How Newsweek got the Bible right… and still got it wrong

This year I’m planning to write more regularly for Onfaith, mostly about the Bible and how we use it. (I’ll still be writing other posts here.) My first piece is a somewhat belated response to Newsweek cover story on the Bible last month. (Thanks to Dan Chappell for encouraging me to share these reflections.)

Where are all the moderate Christian voices?

That’s what a friend wanted to know in the wake of Newsweek’s recent, much-discussed look at the Bible and the way many Christians believe in it. Conservatives were quick to respond to what they saw as a hit piece, offering plenty of robust, detailed argument – and occasionally stooping to their own hit-piece level with titles like “Newsweek’s tirade against the Bible” and “News Weak.”

But what about moderate Christian voices? Or what about Christian “progressives” like me who still hold to a high view of Scripture and its authority?

Some of what Kurt Eichenwald wrote was greeted with a yawn. Yes, there are two creation stories in Genesis. Yes, the gospels offer different (and sometimes conflicting) accounts of Jesus’ story. Yes, scribes added things to the Bible. For many of us, this is old news.

However, in other cases, Newsweek got some things wrong — rather, it got some things right, but in a wrong way. Here is how…

Read the rest at Onfaith > 

Note: While I wish they had chosen different titles for their responses, Dan Wallace and Ben Witherington offer some very useful critique from a conservative point of view, for those who want to engage with the particulars of Eichenwald’s piece. And Rachel Held Evans has an excellent editorial on defending evangelicals against some of the worst caricatures that Eichenwald drew. 

2 thoughts on “How Newsweek got the Bible right… and still got it wrong

  1. Ben,

    Thank you for a great piece that highlights a voice that too often gets screened out of the public discussions of Christianity in the U.S. I once heard N.T. Wright comment that, since fundamentalism is much less common in Britain, the anti-fundamentalist rhetoric often tends to be less vitriolic than in the U.S. which allows for much more interesting discussions of the material.

    In response to your comment about the Bible being a collections of stories (e.g. the two creation stories in Genesis): I would commend to you Robert Alter’s excellent translations of the Hebrew Bible. One of the things Alter says in his introduction to his translation of the Five Books of Moses is that we often make too much of the disconnected stories. Of course all of these stories were oral traditions assembled into one book by later compilers and redactors, but those compilers and redactors were intelligent, faithful, thoughtful people who thought very deeply and carefully about the stories they were compiling. The fact that different strands of oral tradition have been woven together to create the book that we call Genesis (or Exodus or whatever . . .) doesn’t mean they were thrown together randomly without regard to their content. Quite the opposite–if the compiler thought the stories were worth telling together, it behooves us to think about how they relate to each other.

    Thanks again for a great piece.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s