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My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions
The Bible presents us with an evolving story, writes John Shelby Spong.
December 29th, 2011
09:10 AM ET

My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions

Editor’s note: John Shelby Spong, a former Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, is author of "Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World."

By John Shelby Spong, Special to CNN

The Bible is both a reservoir of spiritual insight and a cultural icon to which lip service is still paid in the Western world. Yet when the Bible is talked about in public by both believers and critics, it becomes clear that misconceptions abound.

To me, three misconceptions stand out and serve to make the Bible hard to comprehend.

First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it.

The facts are that Abraham, the biblically acknowledged founding father of the Jewish people, whose story forms the earliest content of the Bible, died about 900 years before the first story of Abraham was written in the Old Testament.

Actually, that's not in the Bible

Can a defining tribal narrative that is passed on orally for 45 generations ever be regarded as history, at least as history is understood today?

Moses, the religious genius who put his stamp on the religion of the Old Testament more powerfully than any other figure, died about 300 years before the first story of Moses entered the written form we call Holy Scripture.

This means that everything we know about Moses in the Bible had to have passed orally through about 15 generations before achieving written form. Do stories of heroic figures not grow, experience magnifying tendencies and become surrounded by interpretive mythology as the years roll by?

My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?

Jesus of Nazareth, according to our best research, lived between the years 4 B.C. and A.D. 30. Yet all of the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 A.D., or 40 to 70 years after his crucifixion, and they were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write.

Are the gospels then capable of being effective guides to history? If we line up the gospels in the time sequence in which they were written - that is, with Mark first, followed by Matthew, then by Luke and ending with John - we can see exactly how the story expanded between the years 70 and 100.

For example, miracles do not get attached to the memory of Jesus story until the eighth decade. The miraculous birth of Jesus is a ninth-decade addition; the story of Jesus ascending into heaven is a 10th-decade narrative.

In the first gospel, Mark, the risen Christ appears physically to no one, but by the time we come to the last gospel, John, Thomas is invited to feel the nail prints in Christ’s hands and feet and the spear wound in his side.

Perhaps the most telling witness against the claim of accurate history for the Bible comes when we read the earliest narrative of the crucifixion found in Mark’s gospel and discover that it is not based on eyewitness testimony at all.

My Take: Yes, the Bible really condemns homosexuality

Instead, it’s an interpretive account designed to conform the story of Jesus’ death to the messianic yearnings of the Hebrew Scriptures, including Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

The Bible interprets life from its particular perspective; it does not record in a factual way the human journey through history.

The second major misconception comes from the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense “the word of God.” Only someone who has never read the Bible could make such a claim. The Bible portrays God as hating the Egyptians, stopping the sun in the sky to allow more daylight to enable Joshua to kill more Amorites and ordering King Saul to commit genocide against the Amalekites.

Can these acts of immorality ever be called “the word of God”? The book of Psalms promises happiness to the defeated and exiled Jews only when they can dash the heads of Babylonian children against the rocks! Is this “the word of God? What kind of God would that be?

The Bible, when read literally, calls for the execution of children who are willfully disobedient to their parents, for those who worship false gods, for those who commit adultery, for homosexual persons and for any man who has sex with his mother-in-law, just to name a few.

The Bible exhorts slaves to be obedient to their masters and wives to be obedient to their husbands. Over the centuries, texts like these, taken from the Bible and interpreted literally, have been used as powerful and evil weapons to support killing prejudices and to justify the cruelest kind of inhumanity.

The third major misconception is that biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging. Instead, the Bible presents us with an evolutionary story, and in those evolving patterns, the permanent value of the Bible is ultimately revealed.

It was a long road for human beings and human values to travel between the tribal deity found in the book of Exodus, who orders the death of the firstborn male in every Egyptian household on the night of the Passover, until we reach an understanding of God who commands us to love our enemies.

The transition moments on this journey can be studied easily. It was the prophet named Hosea, writing in the eighth century B.C., who changed God’s name to love. It was the prophet named Amos who changed God’s name to justice. It was the prophet we call Jonah who taught us that the love of God is not bounded by the limits of our own ability to love.

It was the prophet Micah who understood that beautiful religious rituals and even lavish sacrifices were not the things that worship requires, but rather “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” It was the prophet we call Malachi, writing in the fifth century B.C., who finally saw God as a universal experience, transcending all national and tribal boundaries.

One has only to look at Christian history to see why these misconceptions are dangerous. They have fed religious persecution and religious wars. They have fueled racism, anti-female biases, anti-Semitism and homophobia.They have fought against science and the explosion of knowledge.

The ultimate meaning of the Bible escapes human limits and calls us to a recognition that every life is holy, every life is loved, and every life is called to be all that that life is capable of being. The Bible is, thus, not about religion at all but about becoming deeply and fully human. It issues the invitation to live fully, to love wastefully and to have the courage to be our most complete selves.

That is why I treasure this book and why I struggle to reclaim its essential message for our increasingly non-religious world.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Shelby Spong.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (6,068 Responses)
  1. So Frustrated

    So frustrated with this article. That isi all...

    December 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Eric G

      Why are you frustrated? Do you dispute anything in particular?

      December 29, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • So Frustrated

      It's clear that his understanding of the old testiment is based on reading a translation of it... not the original hebrew text which when read in it's original form often has multiple meanings and subtext. In addition, it's written purely from a catholic point of view and not being a catholic, I disagree with a number of his interpretations. Scholars like Rashi explain many of the things he wrote about.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      It's actually Episcopalian...which is like...Catholic-light. Same great incense taste with no fat. 🙂

      December 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • So Frustrated

      Ha! Sorry I missed that in his mini bio.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Eric G

      Again, I would ask for a specific example of where a translation from Hebrew to Greek to (insert language here) would change the historical accuracy of the text.

      This is all irrelevant, as you have not satisfied the burden of proof requirement regarding your claim that your god even exists. Without that proof, you are making claims based on your interpretation of a fictional text.

      Unless you think I am wrong?

      December 29, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Well here is one example, Eric, it's not Hebrew to Greek, but it is Greek to English.

      In John 21:15-17, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves Him. The reason for this is, in Greek, there are different words for "love." For instance, you love your siblings differently than you love your spouse. Jesus asks Peter (if I remember correctly) "Do you love me as a friend?" "Do you love me as a brother?" and "Do you love me as God?" But since we only have one word in English for "love", it seems like Jesus just has Alzheimers and can't remember what Peter's answer the first time was. 🙂

      December 29, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Eric G

      @Damian: Thank you, but that is not an example that would change historical accuarcy. I will give you that it might change interpretation, but not historical accuracy.

      Still have not read any posts about the burden of proof issue. Without proof that god exists, we might as well be discussing tthe interpretation and historical accuracy of The Lord of the Rings.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      @Eric,

      True. Well there was some controversy back in the day about when Jesus said "easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven." He might have been referring to a gate in Jerusalem, sometimes called "the eye of the needle" because it was so small that camels often had to stoop really low to pass through it. Dunno whatever came of that. Really doesn't matter. The point is made.

      I'm curious, what proof do you want of God's existence? Considering the ministry of a wandering carpenter who was only in ministry for three years has been and still is the most dominant religion in the world is pretty impressive. I'm not saying that's a miracle, by any stretch, just impressive. But the question remains, what exactly are you looking for?

      December 29, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Eric G

      @Damian: Any testable, verifiable evidence that any god or gods exist or existed. This is the same standard required to support the verification of any hypothesis.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      I can't show you God in a petri dish, if that's what you're looking for.

      I think though, it's pretty remarkable, that one dude that was really around for three years that has had such a world wide impact. I mean, we're talking about, just today, 2.2 Billion people claim to be Christian. That's nearly 1/3 of the current world population. That's not including everyone who has died. All of this, from a guy who was walking around preaching for three years. I can't name one other person in history who has had that kind of an impact, especially 1900 years later.

      December 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Eric G

      Thank you. Without verifiable evidence, you admit that there is no logical basis for your faith.

      As to your second point, I would argue that others have had a similar impact. Moses, Abraham, Mohammed, Budda........

      Religions are tradition based myth because of the lack any evidence of divinity or the satisfaction of their burden of proof.

      December 29, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Odin

      "not the original hebrew text"....What version is that? The made up one in your head??

      December 29, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  2. Pastor D

    There are two more big misconceptions that this article misses. One is that these arguments put forth by John Spong are news. They are old recycled late 60’s long discredited statements with little or no basis for them other than Spong's opinion. The second misconception, and maybe the biggest, is that John Spong knows anything at all about the Bible or theology. His lack of understanding of the formation of the cannon is laughable, as is his inability to grasp the concept of oral tradition, which was the way that much of history has been passed down even as late at the first century. Spong sets himself up as the arbiter and judge of what is good in the Bible and what is bad. His authority for his statements is himself. His Trump sized ego has severely compromised his theology.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • William Demuth

      Pastor D? Is that like a rap preacher or something?

      Oral tradition? That is like having twenty autistic kids play post office for ten years and believing the results have merit.

      History is a SCIENCE, not an art. Quantifiable, reproducable evidence is king, not the blatherings of Bronze Age Palestinians.

      ALL data is considered, but your "oral tradition" carries little if any weight.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Henry Plantagenet

      So you insult the author, which demonstrates nothing but yuor own ignorance, and claim it ahs been proven, without providing evidence.

      You lose!

      December 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      "History is a SCIENCE, not an art. Quantifiable, reproducable evidence is king, not the blatherings of Bronze Age Palestinians."

      Wait...so in order to know anything about history, we have to be able to reproduce it?

      Here's my thing. There's a lot of stuff we know. There's a lot of stuff we don't know. And there's a lot of stuff that's going to be missing because it's hundreds if not thousands of years old.

      Oral tradition plays a big part in a lot of history because most people couldn't read and write. Only nobles and clergy. And they certainly weren't looking to help us out and make everything as clear as day hundreds of years later. There's a lot of conjecture, supposition and logical guessing going on, on both sides.

      My point is, let's keep it civil, mmkay?

      December 29, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Pastor D, what in the article was incorrect?

      December 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • William Demuth

      DamianKnight

      Long time! I hope your holidays went well!

      No reproduction is not required but it does help.

      Oral histories are of little value, and I believe you know it. The biggest issue with them is they are manipulated midstream.

      The winners write history and then adjust it to their agenda.

      I am QUITE confident you have heard of deliberate falsehoods created by Christians in an attempt to lend credence to their story? If you believe even ONE occured, than all of it is QUITE suspect.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      @William,

      Yes they went well. How were yours? Productive, I hope. How are the kids? 🙂

      The problem is, many cultures had purely oral traditions. The issue with that, is as you have pointed out, it leaves a lot open. When you had cultures, like the Olmec, where we haven't found many actual writings regarding them, but we can definitely see they were there, it makes determining what happened difficult.

      The other point is, many people didn't know how to read and write. I don't know if someone like Peter knew how to write. I figure he probably spoke enough Greek to get by, since as a fisherman, he likely traded with Greek traders. But could he write Greek? Hard to say. I don't know who would have educated a fisherman in that day to be able to read and write.

      According to the Gospels though, Jesus could read and write (He makes several references to the fact He has read) and He was a carpenter which I can't imagine is that much bigger of a step up socio-economically than a fisherman.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I believe Jesus if he actually existed, had probably traveled. (Perhaps the gaps in his life line make more sense in that context) He did espouse a somewhat "Eastern philosophy" for the time. But as for the average Palestinian of the day, they were probably similar to today’s versions. Marginally educated and heavily indoctrinated. I bet their history books would be QUITE amusing to you and I.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Damian

      Daughters going for her Masters, son is getting into robotics.

      A family of nerds!

      December 29, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Dunno if Jesus traveled outside of Israel. I suppose He could have. The Bible doesn't say so, but that doesn't mean that it didn't happen. Most scholars think Jesus' ministry was only about three years long and He did a lot of traveling up and down.

      Oh wow. Fun stuff for the kids. Masters in what, if I may ask?

      December 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Damian

      Speech Pathology and Audiology. Its killing her, but she is doing it.

      Little man however seems to soak up information like a sponge.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • brett

      Typical Christian refute. Discredit the source, but provide no evidence proving the source is wrong.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Pastor my a$$,
      Actually Pastor D, YOU are the one with the big ego here. Spong has been for decades a respected religious leader, without the evangelical trappings. Your mis-characterization of the origins of his ideas, as well as their being "discredited", is completely false. Prove it. By whom ? YOU ?

      And last but not least, the fact that you can't even spell "canon" correctly, proves YOU ARE A FRAUD.
      Have a nice day.

      December 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  3. Dang

    Reading the entire Bible (No Pick&Choose) + Average IQ => Freethinker-Atheist

    December 29, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Henry Plantagenet

      Yeah, because everyone who doubts your Iron Age lies and fallacies MUST be stupid. How convenient!

      December 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Dave in Portland

      Uhh, Henry? Perhaps you should re-read his comment. He is saying that anyone with at least an average IQ who reads the whole bible will end up a freethinking atheist. Sheesh dude, ease up a bit.

      December 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  4. Gary

    I found this article to be factual incorrect on multiple levels consequently eroding any credibility of the entire piece. It's disturbing it was published even as an opinion.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Henry Plantagenet

      And sadly you, unlike the author, have no sources to back you up. Nice try, you lose!

      December 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • FreeToThink

      Let's see, I can read with interest an article written by a highly educated Episcopal Bishop, or I can disregard it because somebody who can't spell disagrees with it. How to choose?

      December 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Eric G

      Factually incorrect? Please provide evidence to support your claim.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • gene

      This whole article is garbage. Read the following from article and you will see that the author can not tell time. "Jesus of Nazareth, according to our best research, lived between the years 4 B.C. and A.D. 30. Yet all of the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 B.C., or 40 to 70 years after his crucifixion, and they were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write." If Jesus lived from 4 B.C. to 30 A.D., and the gospels were written before this (70 to 100 B.C.) how can the author state that they were written after his crucifizion. Hey, you numbskull, 70 B.C. is 100 years BEFORE the death of Christ. Don't you even know what A.D. means, jerk?

      December 29, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      @Gene,

      Ha! Ha! Well-caught typo!

      December 29, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Webrydr

      OK, Eric...I've read several pages of comments and about the only thing you've contributed is "show me the money!" Proof of ANYTHING almost 2000 years ago is tough, and you're looking for proof about one person, a three year ministry and infallible evidence that it was real.

      Well, good luck with that.

      December 29, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  5. RFBJR

    Good try, but that's corny.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • William Demuth

      Try to hit reply when replying.

      Otherwise you look slow.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • RFBJR

      You're right. I need to be on here all day like you, haven't mastered my button pushing skills yet. I'm getting better though, see?

      December 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • William Demuth

      RF

      Well done (pat slow child on head)

      Next we review basic skills.

      Can you tie your shoe?

      December 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • RFBJR

      Ok, I'm not the sharpest tool in the drawer, but I'm not fallin' for that one. As soon as I bend over...I know what's on your mind. You are a dirty little boy. Shame, shame!

      December 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Tyler_Tom

      Now, now children. Play nice.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  6. Leucadia Bob

    You are all so specific with your beliefs. So absolute. As if GOD himself (or herself) can simply be explained by a passage in a man made book? What kind of respect do you really have for your supreme being? Thinking that you know who and what GOD is? What GOD expects from us? You have no idea. You're just reading some old book from the past, written by a bunch of people who behaved pretty much like the Muslims of today-scrared and beaten into submission. does it really matter if there is a GOD? Will you go to this mythical place called heaven if you are not pure on Earth? I've got news for you: NONE OF US ARE PURE. Get over it and stop being a bunch of idiot retard morons. Keep GOOD intentions, but if somebody screws you over – then drop your GOOD intentions and KICK THEIR ASS! The world will end this year if this "Galactic Plane" theory is correct. Honestly, just like GOD, I have no idea whether it will happen or not, but the Horizon Project seems to have done their homework, and all the praying and hail Marys will not save your primate asses.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • SeanNJ

      Meds. Now. Please.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Leucadia Bob

      Already took em. All I'm saying is drop religion – stop being so specific. Breath the air that you have to breath, cause there is so much we DON'T know. The world could end tomorrow – so instead of running around quoting a book – enjoy life

      December 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Dave in Portland

      Leucadia Bob – Well said. So many people spend so much time trying to prove that they are right when nobody knows a d@mned thing for sure. Is there a God? Who knows? Anyone can claim any belief based on faith and nobody can disprove it. That doesn't make their faith invalid. If they believe it, who are we to judge? We all need to live our own lives and stop feeling threatened by those who believe differently. Live Love Die....that's about all that there really is.

      December 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  7. Lilk1626

    Hmmm...the Bible should not be taken literally because most of the stories are fictional...which would make it a work of fiction(Yes, this is obvious, but I like to connect the dots for those who can't). Yet, millions of people follow it blindly. If we're going to take a fictional character and worship him, he (or she I suppose, but that might be a harder sell) should at least be someone from our time period. Hmmm, what's a good fictional story about someone magic?..I know, Harry Potter!

    December 29, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  8. Happy dance

    I kind of get this article, but it's a tough one to think about.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  9. Hypatia

    fairy stories for the mentally challenged.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  10. Frank

    Since when does a "former Episcopal bishop of Newark" become a spokesman for all Christians? How did this clown even get national attention like this? Oh – I know: because this is CNN and he talks up the gay agenda. How could I have missed that?

    December 29, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Henry Plantagenet

      This "clown" has evinced a more intelligent reading of the Bible for the 21st century than anyone I've read. Clearly your notion of God is all about intolerance, hate and name-calling. Typical right-wing evangelicals, taking a beautiful idea and turning it into excrement.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > Since when does a "former Episcopal bishop of Newark" become a spokesman for all Christians?

      Show me where he says that. From what I've read, he's talking about his opinons based on facts. I never interpreted his actions as those of the entire Christian community.

      > How did this clown even get national attention like this?

      Probably because his article is well written and somewhat knowledgeable.

      > Oh – I know: because this is CNN and he talks up the gay agenda. How could I have missed that?

      Or because he's just a guy who wrote an article? I mean seriously, how do you rationalize such stupid concepts in your head? "I clearly haven't worked as a CNN editor and have no knowledge of their application process, however, I feel this is the most likely cause and therefore this is what I'm going to accept."

      No wonder you believe in nonsense. You can't even think as an intellectual adult.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Dave in Portland

      Thank you Bobinator, you saved me a lot of typing.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  11. RFBJR

    Just a general comment for Deluth and Vestibule, and I say this with all the Christian love I can muster, aren't you two ever gonna get tired of hurling insults from behind a computer? Then again, what else do you have to do? It's not like you have a woman to curl up with. Oh wait, your Mom...I forgot.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • William Demuth

      I just picked up 1700 bucks in the last twenty minutes.

      I sit here and mock you on one screen, with two more working away.

      As for trying to hurl insults, you mock someones mother because they make fun of your sky fairy?

      Very Christian of you indeed.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • William Demuth

      And as far as women, I currently have TWO Christian woman I rotate through my bed.

      Both married, and both being educated in reality because their husbands are actualy closeted religious cross dressers.

      Ironicaly, one may be your wife, or more likely your mom!

      December 29, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • RFBJR

      What? Did you run to the bank for your Mom? I'm just asking.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      William, please be aware that once you will have to give account of every futile word, which you have spoken.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • William Demuth

      Rainer Braendlein

      I answer to no one. I live life as I please.

      Your God is a lie, and you live in fear of a fairy tale.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • RFBJR

      Psychological profile: people who brag about their achievments are typically building themselves up falsely because their self-esteem is in the toilet. Did your Mom call you a dirty little boy? I'm just asking.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Henry Plantagenet

      Personal insults, the last refuge of the incompetent. You lose!

      December 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • RFBJR

      Ok, I apoligize. Anyway, William has better things to do, probably has to make another bank run and hook up with his two girlfriends and stuff. Plus, don't forget to take a shower and you better wash behind those ears!

      December 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @RFBJR
      Just curious as to where you feel I've been insulting people.
      I don't recall hurling any invectives your way... perhaps you've taken umbrage at my pointing out the cannibilistic nature of the eucharist?
      And while I haven't got a harem of dissatisfied christian women rotating through my bed, I've been happily unmarried to the same person for nigh on a decade. But thanks for the ad hominem, friend.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Tyler_Tom

      Nice tip William. I just got two more monitors and just made $10 Billion Dollars.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  12. Rainer Braendlein

    "The second major misconception comes from the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense “the word of God.” Only someone who has never read the Bible could make such a claim. The Bible portrays God as hating the Egyptians, stopping the sun in the sky to allow more daylight to enable Joshua to kill more Amorites and ordering King Saul to commit genocide against the Amalekites.", the Spong said.

    Obviously, Mr. Spong doesn't understand the Bible.

    It is true that God commanded to wipe out some peoples.

    But what was the state or condition of these peoples?

    Compared with these ancient peoples every current people on earth is quite holy.

    The people, which should be wiped out by Israel committed the following sins:

    – they offered up guiltless infants to their idols

    – they had se-xual intercourse in all directions:

    - man with man

    - woman with woman

    - father with daughter (still culpable today)

    - mother with son (still culpable today)

    - all together with the animals

    Bon appeti-t!

    Of course they had been warned before God decided to exterminate them, but they did not want to repent and thus God had to punish them. It was very righteous, what God did.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Henry Plantagenet

      So in your mind genocide is okay.

      Thank you for your input, Doctor Goebbels.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Eric G

      Please provide verifiable evidence that your god exists. If you can provide any evidence, it will then be tested and verified to establish the claims made in your hypothesis that your god exists. Once existence is established, you can then present evidence that supports your hypothesis about the actions of your god.

      It starts with proving that your god exists. If that is not established, all claims made about that god are invalid.

      Please post your evidence for verification.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Medulla

      A god which is vengeful, wrathful and angry isn't a God you worship, it's a god you fight! (i.e. see Star Trek V) I have gotten more out of reading Aesop's Fables than the Bible, at least those stories admit to being fictional. As the author alludes to, it is amazing how Christianity has wreaked havoc on the world, enslavement of minorities, oppression of women and outright genocide, all in the name of the Bible. If you believe the Bible should be interpreted literally, then you are a threat to humanity and progress. If you don't believe the Bible should should be interpreted literally, then you are better off just reading something else.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Eric G

      @Henry: Interesting that you bring up Goebbels. He was the only Nazi who was ever excommunicated from the Catholic church. Not for his attrocities against humanity, but because he married a Protestant.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      The bible cannot be the literal word of God because it contains errors that God, if he/she/it exists would have known about.

      One that comes to mind is the statement that the moon is a source of light. Nonsense.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • vance

      @Eric G & @Medulla

      Eric G – Here's a couple arguments. The universe is not eternal (as proven in the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics). Therefore, it is subject to Cause and Effect like everything else in the universe. So, if the scientists you follow so "religiously" are saying the universe was empty and a big bang was spawned from nothing, wouldn't it be your burden of proof to say that there isn't a Godly being with the power to produce all the intricacies of the universe and life?

      Medulla – You are probably those types of people who think that if religion became extinct that everybody in the world would start holding hands and spilling "sorry's". Of course you do, because as an Athiest you believe that humans are the almighty species, and that we invented good-nature. So if anybody is going to bring peace and love to the world, it has to be humanity, because that's all there is, right?

      Well, the next time you're are your workplace or any other social setting, I want you to pick out the most intolerable people you can find, and ask yourself if any of the intolerable things they do or say has anything to do with Christianity. The likely answer is "No, their intolerable acts are derived from arrogance, ignorance, vanity, and greed." Those attributes aren't derived directly from God, they are derived from the free will God has given us...and I am mighty thankful God gave us free will, even if certain individuals misuse it.

      December 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Medulla

      Assuming that one is atheist just because they don't believe in the religions of Abraham (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) is just plain arrogant.

      Secondly, how is this for an intolerable thing to say to someone, "If you don't accept Christ as your saviour you will spend an eternity burning in hell." Sounds like someone paraphrasing the Bible to me.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  13. LouAz

    We have not succeeded in solving all your problems. The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole new set of questions. In some ways, we feel we are confused as ever, but we believe we are now cornfused on a higher level and about more important things. The Management.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  14. Common Sense

    More Marxist dribble sold as religion and Christianity

    December 29, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • RFBJR

      Yup, this guy is posing as clergy. Can you imagine standing in front of God and having to explaining yourself?

      December 29, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Henry Plantagenet

      More boneheaded evangelicals who can't even spell "drivel". I'll get my ten-year-old to help you with your sentences next time.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • O' Henry

      Dribble is also a word. As in Henry Plantagenet thought he was ever so smart but all that came out of his mouth was dribble. So no need for your corrections. Thanks for being so observant Henry.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  15. Binky42

    In other words, most people who believe in the Bible haven't got a clue what is reality, what is fiction, and what is the muddy part in-between. I personally am not going to base my life around a patchwork book put together over centuries that isn't based on eyewitness statements. It sure wouldn't hold up in court.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  16. Yovee

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4i4249PfoCA&w=640&h=360]

    December 29, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  17. The Truth shall set you free

    Forgive them Heavenly Father for they do not know what they say, or what they do. That is why, Since we have this ministry according to the mercy that was shown us, we do not give up; but we have have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed, not walking with cunning, neither adulterating the word of God, but by making the truth manifest recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God. If now, the good news we declared is in fact veiled, it is veiled among those who are pershing, among whom the god of this systems of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might now shine through. 2 Cor 4:1-4 May God have mercy on you. You who are skinned and thrown about like a sheep without a Shepherd. Mt 9:36

    December 29, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • William Demuth

      Skinned sheep rule

      Do lapsed Christians taste like mutton?

      Get your brain out of the bronze Age and grow up.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Binky42

      People like you are holding back the entire human race. Please get an education and put the crazy book down.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Rick Williams

      Ever hear the phrase "Silence of the Lambs"? Time to grow up my dear.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      It's not that I haven't read your book Truth. It's that I've read more then one book.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  18. Kim

    I love me some Bishop Spong....grew up in the Diocese of Newark....good times Diocese of Newark, good times.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • William Demuth

      Newark?

      Many memories of Grafton Avenue at 3 am!

      December 29, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  19. JuddE

    Over the centuries the bible has inspired faith, devotion, compassion toward others, loving one another, and forgivenes. On the other hand it has also inspired hatred, murder, prejudice and genocide throughout the years. The real issue isn't in our viewing the bible as literal, figuritive, or somewhere in between. The issue is wether or not we take the lessons regarding loving each other, forgiving one another, and holy living and apply them to our lives OR if we misuse and abuse the holy scriptures forming them into our own personal hatred and pursuits.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • William Demuth

      The Bible has inspired the Holocaust, the Inquisition, Bigotry, Racial Hatred, Slavery, War and inferior Sunday morning television.

      Frankly for a poorly written rag it has had a profoundly negative impact, similar to Mein Kamf and Harry potter.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • JuddE

      Ha, okay I agree with Harry Potter and would add the Twilight series to that list as well. However, you can't point out the evil it has caused without pointing out the good it has inspired. A scripture in James even goes as far to say that Pure religion is helping others in need.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • William Demuth

      It is a tool, like a gun.

      If I use a gun to kill, is it the guns fault?

      Demonstrate what YOU use it for and then we can judge.

      But it does NOT belong in the hands of idiots or children.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • catholic engineer

      @wILLIAM dEMUTH "But it does NOT belong in the hands of idiots or children." You're implying that the Bible belongs in the hands of mature, responsible adults? In earlier posts, you say that the book is for retards and idiots.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • JuddE

      I completely agree. A police officer who saves lives by carrying a gun and instilling authority is completely different from a criminal who uses a gun to instill fear and cause pain. The difference is the way we use it and the good we do with it. I have seen the lives homeless and addicts changed because of it (through a local faith based shelter I support). As the old testament says the human heart is deceitful, evil people will use anything they can to hurt others, religion, weapons, terrorist acts, etc.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • William Demuth

      catholic engineer

      No it is NOT a book for idiots or retards, but alas thaose are who you usually find it with.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • JuddE

      Often the least intelligent of us are the most outspoken. The problem isn't that a large percentage of Christians are idiots and retards, the problem is the most outspoken Christians tend to be the idiots and retards who make the rest of us look bad.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  20. LinCA

    John Shelby Spong claims to speak about the 3 biggest biblical misconceptions, yet ignores the biggest of them all. The biggest misconception, by far, is that the bible is believed to be about an actual personal god.

    The misconceptions addressed in the article, will lead a rational and reasonable person to the inevitable conclusion that the whole thing is a fairy tale. These misconceptions should leave little doubt that, if you don't already believe, there is no reason to start.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Lin, absolutely .... but....baby steps.

      December 29, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.