You’re reading the wrong Book of Esther

The Book of Esther occupies a controversial place in the Bible.John Calvin did not include the book in his biblical commentaries and only referenced it once in the Institutes (see 4.12.17). Though he included it in his Bible, Martin Luther was highly ambivalent about it. "I am so great an enemy to . . . Esther, that I wish [it] had not come to us at all, for [it has] too many heathen unnaturalities," he said in Table Talk 24. And in one exchange with Erasmus he said it "deserves. . . to be … [Read more...]

The secret behind the Bible’s most highlighted verse

The current issue of The American Prospect features a short piece on ebooks and social reading. It mentions in passing that the Bible is the Kindle's most highlighted book and that the most highlighted verse of all is Philippians 4.6:Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.It's no scientific survey, admittedly, but it seems telling that the most underlined passage in the most underlined book … [Read more...]

Why are there dirty stories in the Bible?

Anyone who's read the Bible to children or come at it with some naivety knows it contains many tricky passages. Cough. Judah and Tamar. Cough. A reader who's spent any time in the text has his or her own list of stories that are risqué, possibly even revolting. Why would the holy authors include these stories in the Bible?Writing one of the very first Christian commentaries on Scripture, Hippolytus of Rome answered the question this way:As the divine writings are not respecters of … [Read more...]

The Bible’s answer to corrupt government and false religion

The book of Daniel is a lot of things, but one is a sustained critique of corrupt government and false religion.Nebuchadnezzar, representing both, swings into view immediately. The Babylonian king has defeated Judah and taken not only its leading citizens into captivity, but also the sacred vessels from the Jerusalem temple. These he deposits in the temple of his god.The young Daniel is one of Hebrews taken captive, as are his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (or by their … [Read more...]

How not to read the Bible

How Not to Read the Bible

"All scripture is . . . profitable for teaching," according to Paul's second letter to Timothy.The apostle tells the young bishop that the scripture is useful for correction and preparation in righteousness and good works (3.15-17). But how? When we look to the story of Jacob, for instance, are we to walk away with the belief that cheating one's family, sorcery, and polygamy are acceptable behaviors?Just because something occurs in the scripture does not make it scriptural -- not in the … [Read more...]

The Bible, clear as mud

The Bible, clear as mud

Peering through the most recent edition of the peerless Books and Culture, I came across a three-quarter page ad for Beeson Divinity School. Forgive me, but I don't think this ad works for an evangelical institution. What does it say about the perspicuity of Scripture, for instance, that the commentaries are in focus and the Bible is clear as mud?"We believe the Bible is God's word written," says the ad copy (not pictured above). "It is therefore fully trustworthy and able to teach us … [Read more...]

Is the virgin birth really predicted in the Old Testament?

Mary with child

Did the Old Testament prophet Isaiah actually predict that Mary would conceive Christ while still a virgin?In Guy Ritchie's 2000 movie Snatch, Benicio Del Toro plays a diamond thief named Franky Four Fingers. As the story begins, Franky and his fellow workers of iniquity are in Antwerp for a heist, disguised as Hasidic Jews.As part of the ruse, while guards check for weapons and surveillance cameras roll, Franky rambles on about the veracity of Scripture:The Septuagint scholars … [Read more...]


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