5 Common Misconceptions About the Bible
The Holy Bible is one of the most printed books in history, and unless we've launched them into space in an attempt to convert the Borg to the way of the Lord, it's safe to assume that lots of people read (or at least own) the scripture.
But given that as the case, there's a surprising number of simple misconceptions that people believe about the text despite the fact that paying closer attention would prove them wrong. What follows are five of those misconceptions.
Mary Magdelene Was a Prostitute
Mary Magdelene is probably the most famous female character in the Bible (ignoring the virgin Mary, of course), yet surprisingly she doesn't play a particularly large role in the text. She is mentioned as having traveled with Christ and the apostles after having seven demons removed from her body. She appears again at the crucifixion and burial of Christ, as well as discovering that his tomb was empty. She also appears in the Apocrypha, or the non-canonical books of the Bible, but those are like the Indian Jones and the Crystal Skull of God's career, so let's not get into that.
The point is, Mary was never once mentioned as having been a prostitute in any Biblical text. So how does such a nice girl get a bad rap? Through the loose lips of a bad boy. In this case, the bad boy is Pope Gregory the Great. In 591 he wrote "She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? ... It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts."
It should be noted that most scholars interpret the seven demons as different illnesses (you know, those things Jesus cured all the freakin' time) and that the Vatican outright rejected this notion in the late 1960's by separating Luke's “sinful woman” into a different Mary entirely. Of course, that hasn't stopped popular culture from getting it wrong.
Male Anatomy Proves the Creation of Adam and Eve
You are no doubt aware of the creation story in Genesis: God creates man, man get's sad, God puts man under hypnosis before playing the first game of Operation and, using man's rib, creates woman. Boom. Welcome to humanity, baby. You used to be rib.
For an a long time people believed that men had one fewer rib than women and that this proves the creation story correct. However, that's not at all true. In fact, men and woman have twelve pairs of ribs each. For further evidence, please see “every human skeleton ever.”
The belief that a parent passes on disfigurements/divine surgical scars was once proposed by French biologist Lamarck. Needless to say, he was completely off the mark, but that didn't stop generations of religious folk – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – from citing his bullshit science as fact.
Lucifer and Satan Are the Same Entity
Lucifer is often used interchangeably with Satan. Interestingly enough, the King James Version of the Bible only uses the name Lucifer once (and sort of on accident), in the Book of Isaiah. This specifically is in chapter fourteen, verse twelve: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” Weakening nations? Falling down? Totally a clumsy Satan, right?
Wrong. Context is a wonderful thing and many of these misconceptions seem to stem from a lack of it. If you isolate the line from the rest of the text then hell, it could be about Lex Luthor. But it's actually a reference to the king of Babylon, who boasted that he would raise his throne above the heavens and that his laws were supreme. As it turn out, God looks down on that sort of thing and totally iced both the king and his kingdom.
Though Lucifer has roots in various Hebrew words, they all tend to point towards “son of the dawn” and “morning star.” These references were supposed to draw a comparison to a star's dimming light at morning to the king's soon-to-be-a-corpse state of being and not the Devil, who had a set of concerning issues all his own and couldn't be assed with Babylon at the time.
The Bible Condemns Gambling
There's a lot of things that the Bible condemns (as one might expect a holy scripture to do), and a lot of this is drawn from the Ten Commandments. However, nowhere in the Ten Commandments or the Bible itself does it say that gambling is a no-no, so pack up the kids, grab a crucifix and make it a Vegas vacation.
Casting lots, a form of lottery, is seen throughout the Bible as a form of decision making. Positive figures, like Joshua, did so without consequence. Soldiers present at the crucifixion also used the method to determine who would receive Christ's clothes. You can debate whether or not Rome got its just punishment.
Point being, nowhere in the Bible is gambling forbidden. Arguments that it does rely on the previously mentioned dice game at the foot of the cross or the commonly misquoted “money is the root of all evil” line (the line is actually “the love of money is the root of all evil,” but even that translation is debated). Still, if it's possible to gamble without a love of money (and presumably an addiction) then by Biblical standard you're good to go.
Jesus Was Born on December 25th
If you can read this, then you know the story of Christmas: Mary, the manger, three wise guys, all that.
December 25th is the calendar date of the birth of Jesus Christ, and while the date has perpetuated by popular culture since forever ago, the Bible simply doesn't state it as being so. While entirely possible, what the Bible tells us of the scene would imply that it had occurred more reasonably in September. First, a pregnant Mary traveling seventy miles in the winter would certainly be a much more difficult journey. Second, shepherds wouldn't be tending to the fields that late in the year, should we reference then-current practices. It would simply be too cold. Many Biblical scholars seem to think that Christ was born in late September and was thus conceived in December.
There's a surprisingly large number of misconceptions about the birth of Christ. In a case of carols become fact, the Bible does not state that three men visited Christ, only that at least two wise men were present (the Bible uses the word magi, which is plural). It doesn't give a specific number, only that three gifts were presented.
Also an issue is the fabled inn keeper who exists simply to turn away the holy bun in the oven. While it's reasonable to expect them to have spoken to an inn keeper (who's first choice of accommodations is a manger?), that specific scene isn't in the Bible, though it present in a lot of film and stage presentations.