By Grant Steves
The label found on the cover of CJ Werleman’s new book states “Explicit Content – WARNING – Harmful to Faith.” A plethora of similar books has been released in the last few years. Books from significant New Testament scholars with the ability to reach the general reading audience are among those published. These include:
-Biblical Errancy (2000, by C. Dennis McKinsey)
-Secret Origins of the Bible (2002, by Tim Cahahan)
-Misquoting Jesus (2005, by Bart Ehrman)
-The Empty Tomb (2005, by Robert Price)
-The Bible Against Itself (2006, by Randel Helms)
Writers who have drawn on the scholarship of the above authors have released other books on the subject that are less scholarly, such as Dan Barker’s Godless (2008) and Ruth Hurmence Green’s The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible (1999). It is encouraging to see so many different books with a similar mission: to expose the Bible and its inaccuracies.
Most of these inconsistencies and errors have been known for hundreds of years. Whether it is the story of the adulterous woman (see John 8: 1-11) or the ending of the Gospel of Mark, we know the oldest manuscripts do not accept them. We know that some books attributed to Paul were not written by him. Only scholars studying the developments in the field might have new information or insights.
Werleman is not a scholar, but he is a writer who is repackaging these criticisms with humor and a strong negative bias. His humor is displayed at the start of most of the chapters under a section called ‘The Joke.’ One example of such a joke include:
A burglar sneaks in a dark bar (after hours) and goes right for the cash register.
A voice calls out, “GOD IS WATCHING YOU.”
He looks all around and sees nothing so returns to jimmying the cash drawer. Again, the voice says, “GOD IS WATCHING YOU.”
The burglar looks around and finally sees a parrot in a cage and says, “Oh, Hi Polly. You startled me.”
“Hey” said the parrot. “My name ain’t Polly. It’s John the Baptist.”
The burglar snorted, “Who in the world named you John the Baptist?”
Parrot says, “The same guy who named that Rottweiler over there, God!”
These jokes are material that most of the potential readers have heard before, and therefore add little to the investigation.
The other form of humor is the frequent use of the f-word. His use of this kind of language gives us a clue that he cares, not about the general audience, but only those already converted to his way of thinking. Humor is a great device to create interest and promote a remembrance of things said. However, it can be a jarring distraction from the flow of the reading. Perhaps that is what the explicit content label refers to. With this style of writing, it is no surprise that the book lacks formal footnotes or references to the Bible translations used in the book. Werleman does list the books he references at the end of the book. But even in the list of books for the individual chapters, he does not follow a correct entry form.
At one point, Werleman makes the following comment about Paul’s writing; “Didn’t they have editors back in those days?” Perhaps. But someone should tell Werleman that there are editors today, and he needs to get one to guide him away from the errors he made.
However, the book is perhaps written more for entertainment than any serious attempt at addressing an audience about the failures of the New Testament. His humor and breezy style might be summed up in the following paragraph taken from his book:
“… Where did Erasmus get his manuscript copies of the gospels and epistles? Did they fall from heaven? Of course they didn’t. The simple truth, the clog wearing Erasmus threw both legs over the back of his pony and galloped to Basel, Switzerland, the land of dark chocolate, the home of Roman Polanski, and even darker porn.”
As it is, Werleman offers us questionable humor, diluted content, poor scholarship, and numerous errors at a price that could easily pay for Bart Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture
, 1993. Buy that book instead.