J. B. McPherson's "Holey Bible" -- A Critique

J. B. McPherson's Holey Bible - Old Testament -- hereafter HBOT -- according to OCLC's WorldCat, was never followed up with a promised NT version. The appearance of the book by itself offers little encouraging: It is badly typeset, and is illustrated with drawings that appear to have been done by an artistic prodigy from the local daycare.

The contents are no more promising in terms of substance. There are many of the standard objections we've covered hundreds of times (and a few new to my eye which will warrant attention) but what makes HBOT unique is it's central thesis: "God" is neither god nor deity, but extraterrestrial; the Israelites "invented a personal 'God' from the astronauts who first came from other planets to colonize (Earth)." [i]

If you're a Skeptic, though, this will make you shake your head: Mark Twain is listed in the bibliography with books like Chariots of the Gods.

By now I need hardly point out that McPherson is no Biblical scholar. It should come as no surprise, though, that McPherson is an example of the bills of a negligent church coming due; which is not to say she is not responsible for his own fate. The twin themes of "fear and ignorance" are repeated time and time again, apparently having had their roots in McPherson's Pentecostal/Church of God background, which was also apparently filled with preachers who rather than answer his questions just told her to have faith and believe.

She did, all right: What she has now is a mix of Rosicrucianism, Unity, Erich von Daniken, and Edgar Cayce. But now would McPherson have had us shed those "tired, shopworn and outdated dogmas of today's religious teachings" [4] -- and put in their place God as an E.T.?

Errors abound, as noted. Oral transmission is regarded not as the reliable method of transmission that folklore experts have shown it can be in the short term, but is incorrectly compared to the modern "whisper around the room" game [ii].

Questions of translation are dealt with via this approach: "Considering the many translations and changes from one language to another, it is easy to see why much of the bible does not make sense." [iii]

Make sense to whom? McPherson? What about Biblical scholars and those who know the languages well?

I have already shown enough that it will hardly be necessary to service McPherson's book point-by-point. Rather, we shall select from the bulk of McPherson's book -- which is devoted to wisecracking commentary on the books of the OT -- some of the most unusual points I discoved:

And now the last, and most obscure: McPherson's central thesis, that the God of Israel (as well as pagan deities like Chemosh and Ishtar) were actually advanced extraterrestrial beings who came to colonize our planet and took sections of it for themselves. I think such ideas hardly need refuting in detail; suffice to say that no respectable sociologist, historian, or archaeologist believes this sort of thing, but we can add that McPherson's "evidence" for this from the Bible (which he says "overwhelmingly confirms" [237] her thesis) is extremely thin and relies entirely on imagination and not at all on scholarship or an understanding of Ancient Near Eastern language, literature and society.

To wit: The vision of God in Ex. 24:9-10 by the elders of Israel is best seen as "an excellent description of a spaceship landing module...or a helicopter with a semi-transparent blue plastic beneath the operator's feet and a clear plastic bubble over his head." [239]

Descriptions of Gabriel in the Book of Daniel bringing messages to and fro "brings to mind a picture of a man wearing a one-man backpack flying unit".

Moses' rod is thought to have been a super-space weapon provided by Yahweh the astronaut.

Jonah's whale was a submarine; God's spaceship caused the sea to rage, and when he saw the men throw Jonah overboard, he radioed the sub to pick him up. [244]

Elijah's "whirlwind" was a helicopter.

The sanitation and exclusion rules in Leviticus were made because God the astronaut was worried that the conditions like dwarfism might be contagious.

Do we need to go any further? Here is the conclusion to the matter.

We see once again, as I have said, a case of the church's bills of neglect coming due. The educational system can take some blame for this as well, since it has obviously failed to teach people like McPherson to think critically. But in reading McPherson, I am sadly reminded of a meeting I had with a group of 10 pastors to whom I offered my services, without any obligation, as a teacher of apologetics for their church training classes. One of the pastors actually asked before the others if I really felt there was a need for such instruction.

I say, take one look at McPherson and tell me that there isn't a need. It just isn't recognized until the apostasy occurs and it is almost too late to do anything about it.

McPherson thought she had become free of her shackles; in fact she has simply traded one master for another.

-JPH