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

The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself.  Randel McCraw Helms.  Altadena, CA:  Millenium Press.  ISBN 978-0965504768 and 096550476X. Also available in hardback, ISBN 978-0965504751 and 0965504751.

One of three books Helms has written about the Bible (the other two are Gospel Fictions, Who Wrote the Gospels), this is the least of the three.  Helms makes several exegetical errors, rather large ones to boot, that detract from the very pertinent and true theory he propounds that the Bible contains a very large number of contradictions that cannot be explained away, at least not easily.

Taking one error as an example, early in the work Helms writes that Samuel predicted {something, I don’t recall what} but was long dead by the time that prophecy was made.  The problem is that the text reads in both Hebrew and English translation that the words are in the book of the seer Samuel, not that he wrote them.  That is a crucial difference that should not have gone unnoticed.

But in his zeal to disprove biblical veracity – inerrancy in Fundmentalist Christian terms – Helms overlooks things, and many times over.  Again, I am sympathetic to the main ideas: that the writers of Kings and Chronicles had very different purposes, one to cast doubt on the godliness of the Davidic line and the other to reassert that godliness and overlook the sins of the family.  The two books do not work in concert, but in derogation of each other and the later author of Chronicles intended his work to overtake the “deuteronomist” who wrote Samuel and Kings.  Fascinating theory, and probably more true than not.

However, Helms’ arguments in favor of the theory fail because of the overarching exegetical mistakes he makes, mistakes that novices make and not highly regarded scholars of the qualifications and background that Helms has.

The better and stronger arguments are in his disparagement of the Christian part of Holy Writ.  But, here too, he falls somewhat short, though not as badly as in the part about the Hebrew Bible.

Helms makes a good if not fully proven case for Paul being homosexual (hence his hatred of all things homosexual, sort of a self-loathing).  He also makes a good if not fully proven case that Paul purposefully misquoted the Hebrew Bible to prove his (Paul’s) theory of “The Christ.”  I suspect Paul did that to make the case that the way the Hebrew Bible typically was read was wrong, but I’m not an official New Testament scholar.

On balance, the book may be worth reading if one is predisposed against biblical inerrancy and wants some supporting evidence for that position.  If you can look past the problems just described, then perhaps the book will prove valuable.  It does present interesting theories that one may not find anywhere else, and challenges traditional thinking in a number of ways.  That in and of itself is useful, for one cannot grow unless one stretches his mental capabilities beyond where they currently stand (true whether a believer/observant or a heretic/non-believer/ atheist/agostic) If you are not able to look past the flaws, stick with non-mainstream biblical scholars and/or scholars who do not have the depth of belief (if any) that Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have.

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About flatpickingjd

Just your average, liberal vegetarian redneck. Yes, I'm a liberal. Proudly so. I see nothing wrong with that and wear that label with pride. Yes, I'm a vegetarian. I used to be fat, very fat. Then I started taking care of myself, lost a bunch of weight and found it easier to keep that weight off by not eating meat. Or cheese. Or eggs. Or any good stuff. Man, I miss pizza. And, yes, I'm a redneck. I like camping and fishing, listen to bluegrass music and live (from time to time) in the south(west). So, yup, I'm just your average, liberal vegetarian redneck. Serious details about me: I make my living as a lawyer. My practice focus is business law, but I've dabbled in other areas including personal injury, family law, real estate, and water law. I also hold three master's degrees with plans to earn a doctorate. I hope you enjoy your time here, and feel free to comment!
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One Response to Book Review: The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself

  1. Pingback: Previous Book Reviews | fjdsbookreviews

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