Randel Helms' "The Bible Against Itself"

I first addressed Randel Helms many years ago, and he has not learned anything in the interim. Let us remember that despite what reviewers at Amazon Books say, and despite what the book itself says Helms is NOT a "Biblical scholar" -- he remains a professor of English with no relevant credentials in Biblical scholarship.

In line with this, this book is printed by the book-publishing arm of Skeptic magazine (it would never make the cut at a reputable press like Eerdmans or Fortress) and as is usual for Helms, the source listing is lamentably deficient.

Helms' recycles some of his material from prior works Gospel Fictions and Who Wrote the New Testament?, but has a good amount of new erroneous material in here as well. His core contention is that elements of the Bible contradict because they were written by parties who opposed each other, and Helms offers ten chapters of examples, one in each, on which we will comment:

  1. Ruth versus the racists -- Unfortunately, aside from begged questions on the date of Ruth (and later, other documents), this whole chapter fails on account of a simple consideration Helms does not know about. Helms also calls people like Nehemiah "racists" for opposing marriages to pagan women; socially, however, what was objected to was religion, not race. Ethnic identifiers are used because in the ancient world, nationality (not race) and religion was intertwined. (Eg, as it may be said, "Because I am Japanese, I am Shinto.")
  2. Chronicles vs. Deuteronomy -- This chapter is one where Helms has a point, but not for the reason he thinks he does; see here, on the death of Josiah (atop supplemental material), for why.

    That is not to say Helms is otherwise on the mark. He makes issue of stories of King David being said to be in the books of "Samuel the seer" [20] even though David was king after Samuel died; he sees this as the Chronicler exploiting reader ignorance, but it never occurs to him that the title "books of Samuel the seer" was applied posthumously to a collective work in which Samuel was the main character, even though it covered some events after his death.

  3. Ezekiel vs. migraines -- Helms defines things as loosely as possible to turn Ezekiel into a migraine victim who had hallucinations. In this respect, though much of what Ezekiel describes matches things known from ancient iconography, Helms prefers to employ creativity to make it all fit descriptions of migraines; thus Ezekiel laying on his sides for 400+ days becomes "transient motor weakness." [39]
  4. Wisdom vs. wisdom -- By virtue of their different way of looking at things, Helms argues that books like Sirach were written against books like Ecclesiastes. That such literature is proverbial and has certain genre rules that rule out claims of contradiction such as his, does not occur to him.
  5. Daniel vs. reality -- the same material as in his prior works; the same stuff we answer here and in the review of Who Wrote the New Testament?
  6. OT vs. NT -- the same material as in Gospel Fictions. Helms also makes the amazing claim that "early Christians would have wanted to know what happened to Jesus' clothes" [93] after he was crucified, and that is why Ps. 21:17 was "misused," for an answer. That was a pressing concern for ancient Christians?
  7. Jesus vs. Jesus -- the usual arguments about Q, plus a claim that Jesus is answering Sirach at times, which may be true, but does not interest Christians.
  8. James vs. Paul -- the standard argument, plus the usual errors about the date of Galatians.
  9. James vs. Paul II -- Eisenman's work simply accepted without criticism.
  10. Revelation vs. reality -- standard arguments about unfulfilled prophecy. Preterism annuls this chapter.

And that's it. Once again, Helms has indicated by the quality of his work that he is NOT a Biblical scholar, but a mechanic by comparison.