Friday, July 25, 2008

HCSB Apologetics Study Bible (review)

Everybody (myself included) has been saying such nice stuff about the new NLT Study Bible, and that just doesn't fit with the sarcastic tone of this blog when it comes to reviews. So I went on a quest for the study bible with the worst notes. I had so hoped in would be the MacArthur bible, but alas twas not to be, the honor goes to Chuck Colson and the Apologetics Study Bible. Why would anyone pick Richard Nixon's hatchet man to write a bible? The HCSB is a reasonable evangelical translation well covered on a dozen other blogs so I won't bother critiquing that.

We will focus on the notes. The apologetics study bible has these little notes inserted into the text which give the up and coming apologist valuable information to counter the occult, atheists and other religious claims. There is a large note before genesis about creationism. Everyone already knows about that so it's boring. So lets go to the first small note pictured directly to the left.

The first paragraph asserts that Satan falls between verses 1 and 2, which is at the very least a sign of ignorance and at worst a heresy. Romans 5:12 is quite clear that Adam's sin is the cause of evil in the word, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin..." On the other hand we see Satan tempting Adam, and 1 John 3:8 that the devil has been sinning "since the beginning". That is Satan's fall predates Adam but is Adam's sin which introduces evil, Satan's fall is not the cause of evil. This incidentally is covered quite well in just about every standard reference materials like the Catholic Encylopedia entry on the devil, or Summa Theologica on the malice of the Angels, with the original source Augustine's City of God chapter 14 (which is on the subject of the origin of sin).

Maybe I'm being too harsh in asking them to look stuff up? So lets move onto the 2nd paragraph where we are informed about how Edgar Cayce taught about Atlantis existing 10 million years in the past and how it was inhabited by spirit beings (as per these verses) who took up with Adam and Eve.... Interesting story but absolutely none of it is true to Cayce. Moreover in my entire life I've met 0 people who believe in Edgar Cayce. Why are they bothering with this? And if they were wouldn't it be worth mentioning the best counter Cayce / Atlantis argument was he predicted Atlantis would rise again from 1958-1968 which hasn't turned out so accurate.

OK so what did Edgar Cayce actually believe? He accepted Plato, and Donnelly's dates for Plato and thus had Atlantis dieing 9564 BCE (not ten-million). For Cayce Atlantis was inhabited by normal people (not spirit beings), though many of the people alive today were reincarnations of the people from Atlantis. Not everyone lived there, there were other countries at the time. He agreed with Madame Blavatsky about it being the fourth "race" of humans (not the first), current humans are in the 5th race. (see sacred texts on Atlantis for details). So yes ever single "fact" in that paragraph is wrong. Chuck I'm impressed.

So now we advanced though our trusty apologetics study bible to Genesis 1:27.
where we encounter Lilith. Take a moment to read the entry to the right. Again I am curious which group this is supposed to refute. Vampires? Anyway, the connection between vampires and Lilith comes from a now defunct game called Vampire: The Masquerade. So these "modern-day" vampires are people buying a rule book for a game? The rest of the passage is a gross over simplification of the Lilith legend here some of the facts are correct sorta so let's just focus on mistakes:
  • Lilith isn't derived from Genesis she had a pre-existing mythos from Mesopotamia. No one claims she originated as a biblical figure.
  • They are confusing two versions of the story. In one she is Adam's first wife. In another she is a demon that Adam has sex with after Cain murders Abel. There is no version where both are true.
  • In the versions where Lilith gives birth to demons Cain is the father not Adam.
  • She is never said to give birth to all the demons of the bible, generally it is two Galiu and Alû (or Ailo).
  • She is never in any legend the Queen of Demons.
  • Outside of the game there is no association between Lilith and vampires. Within the game she is not a vampire and does not turn people into vampires, vampirism is the curse of Cain.
Finally I should mention that if they are going to do Lilith they miss the point entirely. The worship of Lilith is not ancient it is modern. Lilith was always seen as a demon in the ancient world. In the 20th century Jewish feminists picked her up as an icon (not a goddess since they were atheistic). They did this because she is a strong female character associated with rejecting procreation, i.e. masturbation for men and miscarriage for women. Gardner is influenced by them and Lilith comes into Wicca as a lesser goddess. The Church of Satan and Luciferianism then pick her up as a consort (not a wife) for Satan. At the same time directly from Jewish feminism she gets a more major role in modern Kabbalah cults. So if they are going to do Lilith they have completely missed the point.

I could keep going, but I've reached the end of the free Amazon preview. I'm sure there are some notes that are better than these two but I think we have a winner for worst notes in any study bible.

See also:


Bryon said...

Interest was shown in Cayce years back. The shell of the belief system is still around, but interest in the Atlantian legend is sometimes centered around the Lemurias today. Lemurian legend is old but interest in it is high in alternative spiritual circles today in the United States, Europe and Australia. If I’ve confused you, e-mail me and I can send you a couple links about the Lemurias.

I couldn't believe they focused on vampire legend and I almost fell out of my chair laughing when I once read it.

I think this points out some of the writers on this study Bible were a little out of touch. I looked through a friend’s Holman once. There’s a lot of interesting reading in it, but there’s a lot of fluff in my opinion.

On occasion I find passages in the Holman that I think are weak. If it was older I would give it a pass, but with it being so new, I find that unfortunate. John 1:18 is one that comes to mind at the moment. Like the ESV, I consider the Holman a translation for extremist complementarians, but that’s just my view.

CD-Host said...

Yeah you did confuse me on the Lemurian stuff. I have no idea what Lemurias is or where it originated.

The what the focused on was bizarre and how badly they covered it was bizarre. I didn't have to do any complex to find all these errors. But an average of over 1 error per sentence? The passages on Islam and Catholicism when I hit the "surprise me' button were equally uninformed. I'm thinking about your recent thread on Khalid Yasin, which shows this from the other direction. And at least in Yasin's case he has a legit source he just doesn't understand it. So Colson is worse.

Your John comment confused me. Did you do a post on John 1:18? The HCSB seems awkward but many versions seem to do badly there. Sorry I may be missing something obvious, what is the HCSB's big screw up? For understandability I think the CEV did a nice job, "No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like." The REB does an excellent job, "No one has ever seen God; God's only Son, he who is nearest to the Father's heart, has made him known". The KJV does nicely, "No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."

Bryon said...

Apologies on the Lemurians; They are supposed to be an ancient warrior race that lived in Atlantis. There’s a few popular channelers out there of ancient Lemurians.

John 1:18 in the Holman follows the King James Bible rendering. It’s missing the Deity of Christ. I did do a post on John 1:18.
I haven’t been keeping track of scriptures that grate on me in the Holman, maybe I should.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I had did a high-level overview, at best I would recommend it to someone that is interested and new to apologetics. I gave mine away to a new Christian I thought he might have better use for it than I.

CD-Host said...

Hmmm I didn't realize there was interest in Lumerians, from who? What is the current interest?

As for the HCSB I'm not sure I see the problem here. I read your post I'd translate literally as:

No one has seen God ever; an only one God, the one being in the bosom of the Father, that one explained him.

Now the "an only one God" is disputed they go with "the only Son", which according to NA27 is allowed but dispreferred.

No one has seen God ever; the only one Son, the one being in the bosom of the Father, that one explained him.

So lets do a few flips. I think it is reasonable to move ever before seen. I like the use of dashes here. And then "at his side" vs. "in the bosom" strikes me a reasonable slightly less literal translation. The "only one" does correspond pretty well to "one and only" Finally sub out revealed for explained and since it is a son "he" for "that one"

No one has ever seen God . The one and only Son -- the One who is at the Father's side -- He has revealed him.

So far I don't think I've done anything bad here and I have their translation. The only objectionable step was the first in using the disputed Greek. So I just don't see it. Don't get me wrong I like the NEB/REB better but I'm having a tough time seeing slamming the HCSB for this verse.

David Ker said...

Being from the Great Northwest I know a little about the Lemurians and always think about them when driving through the Oregon/California border where they live.

But then Bigfoot comes from this area as well so we seem to have an unfair share of paranormal activity... ;-)

CD-Host said...

Hey David welcome to the blog. For lurkers while David's profile links off to his personal blog his other blog is lingamish so he's in the bible translation group.

Well now that everyone is posting on this.... here is a llemuria article. OK now what I'm wondering does anyone still believe in this? What is the interest?

David Ker said...

I think the Lemurians are the invention of a bunch of California fruitcakes. But I desperately cling to a belief in Bigfoot:

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm reading mine wrong. You make a large example of how wrong the notes are about Gen. 1:1-2 since they are saying that Satan fell between these two verses. It seems obvious to me they are just explaining what the Gap Theory says.... not their personal opinion.. hence it falls under the article heading "Twisted Scriptures". Am I missing something?

CD-Host said...

Anonymous --

I'd look at this in terms of the Ted Cabal essay (opposite page) which addresses Young Earth Creationist vs. Old Earth Creationist (gap theory), taking a positive view of both. That is the Apologetics Study bible does seem to endorse the gap theory as an acceptable alternative. Now there are lots of versions of the gap theory but the one they describe is a heresy and they are describing it approvingly.

For those lurking, here is a good diagram.
That was my point.

Sean said...

Wow, you're quick to label this as the "worst" and you've only read the first few pages on a free preview from Amazon!? That's charitable.

Attacking it right off the bat w/a ad hominem on Colson was also a nice touch - as well as completely false:

General Editor: Ted Cabel Associate Editors: Chad Own Brand, E. Ray Clendenen, Paul Copan, J.P. Moreland

Man, can't you even check the facts before launching such a pot shot!? As if one who's sins were made notorious should be disqualified from producing good, helpful material!? Should readers of this review apply the same criterion to you? I'm guessing you might not want to be judged upon the same scale, eh?

CD-Host said...

Sean --

Wow, you're quick to label this as the "worst" and you've only read the first few pages on a free preview from Amazon!? That's charitable.

I've looked at other articles. I don't see any difference in quality between the ones I picked (which are available in the free preview) and the other ones in the book. Are you saying Genesis is unrepresentative in how bad it is and other chapters are better. If so which ones.

As for the criticism of Colson, yes I think the problems in the Apologetics study bible are very much in keeping in line with Colson. Colson was very interested in getting people to believe the right things for the wrong reasons. He tended to attack genuine sources of information like the Brookings institution and instead focused on propaganda. And lo and behold the worst study bible is created, filled with propaganda but lacking any tie to genuine sources of information....

The materials from 2007 put Colson in a more prominent position than they do today. But even today he appears quite clearly on the front cover and all over the website. So I'm not sure the comparison with my criticism is justified.

Gerald Parker said...

Thanks for the really critical review rather than more of either marketing-oriented PR blather or critical comments that are too narrowly focussed. I always distrust publications like this, especially of study Bibles, that involve pop media neo-evangelical stars. Atop that, they tend towards being Baptist and Arminian. (At least they are not outright Pentecostals.) I was suspicious of such auspices for this publication. The study features are copious but shallow, at least in part, and the theological orientation is that of sectarian non-Reformation enthusiasm, which, as a Lutheran, I CAN LIVE WITHOUT!!