    I read “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” on summer vacation in 2014 and thought it one of the most thoughtful critiques of evangelicalism I had read in a while.
    (It’s a heavily revised version of “The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth”).

    Salon could have simply invited a rebuttal article and no harm no foul.

    Tarico’s most obvious point is the very eclecticism of the Bible.

  2. Jonathan Dore
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Dawkins’s admiration is specifically for the literary quality of the 1611 translation, not the source material.

    • Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and I read the King James version and found bits of it poetic, but as a whole it’s boring and tedious. Hardly great literature.

      • Hemidactylus
        Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        I recall as a younger believer trying to read the bible and having my brain go into shutdown and blue screen of death modes. I thought the problem was with me.

        The Documentary Hypothesis has been around since long before you or I were born. The cobbled and contradictory nature of the bible is not a novel idea. It is not a very good book overall.

        Comparing it to a collection of pigs may be insulting to the intelligence of pigs. Yet similar to feral pigs the book invades a neural ecosystem, roots around, and fouls the waters of the thoughtstream.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

          The Documentary Hypothesis has been around since long before you or I were born.

          You mean the one about “Q” and several other “documents” being sliced and diced together to form at least Genesis, if not more of the OT. As I recall, that hypothesis came out in the 1820s or so – and I know I don’t care enough about the BuyBull to have made even a passing study of it.
          Wikipedia tells me that it was going on from about 1780 to 1850. Not overnight, to no one’s surprise.

          • Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

            The Q Source hypothesis sought to explain — by positing a now-lost document — the literary interdependency of the synoptic gospels, while still maintaining the premise that they each also drew from a common ‘oral tradition.’

            The most parsimonious explanation is that Matthew is wholly derivative of Mark, and Luke of those two.

            For the OT, several “hands” have been identified, the orthodox belief being these several authors independently drew from, again, oral traditions. However, compelling scholarly work has been presented in recent years that the OT was written no earlier than the 3rd century BC, and was heavily patterned on Greek literature.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted February 9, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

              compelling scholarly work has been presented in recent years that the OT was written no earlier than the 3rd century BC, and was heavily patterned on Greek literature.

              If I ever see a Christian fundamentalist in dire need of an apoplectic fit, I know where to go to fill that need.

          • Craw
            Posted February 9, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

            No, the “documentary hypothesis “ is not about Q. It is about the first 5 books of the Bible. Q is about the gospels.

        • Vaal
          Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

          I recall as a younger believer trying to read the bible and having my brain go into shutdown and blue screen of death modes.

          Ha! That captures my reaction too when I was young and sent to church.

          My mother who is at best “Christian-lite,” thought it would be good for us to know something about Christianity and as we had a church right in the middle of our street, she sent her boys (my brother and I) to Sunday school.

          Little did she know this was a hell and apocalypse-preaching baptist church! I’ll never forget the greasy-smiles of the pastors and men leading the boys bible study group, the sense, always there, that someone was trying to convince us of something in any way possible.

          I remember reading the bible along with the preacher and just never connecting to any of it. It was dead. Sterile. Nothing at all resonated off the page and all I thought is “Why do I have to memorize this stuff?”

          It’s amazing an all powerful, all loving God, trying His best, couldn’t connect with an average boy’s mind. Better luck next revelation I guess. (And, off to hell I go…no need to show me the door…)

          • harrync
            Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

            Like Vaal, I have wondered why an all knowing, all powerful god can not write a coherent, convincing, holy book.

      • Geoff Toscano
        Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Rather like the music of Wagner ‘moments of greatness interspersed with hours of tedium’(or something like that).

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

          I would claim that the Wagner opera which most fits the negative stereotypes of his music is “Parzival”. While I think “Gotterdamerung” more or less earns its 6 hour length, Pzvl does not.
          The first Act could be cut from 2 hours to 45 minutes without losing much.

          • Hemidactylus
            Posted February 9, 2018 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

            Though better than the Avengers version of Ragnarok, Wagner’s ring cycle is long and boring overkill and from what I recall pulls in some contemporary antisemitic themes. Wasn’t Wagner associated intellectually with Gobineau? Nietzsche drew his line in the sand with Wagner.

            Trying to reread Viereck’s Metapolitics on the cultural streams leading into Nazism. Used to be up on this stuff years ago as I also was deeply interested in Haeckel’s Germanized Darwinism but may have taken Gasman with more than a grain of salt.

            Anyway Houston Chamberlain somehow links Wagnerism to the origins of Nazism. Didn’t he influence Rosenberg? More topically there was an Aryanized Christ stream. Richard Noll traced this in Carl Jung, but Jung was more a sideshow or cultural eddy.

            • Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

              This article does a decent job covering Wagner’s anti-semitism, the connection with Gobineau, and how his music came to be associated with Nazis:

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagner_controversies

            • JonLynnHarvey
              Posted February 9, 2018 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

              Wagner indeed was an incipient racist whose ideas fed into much more virulent streams of anti-Semitism, notably those of his son-in-law Houston Chamberlain.
              The dwarves in the Ring cycle can be easily read as an anti-Semitic stereotype. (However, Wagner seems to have gone to lengths to assure that the world premiere of Parcival was conducted by a Jewish conductor, apparently to atone for past infelicities.)

              However, I think Richard Noll’s analysis of Carl Jung has been largely discredited.

              • Hemidactylus
                Posted February 9, 2018 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

                I know Anthony Stevens and Sonu Shamdasani were understandably not fond of Noll, but how has he been discredited? Admittedly I am years from having delved into this stuff.

                My personal interest was connection between Jung and Haeckel. I later developed an interest in Jung’s intellectual debt to Haeckel’s student Richard Semon. To me Jung’s comparative anatomy of the psyche dovetailed with the views Goethe and Richard Owen brought into biology and his views on how the psyche develops had a Haeckelian echo.

                Noll’s criticisms of Jungian cultishness were secondary to those interests, but very concerning nonetheless.

          • Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

            Do you mean the music itself, or the libretto/dramatic content? Most of Parsifal is fairly gorgeous, musically speaking.

            • JonLynnHarvey
              Posted February 9, 2018 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

              libretto!!!

          • Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            Funnily enough, I’d say Geoff Toscano’s comment more aptly fits the Ring cycle. In all of the four operas there are, imo, maybe 15 great musical moments, comprising perhaps an hour and a half of music.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

              Wagner’s music is a lot better than it sounds, as the saying goes.

              • Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

                Ha!

                Actually, I might in all seriousness as it sounds better than it is. Wagner was a master of effect. His music makes an impression and has enough going on to be interesting on the surface, but it’s not the profoundly logical and intelligent music you get from Bach or Brahms.

              • JonLynnHarvey
                Posted February 9, 2018 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

                That is a quote from Mark Twain.

                There is also Woody Allen’s quip (or that of his character in Manhattan Murder Mystery):
                “I can’t listen to too much Wagner. It makes me want to invade Poland.”

        • Posted February 9, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

          Stretch out on some:

          Xenakis, Webern, Berio, Stockhausen, Penderecki, Lutoslawski, Ligeti, Foss, Cage, Satie, Reich, Zappa, and, of course, Charles Ives

          and then Wagner will appear like a Disney soundtrack. I love Wagner (and all the above).

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 9, 2018 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        I’m rather fond of the work of King James’s committeemen in Isaiah and Ezekiel and Ecclesiastes and Psalms. But the Bible is riddled with abundant longueurs, I’ll concede you that.

  3. Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Jerry. I’ve written to Salon asking for more insight into their reasoning but haven’t yet heard back.

    For your readers, yes, the version at AlterNet is an exact mirror of the one that appeared and disappeared at Salon.

    In hindsight I could have acknowledged more clearly that the Bible does contain bit of beauty, wisdom and enduring stories along with the dross. I later did so at my own website, ValerieTarico.com.

    And yes regarding the pigs. 🙂

    • yazikus
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      I always enjoy coming across your articles when reading the news. Cheers!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      that the Bible does contain bit of beauty, wisdom and enduring stories along with the dross.

      Of course it does. The Utnapishtim story, for example, had been being inscribed into clay tablets for the thick end of a millennium before being copied into the BuyBull under the name of Noah. That’s a greater sign of literary longevity than, for example, Shakespeare or Le Morte d’Arthur

      • Posted February 12, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        It always struck me as being old, even in _Gilgamesh_ – like an add-on somehow.

    • Hemidactylus
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      I avoided Alternet and read this:

      https://valerietarico.com/2018/01/28/why-is-the-bible-so-badly-written/

      Nothing particularly cringeworthy to my biased secular sensibilities. Here you would be preaching to the choir. I echo the heading “It’s Not About You”. I think it was after reading Pagels Revelations that the Carly Simon lyrics: “You’re so vain…You probably think this song is about you” started echoing through my head for the LaHaye fans who obsess over the biblical end times. John of Patmos was railing about contemporaneously grounded stuff that cannot be anachronistically forcefit to the situation of each successive generation. The take home message of Revelation for me is to never take hallucinogens so as to avoid a bad trip.

      The flood story and the theme of a serpent trickster robbing humans of immortality seem to connect the bible to Gilgamesh and its narrative sister groups by thematic homology. Other far flung cultures have converged on flood stories…well…because people live near water, but the Jewish traditions seem connected to Mesopotamia.

      Demonizing serpents could be a primate byproduct of an adaptive prepared fear thing that would be a themic commonality if so. Poor misunderstood snakes. Fear of snakes can be overcome.

    • Geoff Toscano
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Valerie, I’ve been reading you for ages and I think you write very sensibly. Everyone can look back and see what they may have said better, but if that was the only criterion then nothing would ever be written. Nothing.

  4. Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    A very cowardly thing to do by Salon. But publishing is a business model. The editors have homes and cars and children’s tuitions to think about. It’s not really about religion, it’s about losing readers. In this case, insecure readers have echoed their concern: criticism of ‘my faith’ should not be allowed.

    The whittling of free speech comes first from seemingly innocuous worries of believers incapable or unwilling to defending their position.

    • ploubere
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      It’s true, a successful publishing model must indeed appeal to its chosen audience. That’s why Fox News and Breitbart are doing well. So then Salon has to decide on its audience, and if it’s going to be some form of vaguely liberal religious apologetics, they’ve certainly lost me. Perhaps they’ll do well with the Discovery Institute crowd.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    “upstream game changers” — There’s a mixed metaphor I can’t wrap my head around. Has it something to do with a new method of tying trout-fishing flies?

    • darrelle
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      Probably something to do with sewage.

  6. Jon Gallant
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    This is intriguing. I was aware that pop-Left media go after writers like Harris and Dawkins because they challenge Islam, which is a non-no called “Islamophobia”. But now, Salon is also excommunicating Bibleophobia.

    This is of a piece with the British academic and London Review of Books writer Terry Eagleton, who is simultaneously a pop-Left propagandist, a post-modernist, and a fierce critic of the New Atheists. These writers, he contends, fail to understand that “because God is transcendent of us (which is another way of saying that he did not have to bring us about), he is free of any neurotic need for us and wants simply to be allowed to love us.” Perhaps we can look forward to an explicit merger of the Vatican with Salon, the PM journal “Social Text”. and Eagleton.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      Eagleton (and, I must say, I want to phrase this in as sophisticated a manner as possible) is a bozo. His critique of Dawkins told me a *lot* more about Eagleton that it did about Dawkins.

  7. glen1davidson
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it a lot easier than it was made out to be? I mean, wouldn’t a few otherwise unknown scientific facts not only show that at least something mysterious is behind the Bible, and prove very valuable to humanity?

    You know those sicknesses you get? They’re not spirits, they’re tiny micro-organisms. Make some clear glass lenses (glass recipe included), put them at both ends of the tubes, and start seeing what kills you. Check out molds for things that will kill the bacteria and not you. By the way, the earth’s basically a sphere orbiting the sun.

    Here’s a diagram for a steam engine. You’ll need good metallurgy and precision manufacturing, but it’s worth it.

    F=ma. E=1/2mv^2

    But no, we get the “thou shalt nots” and begats, nothing that really helps humanity.

    How well it’s written matters a lot less than the general worthlessness of what is written.

    Glen Davidson

    • Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      In the case of biblical drivel, it matters not to the quality, it’s usefulness, to a believing brain it just requires the right environment and timing…
      god type words are an evolutionary artefact, like stone tools to humans and the neuronal cognitive belief systems applied just as evolutionary but, applied without context, discretion (to visualise say) and uncritically in the 21st century is a fail.
      It is not a counter biblical odyssey that was needed, it was the weight of evidence built up against it that has made it redundant and supernatural.
      Unfortunately this took time and time to me is your “steam engine” hard to stop with a full head.
      All this means nothing to a believing brain, no matter how ridiculous, contradictory, badly written, or not. Religious stories and the hard and fast holders of such beliefs do not care, that is self evident.
      Still, it needs exposing in any manner possible, derailing as it were, side tracking over a cliff.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Dear Mr. Davidson:

      If I’m not mistaken, I believe you are overlooking the fact that simple, useful scientific facts don’t work nearly as well for controlling the populace and securing the livelihood of the priests as do oracular pronouncements, fulminations against the “ungodly”, and things that supposedly are revelations from god (such as, that bats are birds).

      • Posted February 10, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        Why can’t they have both? Having fact after fact confirmed would convince a lot of people, and the people could still be controlled by thou shalt nots.

  8. Hemidactylus
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Is alternet one of those heavily link and ad encumbered venues with bunches of flailing scripts:

    https://sitecheck.sucuri.net/results/www.alternet.org/belief/why-bible-so-badly-written

    Could be false positive:

    https://www.virustotal.com/en/url/ade666812b3f28b8b6cc01da217780764956426f08f3315c9425cc9356a1fcf7/analysis/1518201717/

  9. busterggi
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    there will always be people who will pull the curtain around to cover the man hiding behind it and say he was not there.

  10. Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate Valerie Tarico and her courage, sincerity and unrelenting effort to disrupt the stranglehold of Judeo-Christian dogma and revisionism on the national zeitgeist. It’s not only extremely fascinating scholarship but one the most important tasks of our time and vital to our very future as a species.

    I also appreciate how she always strives to ‘keep it simple, stupid’ for her internet readership. My only qualm is how this simplicity itself plays into the hands of her most ardent fundamentalist critics who eagerly confuse her light-hearted explorations as either childish or unworthy of the great body of pseudo-scholarship, false epistemology and endless spin of theological apologetics they are accustomed to.

    Unfortunately, their criticism is a valid one. Not that they would find it any more persuasive because that’s not where their Identity-Protective interests lie.

    As with most ideological/religious brain viruses, they’re not really interested in evidence or eristical scholarship regardless of how it is cited, supported or presented. If they were they would not be reading Salon magazine, but poring through the thousands of scholarly texts culled over centuries across a wide variety of disciplines that more than sufficiently reveal the mythological, mnemo-historical and paratactic styles of storytelling dating back to when humans first began to speak and write.

    To say that the Bible is poorly written as evidence of its human origins is fair enough, but there are far more compelling and scholarly arguments to offer that make it conclusive and irrefutable.

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    The site is a right-wing venue run by an orthodox Jew, Ben Shapiro.

    And founded by über-WASP Tucker Carlson. Two of ’em remind me of odd bedfellows who ended up rooming together in the freshman dorm only ’cause nobody else could stand to be around the smug, disagreeable little pricks.

    • yazikus
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Would that make Dave Rubin their RA?

  12. Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I’ve read this before. It’s meandering fluff, and a bit puerile. Not Dave Fitzgerald-level puerile, but still.

    Sure, Bart Ehrman wrote a useful pop book Forged, but nearly two centuries of scholarly work exists from which a skillful journalist (who’d actually read any of it) could draw and present to a lay audience. Hermann Detering’s The Farbicated Paul, which is quite concise and eloquent wrt the fake greetings in the Pauline Epistles, may have lent a quote. In general, the epistles’ fragmentation, anachronisms, and signs of heavy interpolation may have merited a bit more attention.

    The audiences Tarico identifies for the first and fourth gospels are highly speculative. The most compelling heterodox theory, that the gospels were written as allegory & exegesis and were never intended to serve as historical accounts (nor were built on any “adapted hand-me-down stories”), is ignored by her.

    A brief presentation of the conundrum of the short and long endings of Mark would have been far a better expenditure of column inches than a flippant tangent on some kid bumming money off his mom.

    To suggest a redaction of the bible to contain only elements of “enduring beauty or usefulness” is to propose a futile and pointless exercise. Better we take a fresh look at the bible so as to understand its original purpose and method of construction.

    • Posted February 9, 2018 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Thomas Jefferson has already edited the bible
      to rid it of some of the miracles, etc. If we delete the stories, mythologies, religions and philosophies incorporated from other cultures, there’s little left but made-up history, fake genealogies and mis-translations.

      There were centuries of disagreement about “…the Torah, the books of the Prophets and the books of the Writings. Within Judaism this trio is known simply as the Bible, or the Tanakh, an acronym derived from תורה/ Torah (Teaching), נביאים / Nevi’im (Prophets), and כתובים/ Ketuvim (Writings)
      …” Differing sects of jewish believers argued. After it morphed into the OT for christians (to give the new religion a semblance of longevity), there were centuries of argument between all elements of the proto-christian (jewish followers of Jesus’ brother James in Jerusalem) and the many different brands of christianity that developed. It took centuries to create a catholic dogma (that has never truly achieved catholicism). There is no consensus in the text or the interpretation. Investigation, argument and disagreement about bible origins and meanings started many centuries before the more scientific approach by the Germans and others in the 1800s+ and ever since.

      Considering that the bible is more akin to an encyclopedia than one continuous history or story, only evangelicals and other uneducated people believe the bible is “true” and “the word of god”.

      • Posted February 12, 2018 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Indeed – Newton and Spinoza, for example, were pioneering biblical critics. (For different reasons, as it happens.)

  13. J. Quinton
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Bible thumpers want to have their cake and eat it too.

    There are parts that are poorly written, especially if you read them in their original language (like the gospel of Mark. Imagine reading a 16 chapter story where literally every sentence starts with “and” or “immediately”). And then there are other parts that point to a clever/artistic mind.

    My favorite example of the latter is the gospel of John. If you read it in its original language, the creativity and intelligence of the writer is apparent. Yet it’s these same qualities that prove it’s a work of fiction and cannot have been composed by any sort of eyewitness.

    John 3
    3 Jesus answered him, Believe me when I tell thee this; a man cannot see the kingdom of God without being born again.
    4 Why, Nicodemus asked him, how is it possible that a man should be born when he is already old?

    The phrase “born again” in Greek is γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν (gennethe anothen). It’s actually a clever wordplay because ‘anothen’ can also mean “from above”. It’s the sort of wordplay you might expect in a Shakespeare play.

    But this wordplay can only happen in Greek. No other language that existed at the time had a word that could mean both “again” and “from above” that would have confused Nikodemus in that way. Meaning that this conversation is a creation of the author, not history.

    Then there are other instances of creativity betraying historicity. Like when Mark introduces a character called “the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus”. Why would you have that redundancy unless you’re trying to teach the reader that “bar” means “son of”? And then later still in Mark Jesus prays “Abba, father…”. Why would Jesus, who is presumably speaking in Aramaic throughout this entire gospel, also have a redundancy like that — Aramaic, then Greek — unless the writer is trying to teach the reader that “abba” means “father”? And then after both of those episodes we are introduced to a character who is about to be crucified named… Jesus BarAbba.

    If you want to claim that the Bible is a sublime work of art, then you will have to concede that it exactly that. A work of art, and not a CNN report of the past. It’s no more historical than Macbeth. Adding to that the fact that some parts are Macbeth and some parts are Twilight should dissuade anyone from thinking it was divinely inspired. More like a work that is the collection of multiple authors all with different artistic and theological agendas.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for providing the detail.

    • Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      True all that about the gospels.

      MacBeth at least is semi-autobiographical.

      • Posted February 9, 2018 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        Errr… no it isn’t. Shakes wasn’t even Scottish.

        • Craw
          Posted February 9, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

          Was De Vere?

          😉

          (We have a Oxfordian amongst the regulars)

        • Posted February 10, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          My mistake. I meant Hamlet.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        The “b” in the middle of that name isn’t capitalized, as to both play and protagonist.

      • Posted February 9, 2018 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        Wasn’t it written to please James I?

        /@

        • Posted February 10, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

          James was into witchcraft. A very tenuous connection, though, especially as strong evidence exists that Macbeth was written prior to 1602, and in reference to the trial of Mary Queen of Scots.

          • Posted February 10, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

            I was think about the decendants of Duncan foreseen with “two-fold crowns” – i.e., for Scotland and England.

            /@

            • Posted February 10, 2018 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

              Ah. Perhaps.

    • Posted February 9, 2018 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Wish I had also studied Greek and Aramaic. So much to know, so little time.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      A question from an ignoramus. Does not the OT also contain plenty of examples of wordplay? Not to mention characters like the trickster Jacob, or the Herculean Samson. Surely all characteristic of early-civilisation myths and tropes?

      I thought Ms Tarico’s article perfectly to the point and well argued. What does Salon’s reaction say about them, other than that they are in thrall to those who cannot countenance anything other than a literal interpretation of the Big Book of Magic Stuff? Do they understand what this says about their commitment to honest journalism on any other subject?

      • Posted February 12, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        I don’t know if it is wordplay or just weirdness, but the story of Noah tells of animals entering the ark “two-two” – or so the readers of Hebrew tell me. If only I had known that as a kid – it would have been interesting when I read _Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang_.

    • Posted February 10, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      I did not know that. That’s wonderful wordplay on the author’s part!

  14. Wotan Nichols
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I thought it was Christopher Hitchens who admitted that it was admirably modest of Yahweh to create people like Shakespeare, for example, who could write so much better than he. Sorry, He.

  15. Liz
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Some good non-biblical word play from the Latin poet Catullus circa 84 – 54 BC writing about the death of his girlfriend’s beloved sparrow. In reference to the sparrow: “…but hopping around now here now there…” The alliteration in the Latin: “sed circumsiliens modo huc modo illuc.” https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Catullus_3

    • Liz
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      onomatopoeia* I meant.

  16. KD33
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Read the article, and enjoyed it. I’d fault it for being a bit breezy, but otherwise thought it was a clear, informal view of the text and a tidy explanation of why the Bible is, indeed, so badly written by our standards. The author touches on just enough original subject material to indicate she knows something about the subject. Its offensiveness must come from its complete lack of reference for the Bible as revelation. But I found the author to be sympathetic to the real Iron Age people who actually wrote it.

    The critical comments you post in the post make their authors seem like idiots.

  17. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    ‘Cause if it WAS written by a 15 year old who just discovered atheism, that would mean … that’d be … they’d …

    OH I mean what they *wrote* is …what they wrote would be … not … true. Because 15 years. Oh and shes just looking for attention. Not like me though.

    NAILED IT.

    • Liz
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Nice.

  18. Posted February 9, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I would delete the article too. This is hardly news. Of course it’s man made and (ergo) full of flaws.

    • KD33
      Posted February 10, 2018 at 1:22 am | Permalink

      it’s still news to a lot of people. And I found the article to be a nice summary of said news.

  19. papalinton
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I actually didn’t find the pig collection reference at all out of place. What it demonstrates in spades, is the utterly misplaced offence expressed by religionists about criticism of the bible. They are inured to biblical criticism, genuine or otherwise, hardened through centuries of apologetics. Bona fide criticism of the bible is to them water off a duck’s back.

    What irks believers most is not even the association between the anthological collection of bible stories and the pig collection, but that pig and bible inhabit the same sentence.

    In my opinion it is a powerful message, and an apt one. Despite their hydrophobic objection to the bible collection being likened to a pig collection the comparison is apposite. The bible collection, replete with competing, conflicting, nonsensical messages, really is an authorial pig’s breakfast [slops] in reality.

    • Hemidactylus
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      So the bible is scrapple? That’s just offal.

  20. Roger
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Your article decrying a “badly written” book can’t even bother to quote or cite any scholarly evangelical definitions or defenders of inerrancy or inspiration.

    Oh boo hoo. Yeah Jesus went around chasing demons and then floated up in the sky on a cloudy-poo. Where do I sign up to be a scholarly evangelical.

    • Hemidactylus
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Speaking of Jesus battling demons, he transferred demons from a person to some hapless pigs who ran into the water and drowned. Borrowing Pinker’s borrowing of Singer’s expanding circle, people can act better than that toward animals. PETA should build a time machine and protest Jesus for such travesty and God for cursing the foreseeable act of the serpent in Eden which has doomed many future snakes to die via ignorant superstition.

      Jainists IMO take reverence for animals too far, but they surpass the tenets of Christianity as expressed by Jesus against the Gadarene swine.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exorcism_of_the_Gerasene_demoniac

      Too bad the omniscience of Jesus didn’t clue him into the knowledge of our contemporary behavioral sciences. There were some missteps along the way with lobotomies, ECT, and other bad treatments, but at least trepanning, exorcism, and demon theory have largely been abandoned.

      But there is some allure to the computer metaphor of daemonic subroutines which was explored by Mr Robot, and may be akin to neo-phrenological massive modularity (contra spandrels). And memeticists seem to believe in ideological possession based on a metaphorically genic idee fixe.

      • glen1davidson
        Posted February 9, 2018 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        El Al wouldn’t allow Jesus to take his emotional support pigs on the plane.

        Glen Davidson

        • Hemidactylus
          Posted February 9, 2018 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

          They wouldn’t flush easily?

  21. Posted February 9, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Modern Biblical scholars have established that the Bible is a wiki. It was compiled over half a millennium from writers with different styles, dialects, character names, and conceptions of God, and it was subjected to haphazard editing that left it with many contradictions, duplications, and non sequiturs.

    — Stephen Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature, ISBN 978-1-846-14093-8, p. 11

    /@

    • Posted February 10, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      If Wikis contained that many contradictions and non sequiturs they’d be branches of conservapedia.

  22. Richard Sanderson
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    “did not meet our editorial standards”

    Salon doesn’t have any standards. What bulls***.

    • glen1davidson
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know, I think it may have been too reasonable for Salon.

      To be sure, it’s no great article, but a lot better than some of Salon‘s nonsense.

      Glen Davidson

  23. Mark Joseph
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Biblical literalists with an open mind (is that an oxymoron?)

    Yes.

    Always happy to help out.

  24. jaxkayaker
    Posted February 10, 2018 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    What were Salon’s attempts at implicating atheists in sexual malfeasance? I’m curious, but not familiar.

  25. Posted February 10, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    It is cowardly of Salon.

  26. Posted February 11, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    The only value of a religion to the elites running the show is as a control of the behavior of the masses. Occasionally a demonstration of that power is necessary to re-establish that it exists.

    On Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 11:31 AM, Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “The name Valerie Tarico rings a bell with me; > I suspect I’ve heard her name around secular or atheist meetings. And yes, > her website confirms that she’s a secularist: Valerie Tarico is a > psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She completed her ” >

  27. Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Tarico is a hack who likes to set up straw men because she doesn’t have any serious grasp of what it is that she’s arguing against or for.

    • Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      triggerman is a troll who likes to make assertions without evidence. (Apparently.)

      /@

    • Posted March 29, 2018 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      You hurt my feelings, Triggerman. After 25 years in church and Bible study groups and after graduating something cum laude from Wheaton College, you say I so failed to grasp the Evangelical view of the Bible that I’m unqualified to write polemic about it.

      I’ll concede that it may be true, if you might be willing to concede that the same is true of millions of other Evangelicals whose worldview much of my writing aims to challenge.

      Let me also concede this: The notion that the Bible is poorly organized and full of bad writing is far more controversial among literati and the lay public than among non-fundamentalist Bible scholars, and more controversial than I realized. In hindsight, I should have added more qualifiers and documentation to the article Salon pulled, and I have since done so in the version at my own website, ValerieTarico.com.

      I learned quite a bit from the controversy that strengthened the argument. Not being an expert in the languages of the Ancient Near East, I didn’t know, for example, that many such experts consider parts of the New Testament to be terrible writing *in the original Koine*.

      • Posted March 30, 2018 at 6:34 am | Permalink

        Wow, only 25 years?

        Yes, not only did you “fail to grasp it” you completely straw manned the view that even most people who would not necessarily identify as “fundamentalists” or even “evangelical” actually possess.

        Even if it is true that some misinformed, misunderstanding souls hold that view, it’s low-hanging fruit. It’s lazy writing.

        That’s nice that you’ve provided more “qualifiers” but not liking how something is written or organized is just uncharitable. At least the Protestant canon is organized in a crude, somewhat chronological order of events, the Jewish canon, the TNK, is arranged somewhat topically. Maybe you’d prefer that? I mean, I’d prefer Luke/Acts actually being together rather than split by John, especially since they were written by the same author, using more formal Greek, but the powers that be—the church of history—even though they recognized this felt compelled to group the gospels together and stick Acts off by itself to close what is seen as the historical portion of the New Testament canon. I would like to see the five books of Psalms more prominently articulated in the text to demonstrate their existence, as well as the dozen or so clearly interrupted and differentiated psalms put back together, but history hasn’t allowed that. I’d really like to see the pronounced difference between the Dead Sea Scrolls version and the Masoretic version of Jeremiah noted in the text. No such luck. And people would probably lose their collective stuffing if they knew about Second Ezra…sheesh. Talk about controversy.

        Opinions are like armpits. I wonder what Hart’s standard of “good Greek” is considering as he’s trying to render a “literal” translation, which no one ACTUALLY does unless you’re reading an in-line diglot.

        • Posted March 30, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          I don’t know that the words “straw man” apply to beliefs held by millions of people (which you dismiss as “some”) and which are the very beliefs I am attempting to undermine.

          To quote the evangelical site, Defending Inerrancy:

          “Inspiration. . . deals with the origin of the Bible. Evangelicals believe that “God breathed out” the words of the Bible using human writers as the vehicle. Paul writes,
          “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (literally “is God-breathed”), 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 Tim. 3:16-17)

          “Infallibility. The next “in,” infallibility, speaks to the authority and enduring nature of the Bible. To be infallible means that something is incapable of failing and therefore is permanently binding

          “Inerrancy. The last “in,” inerrancy, simply means that the Bible is without error. It’s a belief in the “total truthfulness and reliability of God’s words” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity, 2004, 90). Jesus said, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). This inerrancy isn’t just in passages that speak about salvation, but also applies to all historical and scientific statements as well. It is not only accurate in matters related to faith and practice, but it is accurate and without error regarding any statement, period (John 3:12).”

          I could quote any number of Evangelical apologists who would say the same thing.

          Call this view misguided and mistaken if you will. I agree. But it is fundamental to the kinds of Christianity that are most powerful in shaping our society. The more nuanced and defensible theologies of the mainline denominations and scholars are culturally and politically peripheral by comparison. Intervarsity, cited above, has chapters on almost 700 college campuses aimed at retaining and recruiting young people to this kind of Christianity.

          Challenging the aesthetic and linguistic merits of biblical texts is not merely an tasteless argument about taste. It is deeply threatening to this point of view because the linguistic and spiritual perfection of the texts are bound together in the minds and emotions of folks who believe in inerrancy. One could, of course, argue that God perfectly chose to reveal himself through bad editing, crude grammatical constructions, and poor word choice, but people generally don’t.

          • Posted March 30, 2018 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

            It is when it doesn’t reflect what the actual historical beliefs are.

            It’s painful when people, even learned people, confuse an adjective with a verb. That’s a great example of proof texting via translation. I’ll save you the trouble of quoting and just quote article seven of the Chicago statement, which is at the core of the site and defines it as, “…the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word.”

            Use of subjective terms such as “crude grammatical constructions” or “bad editing” or “poor word choice” has nothing to do with inerrancy. You’re not liking how something is phrased or put together means nothing. The personality, the vocabulary, and even the grammatical knowledge of the author are his. I’m sure that when you wrote your books, you must have put your foot down with your editor and said, “this is how I think that this needs to be phrased or ordered in order to get out what I intend for people to know about what I’m thinking.” As someone who’s been a writer for 25 years I know I have, so I’m willing to extend a little charity and not be foolish enough to think that I could do it better.

            • jaxkayaker
              Posted April 1, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

              The actual historical beliefs are irrelevant if the criticism is of current believers and their interpretation. Millions of people hold views of the bible that educated biblical scholars say no one holds and can’t possibly be true. Straw man? Hardly.

              • Posted April 1, 2018 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

                *Me looking around for people who hold said belief and finding none.

              • jaxkayaker
                Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

                Then you’ve never met any Southern Baptists.

              • Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

                I AM a Southern Baptist.


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