BioLogos suggests that much of the Bible is metaphor

October 15, 2012 • 7:00 am

For a long time now BioLogos has ignored its initial mission of trying to convert evangelical Christians to evolution.  It didn’t work—as I predicted—because those Christians know that if you buy Darwinian evolution, then you have to see much of the Bible as either fictional or at best metaphorical. And if you do that, then where does the metaphor stop? Was Jesus a metaphor for how we humans can save ourselves?

Evangelicals won’t buy that, nor do they like what they see as the other philosophical accoutrements of evolution: our status as mere evolved beasts like gibbons, the lack of a human soul, the absence of an external purpose or meaning to our lives, or of a God-imposed morality, and so on.

And so BioLogos, in desperation, now spends nearly all its time not touting evolution, but sucking up to evangelical Christians, or giving them ludicrous ways to comport their faith with scientific truth—ways that are themselves unscientific (e.g., the historicity of Adam and Eve).

In an essay from last February just reposted, “Jesus the artist,” Pete Enns (a biblical scholar who recently left the organization) tries a Hail Mary. After describing the parables of Jesus, he sneakily segues from the parables to the notion that much of the Bible could also be a story.

Nobody, after all, can take issue with stuff like this:

Parables are radical pieces of communication meant to disorient the hearers and then reorient them to an entirely new way of thinking. The reason Jesus does so much story telling is because stories—not debate or other “proofs”—are best suited for such a whole scale reorientation. Jesus’ preaching, after all, was about the kingdom of heaven (or of God).

But in the next sentence Enns sneaks in some further metaphor:

This kingdom was not about where one goes after death, but a here-and-now transformation of how people thought about God and their relationship to him.

Nice ploy, Dr. Enns, but how do you know that? Many Christians do indeed think they’re going to heaven after they die. What makes you think you know better?

Enns goes on to dissect some parables, and says some things that most will consider unexceptionable:

It is sometimes thought that Jesus told stories because he wanted to persuade the masses, the common people who are not used to debating fine points of theology like the scribes and priests. This is partially true, but it is also true that the radical message of the kingdom of heaven required a means of communication that was best suited for it. Like any work of art, stories “create” new ways of seeing the world—and it is, after all, a new world that Jesus means to create.

But then, after a long discussion of the function of Jesus’s parables as stories, Enns slips this in as his final paragraph (my emphasis):

If this is how God chooses to communicate at the incarnation—the very climax and epicenter of his story—we should not be surprised to see God painting vivid portraits elsewhere in Scripture. This is especially true of Genesis and creation. Something so fundamental to God’s story may need to be told in a way that transcends the limitations of purely intellectual engagement. Genesis may be written more to show us—by grabbing us with its images than laying out a timeline of cause and effect events—that God is the central figure on the biblical drama.

Nice try, Dr. Enns!  Pity that it won’t convince anyone.  Or, if you want to, please give us the reasons why you—and not the evangelicals—seem to know exactly what God intended to do when he wrote (or inspired) the Bible. It’s not because you have a pipeline to God, is it? It’s because you interpret the Bible as metaphor and want others to feel likewise. But if you’re going to do that, you need to tell us exactly which parts of the Bible are to be read as metaphor and which as literal truth. Presumably you, Dr. Enns, don’t feel that the stories of the Virgin Birth, the crucifixion, and the Resurrection are metaphors. Or if you do, please let us know in another essay (now that would be something to read) which tools you use to parse metaphor from reality.

Enns is a biblical scholar with impressive degrees (including a Ph.D. from Harvard), so he presumably relies on evidence for his conclusions. I’d love to know the evidence he uses to conclude that Genesis was metaphorical but the Resurrection was real.

Most of us see the Bible as a total fiction. The great tragedy of Enns, and of accommodationists like him, is that he can’t buy that whole hog: because of childhood indoctrination or a desire to believe what is comforting, a Biblical scholar convinces himself that part of a fictional book really is fiction, though it teaches timeless truths, while other parts or non-negotiable fact.  And he has no way, despite his Ph.D. in Biblical scholarship, to do that. Tell us, Dr. Enns: if Genesis was just a useful myth rather than truth, how do you know that Jesus was the Son of God and came back from the dead?

This tactic won’t work with evangelicals, and never has, and I suspect that that’s why Enns isn’t with BioLogos any longer.  But Templeton keeps giving the organization tons of money—all wasted.

127 thoughts on “BioLogos suggests that much of the Bible is metaphor

  1. “For a long time now BioLogos has ignored its initial mission of trying to convert evangelical Christians to evolution.”

    Hardly fair. There are three to my mind excellent essays on evolution by that arch-accommodationist (in the original sense of the word) Dennis Venema in September alone. Including a dismantling of the Creationist myth of “the myth of junk DNA”, and discussion of chromosomal fusion in Denisovans as in modern humans.

    1. Good point Paul, but remember that Venema is a scientist and Enns is a biblical scholar, and thus the resistance is not to the science per se but what it does with biblical hermeneutics.

  2. The Bible is not total fiction. That is just as ignorant as thinking there were two of every subspecies of Common Gartersnake on a boat while the world was flooded.

    Much (though certainly not all) of the history in the Bible is extremely accurate and has been verified.

    The pre-Abraham part of Genesis, which is the biggest place where evolutionists and creationists have a problem with each other, is far better suited to the argument of being total fiction, and is probably (IMHO) what you should apply that argument to.

    The pre-Abraham part of Genesis is also where stories are found mirrored in other early cultures, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, indicating the author(s) of Genesis almost certainly used a pre-existing source.

    1. Much (though certainly not all) of the history in the Bible is extremely accurate and has been verified.


      News to me.

      Tell me: what’s the best example you can offer of something in the Bible that’s been independently verified? Including, of course, the method of verification, if you please.



      1. I’d have to say Sennacherib’s campaign, the Ashdod campaign under Sargon II, and the campaign of Nebuchadnezzar to Judah in 597 BC are the best examples of something independently verified in the Bible.

          1. For the Ashdod campaign, only the part regarding the Tartan has not been verified for certain, though it does not contradict the available evidence. 2 Kings 24:10-17 -compare For Sennacherib’s campaign, see any translation of any of the prisms that relate to the campaign-there are three sources to the account of Sennacherib’s campaign in 2 Kings 18-19, see . The last source (the one recording the angelic massacre) is total fiction written during the Babylonian exile, while the first two only partially concur with the Assyrian account and are pre-exilic.

            1. Thanks for that. It’s new to me, and something I’ll have to dig into a little further.

              I’ll note that, at least at first blush, the bits the tablets confirm are rather mundane and that the Babylonians didn’t even mention the hand of YHWH.


          2. A great source on what is and what isn’t verified is “The Bible Unearthed” by Israel Finkelstein. Of course he confirms some and shows much more to be unlikely or exaggerated, so he is not popular in the evangelical circles.

            1. I think the point to take from this discussion is that it’s neither surprising nor remarkable that there are snippets of verifiable facts in the Bible, but rather that the Bible itself is an unreliable source for historical analysis.

              After all, London exists and has a well-developed public transit infrastructure, yet one would never think to use mentions of such in Harry Potter to substantiate such claims, or any other claims.

              Similarly, there’s no dispute that there are historical facts even in the Gospels. It mentions Jerusalem, which was very real, and a couple Kings Herod who were also real, and so on. Yet one wouldn’t use the Bible to establish the historicity of the Roman Empire, and one shouldn’t use it to establish facts about anything else, either.

              (Except, of course, the same sorts of facts you’d derive from any other work of fiction — namely, that the author(s) wished to convey such-and-such a message to the audience.)



            2. TBU was a good source for 2001, however, it has become rather out of date over the years. For all the errors I have found in TBU, see my blog-look at the header. Israel Finkelstein’s scholarly articles on and on his website are almost always very good.

              1. What are the two-three most significant things that are now out of date?

                I know that there were new dating techniques that have been eagerly anticipated that would be used to address the Ahab Solomon stables issue. Has that been done? Is there more?

            3. The most out-of-date concept in TBU is the discussion of the evidence for the abandonment of the idea Solomon built the six-chambered gates once ascribed to him. Some graphs showing calibrated radiocarbon dates (esp. those from Ekron and ‘Atar Haroa) would have to be shown in any 2nd edition of TBU and the whole talk about the possibility of Shoshenq I destroying Canaanite city-states would have to go. The stratigraphy of Dan would be revised even further down while the Saulides would get far more attention (they would be portrayed by Finkelstein as powerful kings ruling Khirbet Qeiyafa and Gibeon; conclusions that I only partially endorse). The discussion of Jerusalem on page 133 would also have to be revised with a discussion of fortifications and a comparison of Late Bronze with Iron I-IIa Jerusalem (the latter city is far more clearly visible, archaeologically, than the former, though both cities appear to have been unfortified). Mizpah and Lachish would also be heavily discussed by Finkelstein as evidence of the rise of the Kingdom of Judah during the Aramean conquest of N. Israel and Gath (which would get a page to itself).

              1. Thanks for the reply. I will pull out my book and reread those sections in light of your comments.

                Overall, do you think the changes you mention either strengthen or weaken the support for a low chronology?

              2. Thank you. Very informative.

                Sounds like TBU is due a serious revision or maybe a new book written for the layman on low/high chronology. Perhaps things are just moving to quickly?

              3. It’s a very active and exciting area, particularly in the last decade. Basically, everything that was taught forty, thirty or even twenty years ago needs full reassessment.

              4. Thanks – I’ve watched those now and see you have even more – so I’ll watch the whole series.

                It seems to me the evidence is creeping along down toward low chronology and absent some remarkable finding, the result is inevitable.

                With more and more of the religious doubting the inerrancy of Biblical sources, is this perhaps a generational issue where 40 years from now few will be advocating as truth the glorious stories of David and Solomon.

                Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses to the history rubbish heap. David and Solomon soon to follow?

              5. Unlikely. The great Tel Dan debate of the 1990s settled the case for the historicity of David (and, presumably, Solomon) for most scholars. Whether it will flare up again in the future is uncertain.

              6. I presume you are referring to the steele and the BYTDaWouD reference?

                I am not clear how this resolved anything. Do you have something you can point me to as a source? Tx!

              7. Yes, that. It didn’t resolve anything, but the debate did die down, with the (vast?) majority of scholars favoring the stele’s bytdwd=Biblical House of David equation. I have no good bibliography for you, as I have not researched the Tel Dan stele to the depth I could have.

              8. Unlikely. The great Tel Dan debate of the 1990s settled the case for the historicity of David (and, presumably, Solomon) for most scholars. Whether it will flare up again in the future is uncertain.

      2. Most of the history in Daniel and even much of the prophecy in Daniel. In fact the prophecy in Daniel 11 is so accurate it is used as an argument for a 2nd Century BCE authorship opposed to a 6th Century BCE authorship as is tradition (the argument being it is history written as prophecy).

        Many of the kings in the Bible were thought to be fictional (including Belteshazzar in Daniel) and then archaeologists found the evidence that they were in fact very real.


          1. I’m not here to argue with you.
            If this really interests you, any college should have ample resources in the library.

            The claims I gave are as established as the earth revolving around the sun. Look into your own historical ignorance before taking an attitude with me.

            1. So, you’ve got nothing whatsoever.

              pithom has pointed me to some Babylonian clay tablets that mention Nebuchadnezzar conquering Judah, and point out that 2 Kings 24 also says that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah. That’s something I wasn’t aware of before, but I think even you will agree with me that one tribe conquering another is nothing compared to a claim of a Bronze-age society doing things to the Einsteinian cone of causality that we don’t even know how to do.

              If you’ve got actual evidence of fulfilled prophecies, please present said evidence.

              Failure to provide such evidence — especially if it’s even remotely as readily available as you’re blustering it is — is itself ample evidence that either you’re making stuff up or that you don’t understand what constitutes reliable empirical evidence.



              1. I don’t think you understand what evidence is.

                I am not providing them because I don’t want to get into a point counterpoint with someone who wants to argue.

                You can easily look this stuff up and find it. I don’t care if you believe me or not.

              2. The thing is, Alice, I have looked. Many times. And I do understand what evidence is.

                That Babylonian clay tablet that pithom pointed me to? That’s evidence.

                A Caesar coin? That’s evidence.

                Bible babble? Ha!

                So, do you have evidence, or are you just lying for Jesus?

                I ask because everybody I’ve ever encountered who’s ever claimed to have evidence and then either refused to follow through with the evidence or who’s spewed forth Mediaeval Christian apologetics has just been lying for Jesus.



              3. It may be warranted to be slightly nicer on this one. There’s a lotta folks who are now atheists who were lied to to as students that what “Biblical history” does bears any resemblance to what actual historians do. Carrier goes on about this in Proving History, e.g. that the academic consensus genuinely is for a historical Jesus, and then he enumerates the BS this is based on and just how fucked methodologically the field of “biblical history” is considered by actual historians. Old Testament stuff is a bit better, but not much better. But they tell the students “you’re learning real history here”, and the students believe them.

              4. Belshazar (not Belteshazar – that was a typo, I apologize) is the king I was referring to.

                For many moons, only known reference to him was in Daniel and secular scholars doubted his existence. Until they found evidence of him outside of Daniel.

                The Nabonidus Cylinder is where they found evidence of him outside of Daniel.

                He was the son of Nabonidus, the last ruler of Babylon. Why he is referred to as King in Daniel may be because he was left to rule Babylon while his father left Babylon at the end of his reign, I believe there is other precedence of that kind of title being used for the effective ruler under similar circumstances. Note that in Daniel he only offers to make Daniel the 3rd highest ruler in the kingdom (which historically may not be what happened, we haven’t yet found reference to Daniel outside of Daniel) which would be consistent with Nabonidus being 1 and Belshazzar being 2, even though Belshazzar had title of King in Daniel.

              5. So, Alice, what we see is another instance, similar to what pithom provided, of independent confirmation of the names of a rather inconsequential Biblical character.

                Color me unimpressed, and feeling quite let down from your original claim that “[m]uch (though certainly not all) of the history in the Bible is extremely accurate and has been verified.”

                Where’s the confirmation of the awesome span and influence of the empires of Kings Solomon and David? Where’s the confirmation of the Exodus and of Moses’s conquest of Canaan? Where’s the confirmation of even the least consequential part of the Gospels?

                I think it most reasonable to suggest that, unless at least one of those essential, foundational stories can be confirmed, it is misleading in the extreme to claim that “much of the Bible is extremely accurate and has been verified.”


        1. Daniel was Maccabean propaganda from the 2nd Century BCE. It’s “history” in the sense they were dressing up history as prophecy. Similar to how Mark is “history” in that it was clearly written after 70AD.

          1. Discussing the date of authorship of Daniel would be a very large discussion.

            The historical accuracy of Daniel 11 is the primary reason most scholars date it as a 2nd century BCE document.

            Pithom –

            I was at one point (20 years ago) a YEC in college training to be a pastor. I had a passion for herpetology, mathematics, and physics. The damn Ensatina (ring species in California) shattered my YEC beliefs.

            Now I am a reject from the evangelical crowd, as in addition to embracing evolution with all life (on earth anyway) probably having originated from a single ancestor, I have embraced my kink/feminine side (I’m a guy) and am a cross-dressing submissive to dominant women.

            That is probably way too much information, but my religious beliefs or lack thereof have nothing to do with anything I stated here either.

            1. Biblical history over ten years old is best reexamined – see Avalos and Carrier on the subject (tl;dr what was sold to students as authentic history and historical methods in biblical-related topics is/was largely nothing of the sort). AIUI the Bible as “surprisingly accurate” has emphasis on the “surprise” when it is accurate.

              1. If it is anything like taxonomy in biology, there will be just as many changes 10 years from now.

        2. Alice:

          Most of the history in Daniel and even much of the prophecy in Daniel.

          This is only partly true.

          Daniel got the ancient history confused. Some is correct, some is wrong.

          The prophecies up to 165 BCE are correct, not too suprising since that is when it was written. Daniel was just summarizing recent history after all and pretending to predict the future.

          The prophecies after that were wildly wrong. That is because the author of Daniel was actually predicting the future and didn’t guess very well.

          The biblical scholarly consensus is that it is 2nd century. Most of it is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew, the only book of the bible that is.

          1. Would you mind specifying which prophecies after 165 BCW he got wildly wrong?

            Daniel’s apocalyptic nature is actually quite different than the apocalyptic nature of other 2nd century BCE works. A big difference is without the book of Daniel, no reference to him exists. All the others for their author chose someone of historical significance (e.g. Enoch).

            Another difference, Daniel is the only one referred to as “The Prophet” and included with the prophets in Qumran.

            Daniel certainly wasn’t your typical 2nd century BCE apocalyptic work.

            1. Would you mind specifying which prophecies after 165 BCW he got wildly wrong?

              Sure. No problem. This BTW, was well known a century ago. Daniel’s prophecies are correct to a certain point and then go wildly wrong. This dates it to around 165 BCE to within a few years.


              Prior to Daniel 11:40, the author(s) has been recording past events under the Babylonian, Median, Persian and Greek empires.

              In Daniel 11:40-45, he really attempts to predict the future. He prophesizes that a king of the south (of the Ptolemaic dynasty) will attack the Greeks in Judea, under Antiochus. The Greeks will win, will lay spoil to all of northeast Africa, and return to Judea where Antiochus will die. The end of history will then occur. The author(s) appeared to be a poor psychic because none of these events actually happened. Antiochus did die in 164 BCE, but it was in Persia. Thus, the book was apparently completed before 164.

              1. The the king being referred to was A.E. IV is one interpretation. It actually doesn’t fit the text because the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes is predicted elsewhere in the book but differently, so it does not make sense for the king of the south mentioned there to be A.E.

                If you look at the text, it stops talking about the kings for a few verses and then starts again where the alleged historical inaccuracy is. And then following the alleged inaccuracy it jumps right into the end of the world.

                But the 70 weeks of Daniel have not yet finished at 165 BCE so if you do not allow for there to be gaps in the text, then the text has the world ending before the 70 weeks prophecy is over.

                The interpretation that many have, and you are free to disagree with this of course – it is just an interpretation – is that Antiochus IV Epiphanes is a prototype of the prince of darkness, the prince who is to come, but not the person described as defeated in the verse you attribute to an error in Daniel 9.

                Nero is another prototype of this prince who is to come (Nero is likely referenced in the Revelation of John), and some see Hitler as yet another version – though there isn’t a canonized scripture about him.

                But anyway, the point is that if you demand an interpretation of Daniel 11 without any gaps then the world has to end before the 70 weeks of Daniel are up resulting in an internal inconsistency. As well as an internal consistency with previously mentioned death of A. IV E. that is correct.

                An internal consistency may not bother you, but interpreting Daniel in such a way as there are not internal inconsistencies requires a gap in Daniel 9 and that king of the south then is no longer Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

        3. The evidence that this would be the same Belshazzar is tenuous. The Bible gets all other facts wrong (no historical Nebuchadnezzar et cetera) and claiming that a prince with the wrong father is the same as a king son of a non-existing person seems coincidental.

          Rather the simplest explanation suggests itself, the name would be the significant tie. I.e. the name of a known babylonian regent was used for the fable.

          1. Possible it is correct on that account by accident, but it is still correct nonetheless.

            Yeah, names are a hard one because many people were known by several different names. So it is hard to say something is definitively incorrect just because the name is different or correct just because it is the same.

            But in this case, not only is the name the same but Belshazzar would have been last in Babylon when it fell as was the case in Daniel.

          2. What “no historical Nebuchadnezzar” are you talking about? Nebuchadnezzar was as historical as Alexander II of Macedon, Sargon II of Assyria, or Julius Caesar.

    2. Much (though certainly not all) of the history in the Bible is extremely accurate and has been verified.

      What? Like all the evidence for a major Jewish slave population in Egypt, one of the central “facts” of the post-Abrahamic Old Testament?

      What parts are you thinking have been “verified”?

      1. It’s actually quite difficult to falsify the claim that there was a large Jewish slave population in Egypt-the Nile Valley is hardly the best place for ruins, especially ones of poor villages, to be preserved.

        1. It’s relatively easy to demonstrate that it is extremely unlikely a slave population of 600,000 men, along with their families, a population integral to the Egyptian economy (as they would have comprised 30-40% of the estimated population of Egypt at the time) would have not been mentioned in the detailed records of the time, much less that a revolt that destroyed most of the Egyptian army would have gone unremarked. If the Biblical account were historically accurate, the Egyptian economy would have collapsed, but there is absolutely no evidence of that, or of a major sudden reduction in military strength, nor any evidence that would comport with the notion of a vast slave population that escaped.

          1. I believe there is evidence of a large exodus of people our of Egypt into Palestine via pottery in the desert, but about 1,000 years earlier than the biblical exodus date.

            Whether that was the Jews or not, slaves or not, I can’t even begin to speculate.

            But absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence and Egypt was famous for trying to erase embarrassing parts of their history.

            1. I believe there is evidence of a large exodus of people our of Egypt into Palestine via pottery in the desert, but about 1,000 years earlier than the biblical exodus date.

              I hadn’t heard this before – do you have a citation for this? My understanding is that there is absolutely no pottery evidence in the Sinai that would correspond with the alleged dates of the exodus.

              But absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence and Egypt was famous for trying to erase embarrassing parts of their history.

              But a Biblically accurate exodus of approximately 40% of the Egyptian population (along with the destruction of a huge portion of its military force) would surely have caused their economy to collapse and the state to devolve into chaos. In other words, it’s not just about written records (although effacing 600,000 families who lived in your country for 300+ years from one’s records would be an amazing trick on its own).

              1. Alice’s referring to the enormous Intermediate Bronze settlement in the Negev and other parts of Canaan after the collapse of urban culture in the Early Bronze. The problem with Alice’s idea is that there is no evidence these settlers came from Egypt and far more that they came from Syria/Lebanon or the ruined EB cities of Canaan, as the pottery styles of IB Canaan tend to be very similar to those of the IB Orontes Valley. Another problem, that of the inconsistency of the EB archaeological record with the Bible, has been pointed out by Walter Mattfeld at

        2. In addition to the excellent points that Tulse has made, let’s not forget that Exodus also describes Moses and his merry men spending 40 years wandering the hundred or so miles separating the place of their captivity and their deliverance. Evidence in that stretch of desert is very well preserved; satellites can trace the paths of ancient caravans, and campfires and coprolites and the like survive in excellent shape.

          And there’s absolutely no record of a million people spending 40 years in that part of the world, ever.


    3. “Much (though certainly not all) of the history in the Bible is extremely accurate and has been verified.”

      This turns out to be almost entirely false. What examples of it turning out accurate are you thinking of?

        1. My reading has led to the same conclusion. Everything up to and including Joshua is made up.

          The era from prophets through Solomon may have some kernels of history, but is largely embellished if not totally made up.

          Once we get to Josiah, it seems to be more accurate. (See “Who Wrote the Bible”).

          If there is any history in the gospels or Acts, it’s Actscidental.

          Paul, perhaps some – but very one-sided with a view to proving his delusions of vision.

    4. Try most of the pre-David parts of the Bible as having at most metaphoric connection to “accurate”. Last I heard, the archaeological evidence was pointing to Israel resulting from the lower classes in Egypt’s Palestinian province revolting against the local ruling class (possibly triggered by a minor ecodisaster), but not marching off anywhere.

      Around King David or so, there starts to be archaeologically detectable traces — rulers based in Jerusalem, consistent with the Biblical records being recopied from reports by scribes of the era. Coincidentally, YHWH’s miracles tend to tone down in scale about the time of accurate record keeping.

      1. Well, a virgin birth resulting in a guy who rises from the dead and then floats away on a cloud isn’t exactly toned down 😉

    5. Can you point to one person in human history who was tortured for proving that something is the bible was true and correctly contradicted something taught by an actual science?

  3. Pete Enns […] tries a Hail Mary.

    I bet that many Protestant evangelicals would see that as a grave Papist insult.

    1. Jesus, that was stupid.

      If he was looking to prove that only childish fools believe in gods, then he sure did an excellent job at providing evidence to support such an hypothesis….


  4. First, this excerpt from Dr. Enns’s post:

    It is sometimes thought that Jesus told stories because he wanted to persuade the masses, the common people who are not used to debating fine points of theology like the scribes and priests. This is partially true, but it is also true that the radical message of the kingdom of heaven required a means of communication that was best suited for it.

    Now, Mark 4, 11-12:

    ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.’

    So, Jesus as written by Mark wanted to keep ‘the masses, the common people’ out of the kingdom. Or can this lifelong professional reader not read?

    1. No, no — don’t you see? Mark 4:11-12 is a parable! It doesn’t really mean that Jesus wanted to keep the masses in the dark; that’d be silly.

      And, no, I’m not going to explain to you what the parable really means, except that it definitely doesn’t mean what it says, except insofar as it does.



      P.S. I can nao has $1M Templeton? KTHXBAI. b&

      1. Oh,hay…simpleton fowndashin, Hydrogen Filled Cat (Ben Goren) frum Ceiling Cats BLOG wunts 1 millin flamin broilrd cheesburgers pleze.

  5. Isn’t this really irrelevent? The primary claims of the Bible are supernatural. Whether or not it is based closely, loosely or not at all on the history of a particular desert tribe doesn’t make much difference for the religious claims. Von Schliemann found a real city of Troy. That doesn’t make be believe that Achilles was a real person who could only be injured by being shot in the ankle. Similarly whether or not there was a king named David who had some local military success doesn’t convince me that he was sponsored by God.

    Sorry if I’m just not that deeply interested in the exact history of some minor tribe in the Middle East.

    1. supernatural claims generally can not be confirmed or denied by science because science studies and concerns itself with natural phenomena, not supernatural, so it is a scope error to try and do so.

      I make no claims about the accounts of supernatural events. Any I could make, there’s no way to keep personal bias from clouding my judgement.

      1. supernatural claims generally can not be confirmed or denied by science

        Really? Science has nothing to say about, for example, the supernatural event of a global flood?

        1. If there was a supernatural global flood (and I do not personally believe there was) there would need to be supernatural aftermath to the flood or the life forms on the boat would not be able to survive in the devastated atmosphere.

          How that supernatural aftermath would look to our modern examination of the geological timetable I don’t think anyone could even hazard a guess.

          1. Oh, puh-leeze.

            If the Emperor blew up the Ewok’s planet (and I do not personally believe he did), there would need to be a Force echo of the devastation. How that echo would look to our modern examination of the star system I don’t think anybody could even hazard a guess.

            I mean, seriously? Are we now reduced to ten-year-olds squabbling about how much Kryptonite Superman would need to have in his condom if he were going to have sex with Lois?


            1. I think I need to better explain myself.

              In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said stuff like “You have heard ‘thou shalt not commit murder’ but I say anyone who hates his brother has already committed murder”

              My interpretation of that is Jesus was telling them their strict literal interpretation that they then built a series of rules and laws on top of was missing the whole damn point of what was written in the first place.

              With respect to the flood, the account in Genesis is eerily similar to the account in Epic of Gilgamesh, the primary difference being some numbers. e.g. where Noah’s flood was 40 days, the Epic has it 7 days.

              Both 7 and 40 are numbers that are often used in the context of some kind of completion, I’m not sure we fully understand the meaning of those numbers to the people who used them in the story telling, but both are frequently used in context of completion of some type.

              A literal interpretation of the flood story may have never been intended by the original authors. The genesis flood story, btw, linguistically appears to be two different stories merged together just like there are two different creation stories that are not merged together.

              We may be able to use science to say a literal interpretation of the flood story did not happen. I don’t think the genetic diversity we have today would be possible if there were only two representatives of each kind of animal post flood.

              But we can not say a supernatural event did not occur. We can only say science does not support and even casts serious doubt on a particular interpretation of how the story is read. An interpretation that may have never been the intent of the original authors.

              1. A literal interpretation of the flood story may have never been intended by the original authors.

                So that bit isn’t “historical”, but other bits are? What exactly is your criteria for judging which events might be metaphorical?

              2. But we can not say a supernatural event did not occur. We can only say science does not support and even casts serious doubt on a particular interpretation of how the story is read.

                That’s a distinction without a difference, except to the extent that it grants unwarranted dignity to the absurd.

                Technically, science cannot prove that there aren’t invisible monkeys flying out of your butt and that said monkeys used mind control to force you to type what you just did. I would hope, however, that we could agree that you’d have to be having carnal relations with Mickey’s dog (i.e., fucking Goofy) in order to think that such a claim deserves to be taken seriously. I would similarly hope that, hypothesized intentions of the authors aside, the Flood story is just as absurd.

                The Bible is a (very poorly written) faery tale anthology that opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry giant; prominently features a story about a talking plant (on fire!) that gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero; and ends with an utterly bizarre zombie snuff pr0n fantasy, complete with the arch-monster commanding his thralls to fondle his intestines through his gaping chest wound. Any historical facts that may be present are as insignificantly incidental as the name of Hamlet’s kingdom.



            2. Hi Ben:

              Unless you are intentionally alluding to it here, check out Larry Niven’s story, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.” It fleshes out (sorry 😉 the details of what an erotic encounter between the two of them would entail.

          2. So anything is possible? How can we even do science then, if our own observations may be the result of miracles and not regularities in nature?

            You’re engaging in such naked special pleading that it’s kinda sad…

      2. Absolutely false.

        A claim that one can locate water using a dowsing rod is a supernatural claim, and yet science is more than adequate to reject said claim.

        Similarly, a claim that a month-long flood once drowned Mt. Everest is also a supernatural claim, and science is again more than adequate to reject that claim, too.

        Insisting that one mustn’t look under the bed lest the monster who hides there get angry is entirely irrelevant to the matter of whether or not looking under the bed can provide evidence as to whether or not there is a monster there.

        And, yes, claims that science can’t investigate claims of miracles and / or the supernatural are exactly as silly as a child not wanting his parents to see what’s really under his bed.



        1. “A claim that one can locate water using a dowsing rod is a supernatural claim”

          No, it is a claim that one can locate water using a dowsing rod. The mechanism by which it that takes places could be supernatural or it could be supernatural.

          If through experimentation it can not be demonstrated, you can potentially say there is no scientific evidence the claim is true. And that is all you can claim.

          If through scientific experimentation it can be demonstrated, you can them look for a natural explanation. If you find one, there you go. If you do not find one, then all you know is it works but you do not have a scientific explanation as to how or why, so you keep looking for one.

          Logic, what do they teach in schools these days.

          1. could be supernatural or it could be supernatural. should be could be supernatural or it could be natural.

            Proofreading. What do they teach in schools these days? 😉

      3. The question is why should scientists take your supernatural claims more seriously than you take conflicting religious claims, myths, and superstitions?

        If someone is interested in what is true– (and not interested in believing something just because someone told them they’d suffer eternally if they didn’t believe it) shouldn’t they trust that real things will distinguish themselves from false notions via scientific testing?

        As far as the evidence is concerned, the bible is no more divinely inspired than any other book.

        1. I don’t make any supernatural claims.
          Why do people keep assuming that I do? What supernatural claim have I made?

          I believe science and religion have no place near each other. Science must assume that the answer to the question they seek follows the laws of the natural world. There is no room for supernatural explanation in the quest for scientific answers. Even for those who do not dismiss the supernatural, they must dismiss it in scientific explanations.

          That’s my philosophy anyway.

          I also can not deny the existence of supernatural. Can’t prove there isn’t something not bound by the laws of nature just like can’t prove there is.

          But I can’t accept it as an explanation in place of a search for a natural phenomena explanation, and I do not make supernatural claims.

          So people, please stop assuming that I do. Is that not evidence of your own bias? Does not good science attempt to leave bias at the door?

          1. It is very simple.

            There is no supernatural.

            It is an incoherent concept.

            Things either happen or they don’t. For the things that happen we can ask: how did that happen? Anything that happens must have a way of happening. Therefore anything that happens is natural.

            The point of this concept we’ve invented (the supernatural) is to contradict everything we know about reality, to be, in a word, impossible.

            Holding out for the supernatural is tantamount to saying: the impossible is possible.

          2. I don’t make any supernatural claims.
            Why do people keep assuming that I do?

            Because you do. Like this:

            I also can not deny the existence of supernatural. Can’t prove there isn’t something not bound by the laws of nature just like can’t prove there is.


      4. Of course it can be decided by science, generically everything about nature can be investigated (we know this from experience) and there is nothing special about magic (we know this from its definition). It is, as you would say, a scope error to exclude anything acting on nature from investigation a priori. Moreover it is a fundamentally theological claim to try to shield theology from empirical investigation.

        By that definition magic action breaks the energy principle. That principle concerns itself with what natural states of a system it can take. Hence the existence of magic breaks the 1st law of thermodynamics, and would make perpetual motion machines of the first kind possible. This is not observed, so the prediction of existence can be safely rejected a posteriori.

        1. supernatural (or magic or whatever) does not need to be bound by the law of conservation of energy or any other natural law. The etymology of the word supernatural implies that.

          You say it is not observed. Lack of observation does not mean something does not exist. Other explanations are we do not have the tools with which to make the observation.

          There are numerous discoveries in the natural world that are quite recent simply because we previously did not have the right technology to make the observation. We predicted many of them but could not observe them, some are predicted but still waiting for observation, and there are undoubtedly phenomena that we have neither predicted nor observed.

          Does lack of observation (whether predicted or not) mean it is logical to reject it when we lack the tools to observe it?

          1. Does lack of observation (whether predicted or not) mean it is logical to reject it when we lack the tools to observe it?

            We lack the tools to see people being turned into pillars of salt? One needs special equipment to see the world being deluged with a 40 day flood? Or a sea parting? Or fish and bread multiplied? Or a dead man coming back to life? (Actually, paramedics and doctors perform that last “miracle” on a regular basis, although the person generally hasn’t been dead for a weekend…)

            Are you actually claiming that miracles are happening but are undetected?

          2. supernatural (or magic or whatever) does not need to be bound by the law of conservation of energy or any other natural law.

            If you’re seriously going to propose the existence of something that violates conservation, then I’m seriously going to propose that you’re a crackpot of the perpetual motion scam variety.

            It’s one thing to wax hypothetical, such as what it might mean if we were in a Matrix-style simulation, but that’s certainly not how you’re coming across.


  6. Enns:

    This kingdom was not about where one goes after death, but a here-and-now transformation of how people thought about God and their relationship to him.

    Funny, I expect it was neither. The simplest explanation is that Jesus was speaking about an actual kingdom that he thought would actually appear in his lifetime – and he was just wrong.

    Since ‘he was just wrong’ is an unacceptable conclusion, sophisticated theologians then came up with the “he was talking about a tranformation of how people thought, yeah, that’s the ticket” interpretation of these sorts of passages.

    1. No, the simplest explanation is that Jesus is a character from a poorly-written faery tale, and that one of the (many) authors wanted the audience to think that the End was Nigh.

      Of course, “Jesus is just Santa for grown-ups” is even more unacceptable than “he was just worng,” so the rest of your analysis remains applicable.


    1. And Jews. Never forget the Jews. And Jerusalem.

      This must mean there really is a Harry Potter since Scotland and London exist.

      1. Did anyone here argue that historical references in the Bible were evidence of a deity?

        Staunch atheist can be worse than staunch creationists. I’m sorry for the flame, but it is true.

        1. Did anyone here argue that historical references in the Bible were evidence of a deity?

          You basically did:

          Much (though certainly not all) of the history in the Bible is extremely accurate and has been verified.

          Considering that the Bible is little more than an account of YHWH’s / Elohim’s / Jesus’s interaction with their chosen peoples, claiming that the Bible is extremely accurate and has been independently verified is an argument that its main point — that the gods it’s dedicated to describing — are well-evidenced themselves.


          1. I did not address the supernatural aspects of the Bible, only the accounts of historical nature, many of which are in fact supported by external sources.

            1. The Bible makes no distinction whatsoever between the natural and the supernatural. In so doing, it utterly obliterates any credibility it might hypothetically have had.


        2. Are you able to distinguish be truth and opinion? Your opinion that staunch atheists are worse than staunch creationists (whatever that means) is of no more use to those interested in the truth than your opinions about which bible stories have merit.

  7. Nice try, Dr. Enns! Pity that it won’t convince anyone.

    Wrong, Dr. Coyne. You are mistaken here.

    This sort of loose and waffly rationalization (metaphor-used-as-means to a better way of “thinking about God”) is quickly and eagerly grasped at by many people. It’s gratefully embraced by those who either KNOW or want to BELIEVE there is a God — but they also want to be reasonable, too. The secular world is so … compelling. “Please, please, help me figure out how it all fits together! Be nice, and try.”

    What I think you meant to write is “Pity that it won’t convince anyone who doesn’t WANT to be convinced.”

    That’s a lower standard. A lot lower — and Dr. Enns meets it. It’s a nice try, and thus it’s successful.

    1. I think Jerry underestimates the manipulative power of religious memes. People can make themselves believe most anything if they fear they might suffer eternal consequences if they don’t. They can also pretend to believe or try to believe if they imagine that there could be everlasting rewards for doing so.

  8. ‘ The Bible Unearthed” and ” Who Were the Israelites and Where Did They Come from [Caananites]?’ inform ua rhr rhw Buy-bull revels in false history. Other books also say so. Case cloised.
    Misanthropes made up the wretche Tanakh and the Testament, anthologies of hate.
    Bishop Spong affirms mcuch of the rationalist case against his superstition,yet revels in it!

  9. Much of the Bible is metaphorical? Everything that comes out of our heads is metaphorical. Bible thumpers confuse their metaphorical reality with what is real and go on happily thinking that what they say has some truth (as in “This is real, folks.”) in it. Only when we can separate ourselves from what we observe will we start making any sense of reality as opposed our representation of it.

  10. Thanks for noting what seems to be a lateral arabesque–to cop Lawrence Peter’s tidy phrase–at BioLogos. For me they muddle the issue by distinguishing between evolutionary creation and atheistic evolutionism, a distinction existent at BioLogos alone.

    The essential debates are, first, “Do you believe in God?” If so, then evolution can be seen as God’s handiwork. If not, not.

    Either way, the evolutionary process is the same. At first reading I thought BioLogos deserved a new reading. Having done so, I think not.

    1. If you obtain the proper key to the scriptures, it becomes clear that “The Anointed” is a metaphor for a large Wiener Schnitzel.

      The Holy Trinity is composed of Schnitzel, Warm Potato and Watercress Salad, and Grüner Veltliner (not my choice of Holy Spirit, but given the general state of Creation, it figures).
      The Bible can be read as the Parable of the Struggle between Good (Schnitzel) and Evil (the Spaghetti Monster).

      The shape of Jerry’s Schnitzel points to the Ancient Egyptian origin of the cult: it is really the disc of Aton, fried to the hue of the Golden Sun.

      (In accordance with its divine nature, the schnitzel-disc of Aton is self-frying: Alpha and Omega.)

      1. LOL — TRUE DAT.

        I would say that Jesus WAS INTENDED AS a metaphor for how we humans can save ourselves.

        I haven’t tried it myself.

  11. The kingdom as here-and-now experience was central to Jesus’ teachings, so I’m kinda surprised this is new to you. In Mark 12:34 after Jesus gets a smart answer from a guy, he says, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ Clearly a mindset, not just an afterlife thing.

    1. Yes, but there is also an underlying apocalypticism to Jesus’ “kingdom” message that is strong in Mark, a bit watered down in Matthew, and has completely vanished by Luke and John. It seems the latter two Gospel writers had decided that this “kingdom” talk was a metaphor as the theologian above describes, but something a bit more literal- an anticipation of a cataclysmic climax to history- may have been meant in the first two Gospels.

      Either way it isn’t the later Christian message of how to get to heaven after you die.

  12. One issue here is that I agree with David Fincke that parts of the Bible are not even metaphorically true, meaning that there is a metaphorical message but the message is a bad one.

  13. First, Mickey’s dog was Pluto, not Goofy.

    Second, count me among those who don’t get what the big deal is about some stuff in the Bible accurately recording actual, historical events.

    I think it would be bizarre if NOTHING in the Bible corresponded to actual events. All the place names and rulers and details of daily life: of course we’d expect those to have relationship with reality.

    But that has any bearing on the stuff that makes the Bible the Bible, I’ll never understand. It doesn’t make it more likely that the Bible is accurate when it comes to the fantastic, supernatural crap. Fine, there was a real King Kokonut II. So what?

    1. The Bible is a book of stories. the late Bob Murphey liked to remind storytellers that every good story has parts that happened exactly that way, parts that happened almost that way and parts that could have happened that way.

      The value of story is to get the reader/hearer to think. The problem I see is that too may God believers don’t believe in a God capable of being responsible for a reality beyond knowing; i.e., transcendent.

      If the idea of God is a reality beyond knowing, where is the debate?

  14. You know what would be cool? If I read over what I wrote before clicking on that button.

    “But HOW that has any bearing on the stuff that makes the Bible the Bible….”

  15. That all makes sense. Because it is The Bible – singular. It is one book. Written by Moses, I guess.

    When Moses writes, “The Lord is my shepherd”, he must mean that he is a sheep. But everyone knows that sheep can’t write, so Moses must have been lying about the Resurrection too.

    I mean, the expression, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” – is that speaking metaphorically or what?

    It is all as plain as bats playing pin the tail on the donkey. Which they do. I have seen it on the WEIT blog.

  16. There is an interesting passage in Acts where the disciples say they are aware of myths, and that their experience isn’t that. Doesn’t mean what they say is true, but it’s an interesting statement. Genesis has two creation stories from different Hebrew tribes, and most Jews accept it as myth. Again, this isn’t proof of anything, but it is an explanation of interpreting Genesis and the Gospels differently.

    1. Yes, well I don’t know if the stories were from two different tribes but they certainly are two different stories, one uses the covenant name YHWH and the other uses the more general Elohim. They may be different perspectives rather than from different tribes.

      But regardless, that the two stories are included side by side with differences is to me indication that the original editor of Genesis that collected the stories together, and possibly the original writers of the stories, did not intend for a literal interpretation to be adopted. Rather, the stories had a meaning that was important and that meaning is why they were considered to be important documents that eventually formed the foundation of their religion.

      OK I talk too much, I’ll shut up now.

      1. [O]ne uses the covenant name YHWH and the other uses the more general Elohim.

        That’s actually two different deities. Or, rather, one deity and one pantheon; El was the chief deity of the Elohim.

        Adonis is also in there in a small way, in the form of “Adonai.” And there’s good reason to think that Satan is just Set.


  17. Interesting, and yes it’s true that to be a true Christian, you’d surely have to take the whole bible literally, but as an atheist I don’t see it as entirely fictional, and don’t actually think it’s that difficult to determine which bits are. Basically, if it claims something supernatural, such as a miracle or a resurrection, it’s almost 100% certainly fictional. I’ll leave it to historians to determine which parts of the remaining, perfectly possible, events and characters are true and which not.

    I see the bible as the work of men. It’s a record of what man believed to be true when they wrote it, not necessarily what was actually true, with some verifiable facts mixed in with extrapolations, conjecture and amalgamations of myths and beliefs held by various other and previous cultures. Plus, in order to support vested interest, some out and out fiction.

    All I’m saying is, I don’t think it’s necessary to see the bible as entirely fictitious in order to dismiss it as the work of god.

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