National Geographic has a new book on famous Bible characters

January 26, 2018 • 12:30 pm

Reader Graham saw this for sale in his local supermarket:

It turns out that this is actually a book that came out in November, and the Amazon sales don’t look very good.

Now I haven’t seen this, and Graham didn’t describe its contents, but my question is this: what the hell is National Geographic publishing stuff like this? As I’ve described several times, recently the magazine has been on a pro-religion and pro-Christianity kick, cranking out books, movies, and articles implying that what’s described in the Bible is real.  Thanks, Rupert Murdoch! (He and his Fox network bought the magazine.)

Even the Amazon site doesn’t describe the book’s contents. The only substantive discussion of what’s in it is on this i24 broadcast (an Israeli television station). Although the guest, “spiritual mentor” Ronnie Hatchwell says this: “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter whether the stories happened or they didn’t, but they do influence us”, she does pitch the woo later on (“we’re all searching for the god within us”; “we’re always drawn to this bigger power, which is God”, etc.). To judge where Hatchwell’s coming from, here’s what she says on her website:

Ever since I was a little girl In Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harrari, Zimbabwe) and then a  teenager in London, England, I have encountered telepathic and out of body experiences. I always felt that there was more to life as we see it.

Sometime in the late 80’s I underwent an experience which was to change the way I perceived life in general.

I began what is known as channeling – it first came about as “automatic writing” where I would receive non stop information. This was an extremely high intelligence which to my knowledge at the time had no resemblance to anything I had ever come across. This information always signed itself off as SOL, which I was later informed to be the initials of SERVICE OF THE LORD -in Kaballah “Malachei Ha”sharet”- I once took the writings to a Kabalist who was quick to say that the information that I receive is exactly that of Kaballah and that because it comes through me the language is easier for the laymen…

Ooookay. . . .  What appears to be going on here is that National Geographic, which was hemorrhaging money until it was bought out by Murdoch and his empire, is trying to drum up business by adding a big dose of Christianity to the National Geographic brand. Does anybody here still subscribe to this rag?

h/t: Graham

55 thoughts on “National Geographic has a new book on famous Bible characters

  1. As long a credible people keep bringing up this nonsense and giving these charlatans a platform from which to dispense their bilge they will be delighted to stand and spew.

    Please, Jerry, serving her up as part of your platter and lending any the tiny credibility of recognition you do your community a great disservice.

    1. Sorry, but read the Roolz. You don’t get to tell me what or what not to post about.

      And seriously–I’m doing my community a “great disservice”? I guess I should never mention creationists or their arguments, either. You sound as if dire consequences will ensue from this post, with more woo spouting into the atmosphere. I got news for you–that’s not gonna happen.

      Please, Mr. Stans: find another website to comment on where you can boss the proprietor around.

    2. I doubt she’s going to garner sales from any of the reader’s here. It’s also unlikely that any of her readers give a whit about what we think. It’s best to bring these things to light, particularly given the publisher.

    3. It’s not a disservice, Jerry is certainly not promoting her. This community regularly discusses sad examples of religion corrupting the public discourse, which is what this is.

      I stopped my NG subscription immediately after Murdoch’s acquisition. I don’t want to contribute to his profits in any way.

    4. Thanks to articles like this, I will never be handing money over to National Geographic for anything and their credibility is zero in my eyes.

      I know the above is an anecdote and not data, but in my case, JAC’s articles have had the reverse effect to your hypothesis.

  2. Seriously, there are very few important characters (and I do mean charaters, not people) throughout the entire bible. Who’s number fifty, the unnamed ‘beloved disciple’?

    1. There are two characters I like in the New Testament, both in John’s Gospel:

      The first is “Doubting” Thomas, who was told after the crucifixion that Jesus was alive. He was skeptical and demanded evidence, and for that he’s a hero.

      (But according to John 20:24-29, Jesus showed up later, Thomas conceded, and Jesus rebuked him for doubting. Not cool!)

      The second is Pilate, who in John 18:37-38 is told by Jesus that he, Jesus, has a monopoly on truth. Pilate responds with the rhetorical question, “what is truth?”, winning the exchange.

      1. Don’t forget the gut fondling. The story of Thomas seems to come up sometimes with apologists who will claim that “even skeptics” got answered …

        (Silly, of course, but …)

  3. Do not take NGeo and would not any more. The video is awful. It does not matter if any of it is true or not. I never thought of it that way. Kind of like the Donald Trump story.

  4. I was an indirect (via my parents when I was a kid) or direct subscriber as an adult continuously from 1976 until just a couple years ago when it went down the tubes after the change of hands. I attribute my career in biological sciences and higher education in part to the many years or formative exposure to NG, so it’s sad to think of what it’s become.

  5. Archetypes are at best (devoid of Platonic eidos) themes that creep into stories. Biblical stories would be localized (not universalizable) instances where trickster is edenic serpent, hero is David, and I am drawing blanks on wise old people. Wisdom of Solomon? Native Americans and other peoples developed their own myths with recurrent themes that could stem from evolved psychologies or typical ecological commonalities (stars, sun, moon, floods).

    There is no “soul memory” and Jung relied on kooky ideas (alchemy, synchronicity…) after he developed his post-Freudian take on what Goethe called the leaf primordium and what Haeckel assumed about phylogeny as on stagewise display in human development. Jung relied somewhat on an archaic neo-Lamarckian conception of phylogenic memory that Haeckel’s student Richard Semon called “mneme” and its engram units. This was roughly before and during the time Mendel was being rediscovered . These ideas (phylogenic memory and recapitulation) infused the local water supply.

    Amazing watching the video when people who adopt a mystical interpretation of narrative themes have no idea of the ideological heritage, shared with Goethe, Owen, and Darwin who historicized the archetype as reflecting common ancestry.

    In stories such themes are more likely due to diffusion or ecological convergence, but evolved modules could play an indirect role if not just nonaptive byproducts (spandrels).

  6. Her statement, “I began what is known as channeling – it first came about as ‘automatic writing’ where I would receive non stop information. This was an extremely high intelligence which to my knowledge at the time had no resemblance to anything I had ever come across,” hits a nerve.

    A former student of mine with whom I’ve stayed in (sporadic) contact joined a Pentecostal megachurch before transitioning over to an Assembly of God congregation. She claims to have spoken to god directly and has played a significant role in her sister’s decision to stop taking medications for a number of maladies.

    Her church used the story as a testimonial to the congregation’s remarkable healing powers.

    Hatchwell sounds like a loon, but this idea of channeling or communicating with a divine being directly gets people killed.

    1. The Assembly of God lot are a very dubious bunch, a few years ago there were several cases in the UK where people with HIV had been persuaded to give up their medicines and rely on prayer. The result, obviously, was a much quicker death from a condition which although not curable can be controlled quite well provided the right medicines are used.

      The churches/preachers involved in turning the people away from their only decent course of treatment should have been investigated and charged by the police but because it was religion the authorities turned a blind eye.

      I have challenged an Assembly of God preacher about this but he refuses to accept there is anything wrong with persuading people to stop their medicines, he has even tried to get me to give up my Factor VIII as his god can treat haemophilia better than my doctors.

      These people are blood dangerous but I suppose that can be said for most religionists.

  7. “Does anybody here still subscribe to this rag?”

    I gave up about 10 years ago, after subscribing for two years. Nothing like it was back in the day. Kind of like the once great Scientific American.

  8. I too grew up on National Geographic. My first subscription was given to me by an uncle when I was 8 years old (a long time ago!). Finally when Mr Murdoch’s organisation bought it, I decided to let it lapse, and news like this reinforces that decision.

  9. Granted there are multitudes, multitudes in the bible, isn’t the fifty most influential a little much? One you get past ten, aren’t you reaching? Granted the first three (god, Jesus and the ghost) are easy.

    1. The Adversary in all his incarnations makes him a contender. He even got retrofitted into the much maligned serpent role in Genesis, acting the trickster as the serpent did similarly in Gilgamesh robbing our immortality. Used to be God was weal AND woe but the woe slowly got offloaded onto hassatan as he became dualized evil incarnate entering into the post-exilic New Testament. The Birth of Satan by T. J. Wray and Gregory Mobley is a good book to read that historicizes the character of Satan in the Tanakh, Christian scriptures, Western literature and recent enough movies. He got a raw deal.

  10. Wow, that video was hard to watch. I lasted about 2 minutes. Such drivel. And how embarrassing for these two women. How can they not realize how moronic they sound?

  11. I haven’t seen NG’s list of “50 most influential” biblical characters, but I’m curious to know – how far down the list do you have to go before finding someone whose actual existence is indisputable, in historical terms? Jesus (who I assume is top of the Hit Parade) doesn’t make the cut, for reasons that have been explored in detail on this site, in many articles. Neither does Moses, or Abraham, or Solomon, or David, or many, many other familiar names from the Bible.

    Does anyone who’s seen the list have any idea?

    1. I have not seen the list either, but there is evidence that Pontius ‘Thwow him to the floow’ Pilate was real. There’s less evidence for Biggus Dickus, unfortunately.

  12. I’ve also noticed the shift to Christian topics at National Geographic since Murdoch purchased it (I know several editor and photo people who worked there and were heartbroken with the purchase).

    What give? Murdoch doesn’t strike me as the religious type. Doe she just figure it sells well to the rubes that make up his Fox News audience (which makes him very very wealthy)?

    Couldn’t he just leave National Geographic, an cherished institution, alone?

    1. Murdoch describes himself as Christian, and has mostly been identified with Catholicism (“because my wife is a Catholic”, he said in 1992 — I forget which wife that would have been).

  13. Harry Potter characters have more depth. If I want to read something with interesting characters from a different era I’ll read Shakespeare or Jane Austen. There are a lot of books worth reading, the bible isn’t one of them.

    1. I’ve never done hallucinogens so must live such experiences vicariously. Revelation unintentionally serves a purpose of demonstrating what a bad trip could entail and should curb any curious enthusiasm anyone might have for experimenting with powerful mind altering substances. Unfortunately this early rendition of Kubla Khan, Alice in Wonderland, or Bulldog progeny Huxley’s Doors of Perception had an entirely different effect especially as manipulated by the Hal Lindsays and Tim LaHayes of the world.

      1. My born again xtian neighbor had cancer and instead of treatment, a group of from their church gathered in her hospital room to “speak in tongues”. It is something someone taking hallucinogens might do.
        I cried when I was told. She died a short time later.

        Damn, now I’m depressed.

    2. No – never have subscribed, or it was so long ago I have forgotten. Sure would not now. I do peruse in doc offices etc sometimes. The pictures are often good but it really is mostly a mag for non readers. Like the long gone LIFE.

  14. My parents buy me a yearly subscription as a gift. There are many unfortunate cover stories about religion. But then there are other gems like articles about pterosaurs with excellent art and photos. Mixed bag for sure.

  15. I used to have a subscription in my teens, read them cover to cover. Now I’m saddened by this turn of events, the prostitution of, at least an attempt of, science reporting to the general public.

  16. I’m a subscriber to the magazine, and I enjoy StarTalk on NatGeoTV. I don’t think knowing the history of religion, and religion as a psychological phenomenon is such a bad thing.

      1. I would think of it as an anthropologist studies the past, or even different cultures. I don’t think religion can be “scientific” but you can certainly study it in a systematic way as a way of understanding the past and understand the psychology of religious people today. Understanding fundamentalism can help combat it.

        1. What you’re describing Stephen is the kind of dispassionate coverage National Geographic *used to* practise. What we have now is not *study* of the anthropological phenomenon of religion, but barely disguised *promotion*.

          1. I used to subscribe to the magazine using my pocket money, stopped a couple of years ago so I’m probably not equipped to understand it’s current state. However, I’m quite disheartened looking at the direction the magazine’s going in. I too would read it again if it kept that dispassionate stance.

          2. The articles are NOT designed as a vehicle to ”challenge” religion or the psychology of believers. Read them and see.

    1. I don’t have any problem with NatGeo or anyone else covering the science of religion broadly construed (including its history).

      The problem is that this isn’t it. Examining the literary tropes surrounding the characters, summarizing Israel Finkelstein’s work on biblical archeology, etc. would be valuable – but when the cover is a montage of what looks like medieval paintings, I sort of wonder.

      This especially in light of that previous on Jesus, previously discussed on this site. I checked this out as my parents still subscribe – no attempt to be critical was presented at all.

  17. I’m sadly letting the subscription lapse. The issue (two/three months ago) with a lead story about people ”proving” Jesus’s existence made me furious and I fired off a letter of complaint to SOMEONE who obviously didn’t care enough to respond. I told them that I’d never donate another issue to an elementary school.

  18. Well, it would be nice if NatGeo ALSO did an issue on the 50 most influential people from ancient Greece and included a few fictional ones. (Actually, they did one on the ancient world in general last year.)

    Let’s start with:
    Hippocrates, founder of medical ethics, and first person to clearly state that diseases were caused by natural reasons, and not by superstition and wraths of god.
    Euclid, Archimedes, King Leonidas, and Homer should also get a mention.

    With regard to the Bible, it is really the stories that are influential not the characters in them. You could write much sounder copy about the influence of the stories of Samson, Moses, and King David, then about the people. You might talk about the influence of Paul and Jesus as people, but not that many others IMO.

    But with Greece and Rome, it’s really the people themselves!!

  19. A sad fate for a once respected and informative publication. When I was growing up, my father always had a subscription and I learned so much about history, geography and evolution from it. The highlight for me was the “free” maps you would get with some issues.

  20. I prefer to be (and have been) influenced by accounts that actually did happen. There’s no shortage of them.

  21. Very, very sad to see what’s happened to what used to be a beloved magazine. My aunt subscribed to it for me and my sister, and I continued that subscription, a total of about 40 years. Every issue had something fascinating or delightful or exciting or inspiring in it, and the quality of the pictures, illustrations and maps was exceptional. As long as Murdoch/NI/Fox owns it I wouldn’t subscribe on princicple, but this new religious direction it’s being taken in only gives an added reason not to.

    Unfortunately it isn’t alone. Canadian Geographic is also a pale shadow of what it was fifteen years ago.

  22. I don’t trust anyone who can’t even spell the name of their home town correctly. It’s “Harare” not “Harrari”!

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