Get to Know Bible Scholars

Get to Know Bible Scholars July 24, 2014

A friend shared the images below from the book Get to Know Jesus by Nancy I. Sanders on Facebook. The characterization of what Bible scholars have to say in the second image is appallingly dishonest. I am not clear why Sanders thinks it is appropriate to lie to children about what scholars say, but I would encourage her to cease doing so. It does nothing but make those children likely to lose their faith altogether when they discover that they were taught lies as part of their religious upbringing when they were children.


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  • Dan

    Well, it is true that there are Biblical Scholars who state such things. It is true that there are findings that back up various Biblical accounts. And it is true that one can visit such sites.

    Where is the lie?

    • No lie. As usual, context is everything. And, snapping a picture out of a children’s book to demonstrate that evangelicals view things in certain ways does not demonstrate that the author lied nor is it dishonest. What she says is vague and could probably be better stated, but dishonest? That’s a real stretch.

      • The statement that Bible scholars “used to question” is untrue. That many now conclude what she claims is a major distortion of the reality. That the evidence shows the Bible to be one document, much less one that has the same degree of correspondence to historical realities, is false. There is little in what she wrote that could in any way be taken as accurately depicting anything to do with what Bible scholars actually say.

        • Jim Blair

          Are you an atheist Professor McGrath? A straight answer please. If you have the guts that is.

          • No, I’m a Christian. What makes you ask? You must be new to this blog…

          • Believe it or not, there are Atheist Bible scholars out there, Jim. Atheist or Christian, it shouldn’t matter from an academic perspective.

        • How do you determine the difference between an inaccurate remark in the textbook and a lie?

        • Dan

          Depends on the scholar, there are scholars who disagree with what you are claiming here.

          • There are scholars, historians, scientists, and every other sort of expert who say just about every thing imaginable. In some instances, they are propounding new ideas or trying to reexamine old ones in conversation with their peers, following the appropriate scholarly methods and seeking to persuade other scholars. In others, they are fringe individuals who are seeking to use their credentials to bypass or undermine the academy. And so when one talks about what scholars say, then one should either be talking about the consensus, if there is one, or explaining the diversity of views, if there isn’t one.

          • Matthew Newland

            But if scholars can say everything imaginable, which ones should we trust and why listen to them (as opposed to someone else?)

          • This question seems odd to me, and so I suspect that I may have misunderstood you. I presume it is common knowledge that scholars, to obtain our PhDs and to publish, must offer new proposals. Most of those proposals are bound to be wrong, and will fail to persuade our peers. And so no one in their right mind will look to the latest article or dissertation and say, “X has said this, so now that is what we all should think.” They will rather look to see what the consensus of experts is, if there is one.

            I apologize if this was stating the obvious, but as I said, your question seemed as though it did not understand this most basic aspect of how academic inquiry works, and so I suspect that I misunderstood what you were asking. If you could clarify, I would be most grateful.

          • Matthew Newland

            No no, you’ve answered my question quite precisely. What I failed to consider was the idea of new PhD candidates trying to float new ideas (I happen to be one of them!). Thank you.

  • No doubt this gives a misleading impression to the reader. And why does Jesus have long hair, beard, mustache, and white robe with red sash? Does anyone know what the red sash is for and if any native inhabitant of Roman Judea actually wore it? Also, is this typical clothing for the 1st century? How many dinar would such clothing cost?

    I strongly suspect many a fact in this book is stylized to fit a conventional Evangelical narrative.

    • Guest

      You missed ‘why is he white?’.

      • Looks close enough to Middle Easterner to me. Even if the Jesus on the cover had blue eyes (which he doesn’t), that still wouldn’t be next to impossible in either the ancient or modern Near East.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “The events in the Bible happened in real places you can find on maps”

    (Facepalm) Good Lord . . . . . .

    That said, look at this woman on her homepage. She’s a nice little old lady who doesn’t know any better. I think there are much bigger fish to fry/call out in the conservative evangelical community spouting bullsh^&.

  • Guest

    If you were writing a book for children about Jesus and the bible, what would you say about the scholarly consensus? Given that ‘scholarly consensus’ is quite a mouthful for a ten year old to swallow. And, are there any kid’s books about Jesus that get it right, in your opinion?

    • I’m not sure that “scholarly consensus” needs to be in a book that has big print and is aimed at small children. But if you are going to put that in the book, then however much you may need to simplify things, you should not be simply misrepresenting them. Why not say honestly that historians cannot confirm whether many things depicted in the Bible happened, and that some things they have reason to conclude are not factual stories, and that is why you should put your faith in God and not in a book about God, even if the book in question is the Bible?

      • But, truth be told, not all historians or scholars believe that either. The truth is that her remarks could simply be better stated, but you have yet to demonstrate there is any sort of lie present here. At best, you can only say that her comments are inaccurate when looked at from a certain perspective (namely, yours).

        • No, they are an inaccurate representation of what most scholars say, assuming that her aim is to talk about the scholarly consensus, which is what laypeople ought to be referring to. If that isn’t the aim, then she is still trying to mislead, since she could have written the opposite, or just about anything else, and it would still be true about some scholars, however few in number, in which case the statement misleadingly suggests that the view of a tiny minority of scholars is “what scholars think.”

      • Andrew Dowling

        “I’m not sure that “scholarly consensus” needs to be in a book that has big print and is aimed at small children”

        That was my thoughts.