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Phyllis Officle

The Bible's bad bits: silent women, mass murder . . .

. . . and a weary concubine.

From The Times Online

Biblical verses apparently endorsing sexism, genocide and the slaughter of sorceresses have been identified by readers of a Christian website as the least endearing parts of the holy book.

The online survey by, a humorous online magazine, lists the ten verses people would rather had been left out of the Bible, in an attempt to show the dangers of quoting scripture selectively.

St Paul’s advice about whether women are allowed to teach men in church came top of the “Worst Verse” poll, which received more than 1,000 responses.

The results were discussed last night by a panel of theologians at the Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham. In 1 Timothy ii, 12, St Paul is quoted thus: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

The verse has been used by some conservative Christians to justify opposition to women priests.

In second place is the order by Samuel, one of the early leaders of the Israelites, for his people to commit genocide: “This is what the Lord Almighty says ... ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Samuel xv, 3).

Moses’s indictment of witchcraft, in Exodus xxii, 18 came third: “Do not allow a sorceress to live.” Other disliked verses include Psalm 137, which features a line that is rarely spoken in church: “Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us / He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”

Another distasteful set of verses features in Judges xix, 20-25, when a man is trapped in his house by a hostile crowd and sends out his concubine to placate them. She is raped “throughout the night” and eventually returns to the house to collapse in the doorway. His response is simply to tell her to get up. “But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.”

St Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality in Romans i, 27 is highlighted: “In the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

The list also includes stories of parents, such as Abraham, undertaking to sacrifice their children in the name of God, along with the endorsement of female subservience in Ephesians v, 22 which states, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord,” and questionable advice to slaves in 1 Peter ii, 18: “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.”

Simon Jenkins, editor of, said: “It doesn’t have to be a textbook of infallible information and unbreakable laws to be God’s book. And it doesn’t have to be one big pile of lies because of its dodgy bits. In Chapter and Worse we are attempting to rescue it from rival takeover bids.”

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I would be grateful if you would post threads such as this in the Athiest, or All Faiths section. Forum Index -> Bible study
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