Don’t Miss Episode 3 of Bible Secrets Revealed: “The Forbidden Scriptures” Tonight on History

Don’t miss episode 3 of the six-part series “Bible Secrets Revealed” on History.

The third installment, entitled “The Forbidden Scriptures“, debuts Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013 at 10/9c .

The episode explores:

“The books, gospels and epistles found in the Holy Bible are writings considered to be divinely inspired. But are there chapters of the Bible that are missing? Have stories been censored and characters deleted? And if so, just who decides what is included–and what is forbidden?

And if you missed the first two episodes, you can watch them for free online at History‘s “Bible Secrets Revealed” website.

Tweet your feedback with the hashtag #BibleSecretsRevealed.

And send your questions to Bible History Daily, where I’ll be answering some of them and providing more in depth explanations.

fake martin luther king, jr. quote demonstrates how we got the apocrypha

MLK said what?There is a beautiful quote going around the internet. It reads:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is only one problem with this quote: Martin Luther King, Jr. never said it. As Megan McArdle and Erik Haugsjaa point out, the second part of the quote is from Dr. King’s 1963 Strength to Love, but the first sentence isn’t part of the original quote. It’s fake. Someone added it to the King quote to make it relevant to Osama bin Laden’s death.

MLK 'Strength to Love' on Google Books

The actual quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'Strength to Love' as demonstrated in Google Books. Note the first part of the quotation was not written by Dr. King.

The viral nature of this quote demonstrates how people will believe whatever they read if it fits their preconceived notions, especially when it is attributed to a well-respected authority or personality. This is precisely how we got the Apocrypha (the books that didn’t make it into the Bible), and a number of the books that actually did make it into the biblical canon. Someone writes something, it sounds like something someone authoritative would say, the quote or book is attributed to said authority, people read it, believe it, and pass it on. (Recommended reading: Forged by Bart Ehrman.)

It’s how we got the fake Bin Laden death photos, it’s how we got the MLK quote, and it’s how we got many of the books of the Bible (i.e., some letters attributed to Paul, all 4 Gospels, many of the pastoral letters, the Apocrypha, etc.).

What’s a shame in the modern age is that it’s actually quite easy to fact check. Unfortunately, people don’t. They just parrot misinformation without citations because they like the way it sounds. It reiterates the need for readers to check their facts, and for authors to cite their sources.

In the words of Al Gore, “This is not why I invented the internet.”1

1Al Gore did not make this statement.


UPDATE: See the Salon.com article by Drew Grant, who attributes the quote to a tweet from Penn Jillette, who got it on Facebook from someone named Jessica Dovey. A screenshot of Dovey’s Facebook message shows that she did, in fact, offset MLK’s quote from her own comments. So Penn (apparently) mis-attributed the first portion to Dr. King. Penn acknowledged his mistake, but not before it went viral.

This demonstrates that there are usually two attributions needed for a saying to become ‘authoritative’: attribution to a recognized respected authority, and the propagation by another respected/beloved figure. It also demonstrates a point that Bart Ehrman and his teacher, Bruce Metzger, both make: not all edits and changes are intentional. Like Penn in this case, it was an honest mistake, which, to his credit, he immediately corrected.

Excellent work Drew!!

a biblical solution to the bedbug infestation terrorizing america from ‘the acts of john’

BedbugWith all of the news surrounding the apparent bedbug infestation spreading across America, from the United Nations and the Waldorf Astoria in New York to out here in Los Angeles, I was reminded that despite how much this menace sucks (literally), this is no new problem. Actually, the problem of bedbug annoyance has been around since biblical days. In fact, one of the more humorous (albeit implausible) stories from the earliest moments in Christianity is a story from a pseudepigraphal gnostic document called the Acts of John.

At one point in the Acts of John, we have the story of “The Miracle of the Bedbugs”:

Now on the first day we arrived at a deserted inn, and when we were at a loss for a bed for John, we saw a droll matter. There was one bedstead lying somewhere there without coverings, whereon we spread the cloaks which we were wearing, and we prayed him to lie down upon it and rest, while the rest of us all slept upon the floor. But when he lay down, he was troubled by the bugs, and as they continued to become yet more troublesome to him, when it was now about the middle of the night, in the hearing of us all he said to them: “I say unto you, O bugs, behave yourselves, one and all, and leave your abode for this night and remain quiet in one place, and keep your distance from the servants of God.” And as we laughed, and went on talking for some time, John addressed himself to sleep; and we, talking low, gave him no disturbance (or, thanks to him we were not disturbed).

But when the day was now dawning I arose first, and with me Verus and Andronicus, and we saw at the door of the house which we had taken a great number of bugs standing, and while we wondered at the great sight of them, and all the brethren were roused up because of them, John continued sleeping. And when he was awakened, we declared to him what we had seen. And he sat up on the bed and looked at them and said: “Since ye have well behaved yourselves in hearkening to my rebuke, come unto your place.” And when he had said this, and risen from the bed, the bugs running from the door hasted to the bed and climbed up by the legs thereof and disappeared into the joints. And John said again: “This creature hearkened unto the voice of a man, and abode by itself and was quiet and trespassed not; but we which hear the voice and commandments of God disobey and are light-minded: and for how long?” (60-61)

Thus, the solution to the bedbug problem: get an apostle to order the bugs out of the bed before you go to sleep every night. It’s an almost biblical solution to the bedbug infestation terrorizing America. (And don’t talk while John’s trying to sleep!)

has mark goodacre solved the gospel of peter’s ‘talking cross’?

Mark Goodacre (Duke) has posted some excellent thoughts reexamining the famous “talking cross” text from the Gospel of Peter. It’s a text that’s made me chuckle for some time, but Dr. Goodacre has pieced together a very nice alternative reading that makes the text a bit more germane to the Gospel of Peter’s resurrection narrative.

His alternative reading is as follows:

And while they were narrating what they had seen, they saw three men come out from the sepulchre, two of them raising up the one, and the crucified one following them (40) and the heads of the two reaching to heaven, but that of him who was being led out by the hand by them reaching beyond the heavens. 41. And they heard a voice out of the heavens crying, ‘Have you preached to those who sleep?’, 42. and from the crucified one there was heard the answer, ‘Yes.’

To see how Dr. Goodacre got to this reading, read his post here.

%d bloggers like this: