Solomon Tulbure's "Christianity Exposed": Critique

This is a broad, by chapter review of Solomon Tulbure's Christianity Exposed.

The story of Tulbure is a tragic one; he was widely reputed to have run financial scams online, and his life ended in suicide.

Many atheists distanced themselves from Tulbure, who also wrote books on Islam and the Illuminati, and claimed to be a member of the latter.

However, his book remains on the market, and so it is warranted to maintain a review of it.

How did Tulbure come to compile this massive volume? He "began to hang out in libraries after school, and began to study various subjects, including about his own religions." [sic] He also has a degree in Electronics. We are obviously not dealing with someone here on a credible level of scholarship.

I learned about this book when three different persons wrote me with copies of material Tulbure had posted on various discussion boards -- not all of them relevant (for example, an "ex-Mormon" board). The post consisted almost entirely of "argument by outrage" against God; investigation of Tulbure's Web site revealed little better: For example, a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount in which no effort is made to address the Beatitudes in their social context, but answers given to the effect, "This is a stupid rule because..." followed by, "Do you believe this moron/idiot Jesus taught this?" One wonders if Confucius would escape thusly unscathed, or any other ancient teacher who taught some of the same things.

At any rate, the method is carried over into book format, but in addition to referring to Christians as "complete irrational morons" we have other, different forms. Between enormous numbers of typos (the back cover refers to the "United Sates") and serious grammatical errors (it has been related to me that Tulbure blames the English language for being "the stupidest language" he has ever seen), we have "smile" symbols dotting the pages, purposeful misspellings for polemical purposes ("JeZus", "GeeZeus"), and various appropriate accusations.

Why didn't Tulbue consult credible scholarly sources? "...most authors seemed more interested in showing off their linguistic scholarship, instead of concentrating on the subjects they covered." We have vague generalizations: " every nation where Christians lived, they have divided, hated and persecuted each other with all the power they had." Don't expect even a few lines about history proving this, though.

We have claims sure to evoke atheistic sympathy: "Don't you think that churches would serve a better purpose if we tear them down and build apartments for the poor or schools?" Who's going to pay for all of that construction? Isn't it less expensive to build on land that is still open?

On the other hand, we should give more respect to scientists who "gave you cars, light bulbs, calculators, medicine, airplanes, trains, candy [!], good foods, wonderful music and instruments..." Yes, and also pollution, nuclear weapons, anthrax, couch potatoes -- come to think of it, wouldn't the candy factories and record companies also be better off as low-income housing by the logic we have seen?

But enough of generalities; let us move by chapter.

Chapter 1: The theme of this short chapter is to express the idea that Jesus was a) not a nice person to his family; b) not known to be divine by his family. Enlisted for idea a) :

This leads into the second major theme of the chapter -- Tulbure thinks that Mary "had no idea or knowledge about her son's alleged mission," as shown thusly:

Luke 2:48-50 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.

Tulbure supposes that if the Nativity chronicles were true, such statements would be impossible, and moreover, Jesus' brothers would have believed in him. But let us again scrutinize the data below the surface:

Other comments on this chapter: Tulbure suggests that "Catholics" inserted the story of the virgin birth (rather difficult to see, since the organized Catholic church did not exist until well after the third century, when we have copies of Matthew and Luke with the story), and offers a comment about "God having sex" with Mary, though how creative fiat counts as "sex" is not explained.

Chapter 2: This chapter is a straw man. It addresses the idea that "Jesus did not teach anything new and original at all." No one claims that he did. The only point worthy of comment is the claim that Matthew 5:43-44 "claims that the Jewish Bible and Judaism teach hatred of one's enemies." -- Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

There is no attribution here to the Jewish Bible or to Judaism as a whole; nevertheless the principle of hating enemies is found in some Jewish teachings. Keener's commentary [203] notes that the Qumran community members took an oath to "hate the children of darkness" and it is likely that popular piety against the Romans (exemplified in groups like the Sicarii and the Zealots) took this view as well.

The concept of hating enemies is more widely found in Greco-Roman literature of the period, and educated Jews, of the Diaspora especially, would certainly have "heard it said" and perhaps even adapted it into their own belief system.

One odd is a claim that a work called "The Secrets of Enoch" is a "Pharisaic apocryphal work" from the first century BC. This work is also called Slavonic Enoch, and according to Craig A. Evans, Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation (23, I have gotten this data from a page on the works of Enoch) this work "was written late first century C.E. in Egypt by a Jew. It survives only in late Old Slavonic manuscripts."

Chapter 3, 4 and 5: Comments on Jesus as "unblemished" answered here. Comments on the law answered here. Comments on the relationship of Jesus and God answered here.

Chapter 6 -- The major focus of this chapter involves a rather curious notion: that "Paulistianity" and its idea of grace is not in agreement with Judaism's idea of salvation by works. Actually, we agree that one can be saved by being perfect. But no one has ever succeeded in that, which is the point.

Some minor issues: Tulbure says that the NT is "filled with hate toward the Jews" but cites no example of this, referring only to persecutions of Jews by medievals and by Hitler. He offers the "Elijah and Enoch went to heaven" objection. Other verses he quotes saying that a given person died and received an eternal reward in the OT, but none of the verses specifies the cause for the reward -- did they keep the law perfectly? Did they have faith in God? Indeed, Ps. 31:19 praises those who trust in God (have faith in Him) and says nothing about keeping the law. Other passages like Is. 45:17 clearly refer in context to a political "salvation," not a spiritual one. For more on this issue, see our response to Gerald Sigal on atonement.

Paul did not say that Judaism was wrong to suppose that one could be saved by following the law, or that Judaism was not of God; he argued -- rightly -- that this was an impossible path for men to take. This very subtle missed distinction renders all of Tulbure's comments in this chapter irrelevant.

Chapter 7 -- for a corrective see Glenn Miller's item on Messianic expectations.

Chapter 8 -- this chapter is a collection of common errors by Skeptics. Here's a rundown:

Chapter 9 -- this enormous chapter about "Christian proof texts" tries to cover the sort of ground that seminary students spends upwards of five years covering. It will be enough to link to broad conceptual answers, with an example or two from Tulbure's text.

Chapter 10

Material in this chapter is conceptually refuted by links above concerning NT use of OT prophecy and the link on Gerald Sigal. It is again no more than Tulbure repeating arguments by non-experts like Thomas Paine who had no knowledge of first century Jewish exegesis and hermeneutics.

A few points otherwise:

Chapter 11

This one takes Jesus to task for bad behavior and "argument by outrage" against righteous judgment and punishment. We have already answered most of this:

Chapter 12

This is a short take on Messianic prophecy in Isaiah. It needs no new answers other than those we have linked above on the subject.

Chapter 13

This one's on the covenant. Much of this is covered by what we say here. On atonement see here. Tulbure criticizes Paul for saying that those who break even one of the laws are guilty of all of them -- problem is, this was said by James (2:10), not Paul, and just as an incidental note, James 2:10 reflects comments also found in rabbinic Judaism (to the effect that those who break one law are liable to the rest), and they point not to actual lawbreaking, but to the mind-attitude that allows one to break any one of the laws in the first place. (The verb in James 2:10 can mean liable to, or responsible to.)

In light of that some of Tulbure's next comments are ironic:

The reason so many morons believed and still believe Paul is due to three reasons: 1. People who believe Paul are anti-Semitic, pure and simple. 2. People who believe Paul are lazy morons who don't care what the Law actually is, or what the Bible actually has to say. 3. People who believe Paul are poorly educated for he [sic] most part, and have mental problems of sorts, which prevent them from being able to deal with reality in a rational manner.

By this, a scholar like Ben Witherington has "mental problems of sorts." I'm sure he'll be glad to hear that diagnosis from an expert like Tulbure.

Tulbure quotes Is. 66:23 to prove that Jewish holidays will be kept in the Messianic kingdom. To some extent we agree -- but that hardly means that the holidays and sacrifices will be vested with the same ceremony and significance, and Is. 66:23 does not say that.

Chapter 14

For most of his book Tulbure has been critiquing the NT; now he turns with whole heart and loose mind to the OT. There's some stuff here beyond our scope, and more of the namecalling we have seen before. A large portion of the chapter is about evolution and the age of the earth. Tulbure brazenly asserts a belief in eternal matter (but don't expect any analysis of the problems associated with that), offers the "who made God" argument as though it were actually a worthwhile challenge; calls people at the time of Moses "barbaric, uneducated," and "ignorant"; criticizes the creation account as unscientific; speculates that Moses thought the sun was only three feet in diameter and offers the point about the sun standing still and going backwards as well (see here).

Further, he speaks extensively about how wonderful science is (science, which gives you candy and music, but also the WTC bombing) and how wonderful man is ("YOU are the only god you should worship..."); misinterprets the "image" language of Gen. 1:26 as the Mormons do (see The Mormon Defenders, Chapter 1); argues fort two creation accounts (see here); makes remarks that Glenn Miller addresses here; comments about the Exodus (see here and here).

Tulbure wonders why Moses didn't make a speech about "freedom, kindness, and peace" to convince Pharaoh to let the people go. Why not? The likely response of an Egyptian despot-god to such things: "That's nice. Throw him into the crocodile pen." Tulbure should know that the Plagues struck at the heart of Egypt's social, economic, and religious life and were the most effective weapon, collectively, to force Pharaoh's hand. He also wonders why Pharaoh was not overthrown by his people, but that's not how an ancient collectivist society thought, and besides, only one side had any weapons to work with.

Tulbure refers to the Promised Land as "tiny and ugly...nasty" -- then one wonders why anyone lived there at all, as our excavations have shown. He tells us that manna "defied the law of physics", partly because it magically changed to the amount of one omer however much you gathered (no, I don't know where he gets this from -- possibly from a careless reading of Ex. 16:18); wonders why God didn't provide "a generous variety of meats and vegetables" (spoken like a true modern who gorges himself like a Roman Emperor, while most people in the world eat a handful of rice every day); doesn't know that the "hornet" is a symbol of Egypt, and what would help drive people out of the promised land; wonders how, with people in the Promised Land, wild beasts could have been a threat (they didn't have things like high-powered rifles); wonders why God would care to make such detailed instructions for the cultic apparatus (it's how the ancients thought, not moderns -- they cared deeply about such things); argues against Mosaic authorship (see here); declares the law about uncleanness after birth, especially being double for a girl, to be "barbaric" (see here to get a grip on the cultural background, and understand why Tulbure is wrong on the broader ceremonial issues, and here for a more specific corrective); offers points re slavery (see here); calls various laws in the OT "barbaric" without any comparison to other ancient law codes or any relevant analysis of the social background data; and objects on polygamy (a survival necessity, often, in ancient times, and in defense of the Mormons, let me add that polygamy is NOT considered pure in Utah by the majority there anymore); the usual about Numbers 31 (see here), and plenty of argument by outrage.

Chapter 15

This is a short chapter, only 3 pages, and an unusual one -- it represents Tulbure's one "original" thesis in the book. Tulbure thinks we have been "misled by tradition and ignorance" to think that "only two were crucified with the Lord." [277] Tulbure says, "there were two thieves (gr. lestai=robbers) and there were to [sic] malefactors."

Yes, Matthew and Mark refer to two lestai, which the KJV renders "thieves" (though the word is better a description like we may say, a terrorist). Luke in the KJV does say "malefactors" -- the Greek word here is kakourgos, meaning a criminal or a wrong-doer. In other words, it is a general term. It is like Matthew and Mark (John only says "others") are saying they are "bank robbers" and Luke is saying they are "criminals". So is refuted Tulbure's one original contribution to Biblical scholarship: There were not two with Jesus, but four.

Tulbure supports his thesis by arguing that the Gospels have the "thieves" and "malefactors" crucified at different times with respect to Jesus, but in fact none of the Gospels give time-markers; in all cases the other two are an afterthought or a footnote, as we would say, and it nowhere says they were crucified before or after Jesus.

The final chapter of this book is by far the largest and seems to have been the place where Tulbure collected every single alleged Bible contradiction he could find. It is still not as thick as McKinsey's Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (though remove McKinsey's polemic and repetition, and it might be) and contains mostly citations that we have already covered. Others are simple enough to simply add as entries in our Encyclopedia, and we will do so. Thus we advise the reader to consult our Encyclopedia indices for the majority of these. In several cases Tulbure adds new verses to old arguments, but these do not add new validity in any instance.