“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” We all know that old adage. It’s mainly used to tell us to not judge someone negatively based on their appearance. I fell victim to judging a book by its cover a couple weeks ago. This time though, it actually was a book, and I thought that it looked good. However, I was quite mistaken.
We do an annual book sale as a fundraiser for our mission trip that we take each summer. I always look over the selection as I set up to see if there are any books that grab my attention. I then wait until the end of the sale to see if it’s still there. If it is, I take it, read it, and put it back so we can try to sell it next year. It’s a circle of life kind of thing.
As I was putting the books out this year, I saw one that immediately caught my eye. It was titled “Rabbi Jesus” and had an up-close shot of Jesus’ face on the cover. I picked it up and started reading what it was about. It was a look at Jesus as a Jew and the Jewish customs of the day. I thought it would be a great way to get a look at Jesus from a different perspective. I was hoping that it would add a deeper meaning to what the Bible teaches. The reviews on the back of the book were glowing (if they weren’t, they probably wouldn’t be on the book).
The book managed to survive until the end of the sale. I was so excited that I was going to be able to read this book. That excitement wore off as soon as I actually started reading.
The first red flag went up whenever I was reading over the timeline, and it didn’t match up with the Bible or thousands of years of Christian beliefs. He had John the Baptist being born years before Jesus despite the fact that Luke 1: 39-45 clearly tells us that both mothers were pregnant at the same time. The writer had Jesus’ ministry starting at age 21 despite that the belief in Christianity is that His public ministry only lasted around 3 years. He also has John the Baptist dying 10 years before Jesus which again clashes with the timeline the Bible sets up.
I started to have my doubts about the book, but I thought I’d give it a chance. After all, the writer was an Episcopalian Priest and is a religion professor. It took me three pages to decide that the only place that this book belonged was in the trash, and that’s precisely where it went.
He begins his book by completely denying the virgin birth. He believes that Joseph, who is divorced with children, was working for Mary’s father as a roofer when he saw first met her. He then claims that they snuck off, had sex, and Mary was impregnated. The whole virgin birth thing was just a cover-up for what really happened.
This is par for the course for the rest of the book. The writer seemed to be on a mission to dismantle every core belief that we have as Christians. It wasn’t that I disagreed with him that made me want to trash the book. I have no problem reading books or listening to people who disagree with Christianity. The thing that made me mad was that this man claimed to be a Christian and wrote this book. Clearly, he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You can’t believe in what this man believes in and still say you believe in the Jesus of the Bible. By merely denying the virgin birth, you deny Jesus’ divinity. If Jesus wasn’t divine, then His death meant nothing, and we’re still dead in our sins.
I won’t even elaborate on the suggestions that Jesus was a drunkard, sexually active, had no knowledge that He would die, couldn’t comprehend the politics of the time, and that He was bipolar. This, my friends, is not the one the Bible tells us about and is unquestionably not the one who died for us.
The writer’s arguments didn’t have any real evidence to back them up. They were based almost entirely on assumptions. To be frank, it was complete heresy.
My reason for sharing my thoughts on this book wasn’t just so that you can avoid reading it. No, I told you my thoughts as an example as to why we need to know what the Bible says. Unfortunately, knowing the Bible isn’t stressed in most churches these days like it used to be. I always admired the old custom of the Jews. Whenever a male would cross over from boyhood to manhood at his Bar Mitzvah, he would have to memorize the first 5 books of the Bible. Can you imagine memorizing Leviticus? I would be shocked if most Christians today had 5 verses memorized.
Can you imagine what kind of damage that book would do if you didn’t really know what the Bible said? The writer has all the credentials of someone who you would think would be telling you the truth. If you thought any of his ideas on Jesus were true, then I don’t see how you could remain a believer.
God tells us that we need to keep the Bible “always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8) We need to spend time reading God’s word, thinking about God’s word, obeying God’s word, and sharing God’s word. We need to spend so much time in it that it continually floods our thoughts. If we don’t, then we won’t be prepared whenever someone comes along yo misleads us.
Do you really know what you believe in? If you’re a Christian, then you’ve placed your faith that what the Bible says is true. You have entrusted your life and your eternity in this book. It would only make sense that we would want to know everything that it has to say. Scripture is the foundation of our faith. Spurgeon once said, “Visit many great books, but live in the Bible.” It is only when we’re living in it will we be prepared to defend it.