Predictable Christmas fare: Newsweek’s Tirade against the Bible

Newsweek on the Bible: An Article So Slanted it’s Dizzying

Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, on his blog, critiques a current Newsweek article, written by Kurt Eichenwald, in which the author, among other things (such as making sweeping generalizations), makes misleading claims about text critical issues in the New Testament. Eichenwald’s comments regarding John 7:53-8:11 – the woman caught in adultery – is one blatant example of the shoddy journalism permeating the piece:

…Unfortunately, John didn’t write it. Scribes made it up sometime in the Middle Ages. It does not appear in any of the three other Gospels or in any of the early Greek versions of John. Even if the Gospel of John is an infallible telling of the history of Jesus’s ministry, the event simply never happened

My current position is with most current Christian scholarship that this is not Johannine (penned by John). According to Metzger (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament), and other sources, this pericope is inserted in various places in Greek manuscripts (mss), such as appended at the end of John’s Gospel, placed after John 7:36, after John 7:44, though predominately located after John 7:52; however, it IS extant in some Greek mss situated in Luke’s Gospel, just before chapter 22.

To comment briefly on the bolded portions of the above quote from the Newsweek article:

Scribes made it up and the event simply never happened: Unless Eichenwald is claiming omniscience, he simply cannot know for certain that the event did not ever happen. To claim that scribes simply “made it up” is to pass judgment (and note the author’s closing “Don’t judge”). This by itself calls into question the author’s objectivity and motive. Most scholars identifying as Christian are of the opinion that this pericope was part of an oral tradition, which was later inserted into Scripture at various places. However, there are a few bona fide NT scholars and/or textual critics (Zane Hodges, W. Pickering, Maurice Robinson, David Alan Black) who argue for this pericope’s originality in John’s Gospel, situating it just after 7:52.

It does not appear in any of the three other Gospels and scribes made it up sometime in the Middle Ages: As to the former, I could be generous and assume the author meant there are no parallel passages in Matthew, Mark, or Luke; but, I’ll take his statement on its face. While I’m not aware of any translation locating this pericope anywhere other than after John 7:52, there are extant Greek mss with this account in Luke’s Gospel, just before Luke 22 (after Luke 21:38), as noted above. But, more important is his misleading claim that there are no “early Greek versions of John” containing this pericope before the Middle Ages. While there are no extant Greek mss containing this account before the Middle Ages, there are Old Latin mss with this variant, two of which are from the 5th century. In addition, Jerome “knew many Greek as well as Latin mss” (C.K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, 2nd ed. {Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978} p 589) evidencing this pericope, as testified in part by Jerome’s Adversus Pelagianos II, 17, (Against the Pelagians), thus providing further proof that this account was known as early as the 5th century, possibly even late 4th. Moreover, some extant 2nd and 3rd century Greek mss leave a space between John 7:52 and 8:12, though the spacing does not allow for the full text – one can speculate from there.

Daniel B. Wallace

Every year, at Christmas and Easter, several major magazines, television programs, news agencies, and publishing houses love to rattle the faith of Christians by proclaiming loudly and obnoxiously that there are contradictions in the Bible, that Jesus was not conceived by a virgin, that he did not rise from the dead, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. The day before Christmas eve (23 December 2014), Newsweek published a lengthy article by Kurt Eichenwald entitled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” Although the author claims that he is not promoting any particular theology, this wears thin. Eichenwald makes so many outrageous claims, based on a rather slender list of named scholars (three, to be exact), that one has to wonder how this ever passed any editorial review.

My PDF of this article runs 34 pages (!) before the hundreds of comments that are appended. Consequently, I don’t have…

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4 Responses to Predictable Christmas fare: Newsweek’s Tirade against the Bible

  1. Dawn M. Green says:

    I pity people who can not believe the story of Jesus’ birth. How sour they must be.

    Dawn

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. IWTT says:

    I believe that the story is true…. but after researching what the celebration was before the church made it a “Christmas” celebration I kind of wonder if we are really supposed to celebrate this. Scripture seems to point to two things to do for sure, baptize and Communion. Nothing there about celebrating the birth. It was a pagan holiday that was violent and immoral. If we are instructed not to do what the pagans do, then why are we taking that day and making it supposed “Christian holiday”?

    Mind you, I am so thankful that our Lord came to earth to fulfill the task that he did, to become the final “sacrifice for the sins of the world”. And he has done wonderful and marvelous things for me and my family. He is truly our precious Savior. But I am not sure that we really should be celebrating as we do. Everyday should be a “Christmas” day where we give thanks and celebrate what his DEATH ands RESSURECTION means to us.

    Just a thought. I have celebrated or all my life, but until recently, I question the validity scripturally whether we should be setting a day aside for such a celebration.

  3. Craig says:

    IWTT,

    When you state “I believe the story is true” I’m pretty sure you’re referring to the woman caught in adultery. I may not have made my position exactly clear; however, I’ll do so now. I believe the story is true; I just don’t think it was part of John’s Gospel. I think it was part of an oral tradition that some thought should be included in Scripture. This accounts for why it is placed at various places in the Gospel of John and even in Luke.

    As for Christmas, I can understand your position. In fact, Jesus Christ’s birth was likely in September, or perhaps May. I think Christians make a mistake if they focus too much on gift-giving as a means of celebrating Christmas. But, I think it’s quite OK to celebrate Christ’s birth. As a society, we tend to celebrate the birthdays of family and friends; so, why not Christ? I suppose we could choose a day in September, using that day to celebrate the birth of our Savior. I tend to celebrate it quietly on December 25th, recognizing that this is not really the correct day of Christ’s birth.

    Certainly, Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection is a keystone of our faith; but, these events could not have occurred without His birth.

    And, yes, everyday should be celebrated as “Christmas.”

  4. Craig says:

    Quoting Eichenwald, the author of the Newsweek piece:

    This is no longer a matter of personal or private faith. With politicians, social leaders and even some clergy invoking a book they seem to have never read and whose phrases they don’t understand, America is being besieged by Biblical illiteracy.

    Shamefully, there IS rampant Biblical illiteracy within Christendom. One of my main goals on this site is to induce Christians to become more Biblically literate. This is important especially when the secular world criticizes the Book we presumably hold so dearly.

    Yet, the author displays his own Biblical illiteracy – either that, or his own bias, something a professional journalist should never do. His claim that some do not understand the very Scripture they cite presupposes that HE DOES understand it; yet, as one reads the piece, one finds that Eichenwald is consistently making the claim that he, through apparent omniscience, KNOWS what disputed texts actually say. This is something no reputable text critic does, as the critic evaluates the evidence, forms an opinion based on those findings, and usually weights this decision accordingly (i.e. is it “almost certain,” “not certain, but probable,” or some such language). No, Eichenwald KNOWS.

    Such arrogance!

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