A Response To Penn and Teller’s “Bible”
1 – There are different Genesis accounts (Genesis 1 and 2) that conflict.
Genesis 1:27 says that on the 6th day “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 2 says God created Adam, Adam could eat fruit, he named the animals, God saw he was lonely and created Eve.
Penn & Tell and “Mr. Skeptic” basically say, “See! Genesis 1 says He created man and woman at the same time and Genesis 2 says they were created at different times! You can’t believe the Bible, it contradicts!”
Wow. First off, Genesis 1 is an overview or summary of the seven days of creation. Genesis 2:4 picks up with the story/details, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” This is obviously no contradiction.
Example: My freshman year of high school was rough; I didn’t make friends very easily. But my sophomore year got much better as I got to know more people and I became close friends with George and John. We did everything together. My junior year was cool because I tried out for the basketball team and eventually became the starting point guard! I also started dating Cindy. By my senior year I was offered a scholarship to Georgetown, was co-captain of the basketball team with John and in a long-term relationship with Cindy. High school was great.
Now, this is an account of my high school years. As a freshman, I was picked on by the older boys because I was short and slightly overweight. A few other boys, George and Jeff were picked on too and we became known as the Twinkie Trinity. Anywhere I went, people would call out names and make fat jokes at us. Etc….
Now, is it a contradiction that I summarized my four HS years and then started to give details about each one? Is it a contradiction that I said I became good friends with George my sophomore year but I mentioned that I knew him earlier (in a more detailed account) in my freshman year? No! Same goes for Genesis. It begins with a summary, and moves to specifics.
2 – People say Elvis is alive too.
Penn & Teller make it a point to show how there are people who believe Elvis is still alive, there are books and writings about him still being alive and there are even contradicting accounts of his life (Elvis never did no drugs!). . . all this just 25 years after his death! See, Elvis and Jesus sightings are just the same. We know Elvis is dead (except for a few loonies) and we also know Jesus is dead (except for a lot of loonies).
First, Elvis never made claims to be God or that after he died he would rise from the dead.
Second, Elvis doesn’t impact peoples’ lives the way Jesus does.
Third, the disciples were transformed from scared men into bold men because they saw the risen Jesus. What else would have changed them from running away at his arrest and not wanting to be associated with him to loudly proclaiming that he is the Messiah and that he rose from the dead? One thing: seeing the resurrected Jesus! They were all even willing to die for what they saw. Couldn’t they have conspired and made up that story? Well, men won’t die for a known lie. If I tell you I am a three-toed Martian and you torture me, I will quickly tell you I was lying. (Some may object that radical Muslims will die for their faith but they are missing the point: they are dying for something they believe to be true, not that they know is false!)
Fourth, Elvis’ body could be dug up. Try digging up Jesus’.
Fifth, just because some people claim one thing to be true that isn’t, doesn’t mean that others who claim basically the same thing aren’t telling the truth! Example: Bill Clinton says he didn’t have sexual relations with Monica. Just because Bill’s story was a lie doesn’t make all non-adultery claims by other men lies as well! Just because some say Elvis is alive and they are wrong, doesn’t mean people who believe Jesus rose are wrong too (true it doesn’t prove he did rise, but you can’t use the Elvis claim to prove Jesus didn’t rise from the dead). Bill had sexual relations with Monica, therefore the Pope had sexual relations with Madonna. Or, Reagan never smoked pot, therefore neither did Snoop Dogg. Riiiiight.
Finally, Penn & Teller constantly mention “Elvis never did no drugs,” referring to some people who say he didn’t even though others say he did. They use that phrase to imply a contradiction. So, what contradictions in the 4 gospels are they referring to? Do they name any? Nope. (For a resource of the apparent contradictions, see When Critics Ask by Geisler)
3 – Noah’s Ark couldn’t fit two of all those species on it.
“There’s not a boat in the world big enough to hold the millions of species that are on this planet” say most skeptics. And, of course, they’re right. But Penn & Teller seem to forget a few minor details:
1 – They didn’t need to take any amphibians since they can survive in water. Take takes care of quite a few animals.
2 – Insects. Well, first of all they don’t take up much room now do they? Second, many wouldn’t have to have been taken since they could survive on floating debris. Also, since insects make up a majority of the millions of species on the earth, that really drops the number of animals Noah had to take.
3 – All of the sea creatures (which make up a large portion of the species in the world) didn’t need a ride either.
4 – Noah didn’t need to take every breed and variation of animal. Just one according to its kind. It would only take a couple of breeds of dogs or horses to get the many various kinds we have today. Variations occur today and when you mix two breeds together, you tend to find yourself with a new breed of animal. However, you still end up with the same type of animal (breed dogs and what you get is still a dog, not a tiger!).
5 – Remember, the ark was quite large and it had different levels too. 450 feet long by 75 feet wide by 45 feet high is a pretty big boat! That’s a volume of over 1.5 million cubic feet. A boat like that could hold a very large number of animals. Also, remember that he didn’t have to take adult animals, he could have taken very young ones. So, elephants, giraffes, hippos, (even though there are very few large animals like these) etc… wouldn’t have taken up quite as much room.
4 – There is no historical account of Moses or Hebrews in Egypt. If they did exist, they probably crossed at a shallow part of the Reed Sea.
Hebrews in Egypt? How do we know? Well, Penn & Teller say there is no evidence to show there were any Hebrews in Egypt. Funny, is there any evidence showing that either Penn or Teller ate any food in the month of May in 1983? If not, should we assume they did not eat any food in that month? Now in the same respect the argument can be said “is there any proof that Penn or Teller didn’t live in northern China in 1983?” But, lack of evidence is not evidence of a lack of history. Archeology continues to unearth findings that are discovering more and more evidence of the Bible’s claims, and the more time goes by, the more the Bible is confirmed. Hey, speaking of, most people who object to the history of the Bible tend to full-heartedly support evolution. What about all those transitional forms? “Well,” they say, “just because we haven’t found them yet, doesn’t mean they’re not there!” Hmmm, sounds familiar. So, critics of the Bible, shouldn’t you at least allow others to use the same argument you are using?! A bit hypocritical wouldn’t you say?
As far as evidence goes, there has been much claim and support for the Hyksos being the Hebrews. See http://www.bibleandscience.com/archaeology/exodus.htm as well as http://www.hope.edu/bandstra/RTOT/CH3/DATING.HTM for the idea that the Habiru were the Hebrews. Also for other findings on evidence for the Hebrews, see the book, Israel in Egypt by Hoffmeier. The Brooklyn Papyrus (ancient Egyptian record) shows the ownership of slaves from a Semitic group in the north west “Asiatic” region with names that are not from the Egypt area.
Keep in mind, many ancient civilizations (especially the Egyptians) didn’t like to record their defeats in battle, let alone allowing a slave force to leave, have an army chase them down and end up dead.
Oh, and about the crossing at a shallow part of the Reed Sea, if the Hebrews crossed at a shallow part of the Reed Sea then how in the world did all those trained Egyptian soldiers die in a few inches of water?! That would be a miracle!
5 – God killed all the firstborn in Egypt. How loving and kind is that?
Amazing. When humans play God and kill thousands of innocent babies each year by having abortions we call that our “right.” But when God is God, well, we have no toleration for that. Or when America goes to war, don’t we know that when we bomb the other nation we will inevitably kill some innocent people? Yet we still go to war full well knowing that we will kill innocent people.
Speaking of innocent, we have to have a different perspective on that issue. Is anyone perfect? Has anyone kept the laws of God 100%? Has anyone even followed his or her conscious 100%? Nope. So the concept of innocent is based on comparison. And the way we compare ourselves to others is usually something like: “well I’m not perfect, but I’m no Hitler either!” Isn’t it easier to compare our little lies and what not to the Hitlers, Husseins, cannibals, murderers, rapists and pedophiles of the world? But compared to them we are all angels! Really, we pick the worst people in the world, measure our lives against theirs and then say we are good and innocent! Why not compare ourselves to Mother Teresa, Ghandi, or Jesus?! Because we would feel bad about our lives, that’s why! Innocence is not a comparison game, it’s a rule-oriented one. Have you followed all the rules? If not, you’re not innocent. I don’t care how big or little the rule is that you’ve broken, you’re still in the wrong.
So, let’s then take a look at innocence in God’s eyes. And, to keep it simple, let’s just look at the 10 Commandments. Ever murdered someone? No! Well hang on, Jesus said to hate is the same as murder. Dang it. Ever cheated on your spouse? No! Well hang on again, Jesus said lusting after another woman is committing adultery in your heart. Double dang! Ever taken the Lord’s name in vain? Oops. Ever been dissatisfied with the things you own and desperately wanted what someone else had? There’s your coveting. Ever put someone or something ahead of God on your priority list? There’s having another god before Him. Ever disrespected your mom or dad? Man, this is hard! Ever lied? Ok, ok, I get the point. You see, we’re not as innocent as we would like to make ourselves out to be. But big deal, I’ve broken a few little things here and there. I’m sorry, what was that? A few little things? How many times have you lied, lusted, hated, disrespected, coveted, cursed, etc? A few?! Come on, be honest, we already know you’re a liar. And what’s this about little things? Who gets to decide the scale of big and little? You? Riiiight. Elvis never did no drugs! Come on, God didn’t say “Here’s my laws. Oh, and this set of them I don’t really care if you break or not. I made them up for the heck of it. Just avoid this list of the real bad ones.” No, we don’t get to decide these things because we are not God. We have to understand we have not broken laws made up by someone inferior to us or even on the same level as us, no, we have broken God’s law. There is a big difference.
And how do we make up for breaking a law? On earth, if we break a law made by humans we may have to pay a fine, do some community service, lose our job, or go to jail. What is the price for breaking a law made by God? Just as humans got to make the rules and make the punishments for those rules, God made the rules and he gets to decide the punishment. And He says the punishment is death. So, we can argue all day that we only do a “few” “small” sins, but even one of those is punishable by death. So is it unfair? Nope, that’s the law. What’s unfair is that most of us get to keep living after we break His law dozens, hundreds and thousands of times.
We also tend to think that if someone dies in the Bible, then it is bad. Death is not necessarily bad. If a God exists and a Heaven exists, then those who have faith in him need not fear death. Also, just because God punishes someone in the Bible doesn’t mean they go to Hell. King David had his firstborn die because he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and yet in the end David was considered a man after God’s own heart. God punished David, Samson, Adam, Eve, Moses, Abraham, and many others but it doesn’t mean they all went to Hell.
So, as for this notion of God being a mean God for killing all the firstborns in Egypt, keep these things in mind: death is not necessarily bad and we are not innocent. We don’t stop buying things from China because of their child limit policy, stop buying certain shoes or clothes because they were made by children, stop shopping at stores because of their views on certain ethical issues, etc. but for some reason we will picket a God who punishes law breakers. (And for those of you who argue that some of the firstborn were infants and they shouldn’t be punished since they can’t understand words let alone laws, the traditional belief is that little children go to heaven anyway so you could say God, in a sense, spared them of a hard earthly life and allowed them into Heaven. Not a very cruel thing at all.)
6 – Jesus did slight of hand tricks, not miracles. Anyone could do that today.
One of my favorites. Penn & Teller already come with the preconceived idea that miracles aren’t even possible so by default, Jesus must have deceived the people with tricks. Hmm, interesting, the guy who says don’t lie, love your neighbor, pray for and help your enemy, etc… actually lies and deceives those around him. Riiiiight.
“Mr. Skeptic” himself says that the miracles that Jesus did could be done by Penn & Teller. After he says that, they move on to the next topic. What?! No walking on water by Penn, no bringing a dead man back to life by Teller and neither of them give sight to a blind guy?!?! Oh, I suppose they’re just choosing not to do a miracle. If you’re going say it was slight of hand, go ahead and raise a 3-day old dead person from the grave or go ahead and give Stevie Wonder his sight. Anyone could do it? Elvis never did no drugs!
7 – Apollonius is a guy who lived when Jesus did and was said to have done miracles and rise from the dead too.
So Penn & Teller mention that there were many “Messiahs” around the time of Jesus. How do we know he really was it? A guy named Apollonius seemed to have done the same type of things Jesus did so why don’t we follow him?
Good questions. Here are some answers: first of all the only remotely early writing we have that mentions this guy is by Philostratus who wrote approx. 200-245AD. That is a good 150-200 years after Apollonuis lived! And why did he write about him since he didn’t even live in the same time you ask? Good question! An empress wanted to dedicate a temple to Apollonius and told Philo guy to go ahead and do it. Hmmm, motive? Maybe to please the empress? Maybe we embellish a little in order to please the empress? So one source 150-200 years after the fact. No eyewitnesses. How does Jesus compare? Well, to make a long story short: numerous eyewitnesses (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, James, Jude . . .) all written within 50 years of his death. Most of them within 30 years of his death! Many sources vs. one. 25-50 years after death vs. 150-200 years after death. Hmmm, which may be more accurate?
And by the way, why are people, who reject the evidence of Jesus being a miracle worker or even alive, accepting the story of Apollonius? If you’re going to accept a one person, non-eyewitness writing 150-200 years after the fact in order that a empress can build a temple; then how much more should you accept multiple authors writing within 25-50 years of Jesus? Anyone else see ridiculous bias?
8 – The only proof of the resurrection is the empty tomb, big whoop.
Would a non-empty tomb be better evidence? If someone rose from the dead, wouldn’t that be the first important sign? Wouldn’t that be a requirement?
No, the empty tomb isn’t the only proof (although it is perhaps the most important). The disciples ran away when Jesus was arrested. Why? Because they were scared for their lives! They weren’t around at the crucifixion. Why? Because they were scared for their lives! A few days after the crucifixion they were boldly proclaiming the message that Jesus was alive. Why? Because they were scared for . . . . wait. No, they no longer feared for their lives. In fact, all but one of the disciples died for their faith. What on earth would change a dozen men from frightened and scared individuals to a dozen bold and courageous individuals willing to die for their faith? Only being convinced that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead would transform such men!
Now I assume Penn & Teller would respond, “they just made up the resurrection story.” Well, what did they have to gain? Nothing! The culture of the day was faithful Judaism and by proclaiming that Jesus (who was accused of blasphemy) was the Messiah and even God himself, well, you might as well write out your own obituary. In fact, the disciples had everything to lose, not gain! If they made it up, there still runs the problems of consistency and death.
First, consistency. If this group of uneducated men made up this whole thing, then when they wrote about it, they would make sure all their stories sounded the same. Well, though the Gospels tell the same basic story, they all have different details. Just as if you were to ask four different people to talk about September 11th, 2001, the Gospel writers tell the same story with different details. (Many people, when asked about 9-11, forget to mention that a plane crashed in PA or one crashed in the Pentagon. Does that mean it didn’t happen? No! Some focus on the buildings crashing and burning, some focus on how many died, some focus on the rescue attempts while some focus on who did the attacks. They are different, but they don’t contradict. The same is true with the Gospels. They tell the same story, with different focus and emphasis. See question #2 for thoughts on apparent contradictions.)
Second is death. People don’t die for what they know is a lie. If the disciples made it up, they wouldn’t die for it. For example, I might tell you I am a spy from Mars and that I believe 2+2=7, but the minute you torture me or threaten my life, I’m going to tell you I was joking or lying. The same is true for the disciples. All but one died a martyr’s death for their faith in the resurrection. If they had made it up, at least one of them would have cracked! But none of them did. Now, some may object and say that some radical Muslims blow themselves up and that disproves that people won’t die for lies. Well, no, it doesn’t. Those radicals actually believe that they are right, they aren’t blowing themselves up for something they know is wrong. People won’t die for a known lie! And the disciples didn’t die for something they knew was false.
For a resource on refuting other claims on the resurrection, see Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell or I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Geisler and Turek.
9 – The Bible was voted on and other books were voted out.
Sure, and the Da Vinci Code is accurate history. Elvis never did no drugs! So how was the New Testament compiled? What were the requirements to make it into the New Testament? Well, let’s take a look:
1 – had to have been written by an eyewitness to Jesus or a contemporary of an eyewitness and therefore also had to be written in the 1st century (no Gnostic 2nd and 3rd century “gospels”)
2 – had to be historically accurate (no Da Vinci Code)
3 – had to be well circulated or quoted or used by the early church (eliminates some obscure person/church using or quoting one odd letter)
4 – the “spiritual” content had to reflect God’s character (no God loves evil stuff)
So, as we see, the church didn’t create the cannon, it discovered what was already there. It discovered what letters and gospels were true and accurate. Kind of like the question, who invented the fact that the interior angels of a triangle total to 180 degrees? Well, nobody invented it, they just discovered what was already there. If the Lord sent the Holy Spirit to remind the disciples of all that he said and did (John 14:26), then those who were closest to him would be the ones to accurately write what he said and did.
And by the way, didn’t we have to vote on rights for women, minorities and such? Just because something is examined and put to a vote doesn’t mean the thing being voted on is wrong or misguided.
10 – What about these verses:
Exodus 21:7 – slavery is ok?!!? No, reading the context of the verse you will see that the female servant is meant to be married. There is a very lengthy discussion of such verses here: http://www.christian-thinktank.com/qnoslave.html The slavery in the OT was very different from what we think of as slavery. Poor people would sell themselves as servants to another wealthier person so they could live and be provided for (more like a job than the cruel slavery we think of). You also need to keep in mind that nowhere in the Bible does God command slavery, He is working within the context of a particular culture of the day.
1 Corinthians 11:14 – its bad for men to have long hair!?! Wait, didn’t Jesus have long hair?! First off, all those wonderful paintings of Jesus, how do we know what he looked like? Did they take pics of him back in the day? No! All of them are just guesses! As a matter of fact, he was just an average Joe, or Jew. Isaiah 53:2 says, “He had not beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
Now, Elijah had long hair (2 Kings 1), the Nazarites had long hair, Samson had long hair, Absalom was praised for his long hair . . . . So what is Paul talking about? Some say that the long hair being referred to is hair past the shoulders since women would have their hair that length and in the culture, hair to your shoulders for men was normal. Remember, long hair is a somewhat relative-to-the-culture term. Long hair in the army is what, 2 inches?! Long hair for boys in the 60s and 70s is a different type than what long hair is today. So, some would say that Paul is just saying don’t have hair like women’s hair.
For answers to questions like these, see “When Critics Ask” by Geisler and Howe, “New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties” by Archer, “Hard Sayings of the Bible” by Davids, and “Difficulties in the Bible” by Torrey. For websites, see: www.carm.org/bible_difficulties.htm and www.apologeticsindex.org.