The Bible is Embarrassing

In Bible/Theology, Blogs by Chris KatulkaLeave a Comment

Before you go down to the comments box to pen a scathing message about my thoughtless approach to the Scriptures, please hear me out.

Nobody likes to admit it when they’re wrong; nobody likes to confess when they’ve lied; and nobody likes to reveal their failure; because it opens us up to being vulnerable. This idea of hiding our flaws, wrong-doings, and embarrassments is a characteristic of human nature that’s been around for a very long time.

Ancient rulers embellished, hid, and even lied about their policies, conquests, and battles so their reputation wouldn’t be tarnished in the annals of history.

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I’m reminded of the story in the Bible when the Assyrian King Sennacherib marched on Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah. Sennacherib’s massive army surrounded Judah’s small capital city, and in a moment of desperation Hezekiah cried out to the Lord, “Now, O LORD our God, rescue us from his power, so that all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you, LORD, are the only God” (2 Kings 19:19).

That night an angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians who were encamped around Jerusalem.

However, in Sennacherib’s retelling of the account (which can be found on the Taylor Prism in the British Museum), he leaves out the most significant part of the story, when he lost many of his forces in a single night and that the Living God’s message was true!

The famous Old Testament scholar R.K. Harrison wrote, “The defeats or failures were invariably ignored when chronicles were being compiled by Near Eastern nations.” In short, Harrison is saying that sometimes historical truth and the story of ancient kings, like Sennacherib’s, don’t match up.

And yet the Bible, written during this time when royalty hid their flaws in propaganda, is full of stories and accounts that often put key biblical characters like Abraham (who lied), David (who cheated), and Peter (who denied) in awkward and embarrassing positions, made available for all to read.

The vulnerability of the Scripture is a strong indication that its words were not manufactured like the chronicles of ancient kings, but that the embarrassing moments of biblical characters are laid bare to show that it is God’s truth.

To prove the Bible’s authenticity many New Testament scholars employ a method called the Criterion of Embarrassment. This tool is used to show that the stories written in the Bible are often so humiliating they must be considered true because the author would never choose to contrive such an embarrassing story about himself or the church.

For instance, the story of Peter’s denial is found in all four Gospels. The story consists of Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s betrayal and his triple denial of Jesus. This story is an embarrassment to one of the prominent apostles of the church, yet it remains a critical element in the passion of Christ. If this story was invented, I’m sure Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have never painted Peter, their friend, in such a negative way.

Also, the cross was considered the most despicable form of capital punishment in the Roman world, and the authors of all four Gospels mention that Jesus suffered death under this form of capital punishment. The Criterion of Embarrassment would say, if Jesus’ death was invented, then why would the authors of the Gospels choose the most deplorable form of Roman execution to kill Jesus?

The church would have not invented material that embarrassed or threatened its credibility in both the Jewish and Roman world.

God is very clear about the method He uses to communicate His truth to a lost and broken world. He says,

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 2:27–29).

So is the Bible full of stories that will make you blush? Yes! But, it’s also full of God’s truth because He’s the Author.

The Scriptures has nothing to be ashamed of, and as believers, neither do we!


About the Author
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Chris Katulka

Chris Katulka is the director of North American Ministries for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, the host of The Friends of Israel Today radio program, a Bible teacher, and writer for Israel My Glory magazine. He is also the author of Israel Always: Experiencing God’s Pursuit of You Through His Chosen People. If you would like to support Chris, please click here.

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