The editors of GQ Magazine recently released a list of “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read,” as they asked a number of novelists and several staff members to weigh in on “great books” that they believe have not “aged well,” as well as what publications they would recommend instead. One novelist cited the Bible, calling it “repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”
“The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it, but who in actuality have not read it,” wrote novelist Jesse Ball.
“Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced,” he opined. “It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”
Ball rather recommended “The Notebook, the Proof, the Third Lie” by Agota Kristof, a trilogy fiction novel that, according to its description, is about two twin brothers “who must learn every trick of evil and cruelty merely to survive” in a land torn apart by turmoil.
Ball said that he found the story to be “a marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough,” but added that the “subtlety and cruelty of this story is like that famous sword stroke (from below the boat) that plunged upward through the bowels, the lungs, and the throat and into the brain of the rower.”
The Bible was #12 on GQ’s list of books not recommended for reading. Other rejected writings included “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien, and “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift.
Ball’s comments quickly received pushback, including from J. Warner Wallace, a former atheist who now defends the Scriptures as an apologist. Wallace, a homicide detective, is known for his book “Cold Case Christianity,” in which he outlines the evidence that led him to affirm God’s word as truth.
“As an atheist, I can remember saying something similar [to Ball’s remarks] to a Christian co-worker. But that all changed as I began to investigate the Bible using the skills I had developed as a detective. I’ve now come to appreciate the Bible above all other texts (religious or otherwise), largely because the editors of GQ are wrong,” he wrote in an article for Townhall.
Wallace said that as he began investigating the Bible, using the same skills he utilized as a detective, “I found that the Gospels varied in content and style, just as I would expect if they were reliable eyewitness accounts of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.”
“They weren’t overly ‘repetitive’ nor ‘self-contradictory,’ especially given my experience interviewing thousands of eyewitnesses,” he said. “The editors of GQ are wrong; the Bible is still a book you have to read.”
Union University Bible professor George Guthrie told the Baptist Press that Christians should rather feel pity rather than disgust over Ball’s remarks.
“To say that the Bible is ‘repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned’ is understandable coming from a secular person who has never read the Bible with an intent to hear, never studied even a small part, in all its complexity, to understand what is going on in its pages,” he said.
“Our response as believers should not be defensiveness or outrage, but pity for those who have never glimpsed even the smallest ray of beauty, the song of hope found in the Bible’s wonderfully cohesive story,” Guthrie stated.
1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
The apostle Peter, who walked with Christ, also wrote in 2 Peter 1:16-21, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And this voice which came from Heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount.”
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts,” he continued. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation, for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”