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The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself

The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself


All books are written for or against some point of view, and the books of the Bible are no different. Bible book authors were often motivated to write because they wanted to challenge or correct those who had written before them. As Helms explains, The Bible is a war zone, and its authors are the combatants. Paul said of Peter, “I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong” (Gal. 2:11). Helms notes that Jeremiah condemned the entire religious establishment of his time–the very same people that other Bible authors held in highest esteem: “prophets and priests are frauds, every one of them” (Jer. 8:10). Luke felt the need to write another gospel even though many writers had undertaken to draw up an account of the events (Luke 1:1). Luke obviously felt that Mark’s gospel was filled with errors and edited it freely. Not even Mark’s account of the alleged words of the dying Jesus was left unaltered.


“Randel Helms may be the world’s most underrated biblical scholar. This is probably due to a few factors: First, the smoothness and accessibility of his writing; second, the brevity of his books relative to other scholarship; and, third, his primary approach of addressing the bible as literature, and examining it in terms of style, allusion, metaphor, and historical perspective. The Bible Against Itself delves into many of the outstanding contradictions in the bible, and helps explain them by showing how various books in the bible were written in opposition to other books, to dispute them and hopefully supplant them. Helms chronicles a history of literature that came into being as a result of the constant struggle within a people’s culture to identify themselves and their god. This struggle was comprised of multiple opposing factions, each passionately dedicated to their points of view and as passionately opposed to the views of the others. The literature that espoused these views form a history of the development of Jewish and Christian laws and philosophy that is less concerned with historical truth than it is with persuading the culture to see things according to the writer’s point of view. And this persuasion is generally accomplished through threats of damnation, insults, and other vitriol.”

“Read this book. Read about the prophets calling the other prophets blasphemers, the Paulist Christians labeling the Jacobite Christians dogs and sinners, and vice versa, and the apocalyptic authors erring again and again, but continuing to predict anyway (using as their sources the errors of previous apocalyptic theories). You’ll love it. It’s a great book.”

“It isn’t a very long book, but there is so much in it I was amazed. Its the single best book I’ve read on the subject of the Bible. I think that believers need to read this book and think about the documents that make up the basis for their faith and where those documents came from. This book showed me the human side of the texts that make up the Bible, and why so much of the Bible is well, confusing. The author’s style is very quick; I’d say, you dive right in without any apologies like in Dennetts Breaking the Spell. I liked that, it got to the meat of the matter and challenges the reader to keep up with the point the author was trying to make. Atheists and Believers should check this one out.”

“Ever since I had Dr. Helms as a professor at ASU for the Bible As Literature course I have been fascinated with this subject. Helms had such a firm grasp of his knowledge that I knew his books would be engaging and insightful. This book is no exception as he tackled with ease this heavy subject.”

“For the naysayers all I can say is read the book. Helms doesn’t make claims without support. His book is heavily referenced so that you yourself could go those sections of the bible and see for yourself. Helms makes a very convincing argument and is so well supported that only the blind would not be able to see the truth behind his scholarship. Although this is perhaps a bit brief and could do well as a much larger book, I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested.”

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