Many Christians are probably not aware of just how poorly atheists tend to interpret the Bible. This is so ironic because they often claim that they read the Bible frequently, that they have a sound understanding of theology, unlike us Christians who never read the Bible. They will say that reading the Bible is the quickest way to becoming an atheist. The problem, though, is that many of those who I encounter do not seem to read the Bible. They read memes, about the Bible. But these verses are spectacularly misinterpreted. There are at least 5 Bible verses that atheists misinterpret.
1 – “Anyone who hangs on a tree is under the curse of God.” Deuteronomy 21:23
Atheists may sometimes depict Jesus hanging on a cross with the passage, ‘Anyone who hangs on a tree is under the curse of God.’ The implication being that Christ is under the curse of God, and therefore is not the Savior of the Jews. He is not the promised Messiah, but the Jews were able to expose him under their own law and under their own system of belief. He claimed to be the Christ, and was exposed. This is what the Jews believed that they were doing, and what Jesus’ disciples believed about him as well.
That is exactly the Christian message. Jesus Christ was under the curse of God. That is why the resurrection is so vital, because it vindicates Jesus. Having said that, when Jesus was murdered, he was under the curse of God. Galatians 3:13 says “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” So atheists who say this are just ignorant of basic Christian theology, because indeed, Christ was under the curse of God. He was accused so that men would not have to be.
2 – “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6
In this context, Jesus is saying that if anybody causes a child to stumble, or leads them into sin, it would be worse for them if they had a millstone tied around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. He was saying that their punishment would be even more severe than that. They will deserve much wrath for bringing children to harm in this way. How do atheists interpret this verse?
Atheists say that Jesus was threatening the lives of children. “If you sin, you will be thrown into the sea with a millstone thrown around your neck.” But this is obviously a ridiculous interpretation, not apparent in the context. This is just an atheist attempt to make Jesus appear to be evil. But that is not what he was saying at all.
3 – “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” Matthew 5:18
Atheists use this proof-text to demonstrate that the laws of the Old Testament did not pass away, but that the Law of Moses continues on. Thus, we are to keep all of the laws of Leviticus. The problem, though, is that is not what Jesus was saying. In fact, in the very same chapter, Jesus said, ‘you have heard it said an eye for an eye… but I tell you, do not resist an evil person.’ Later, he goes on to say, (Matthew 19:8), Jesus referred to the divorce law, saying that Moses permitted it, but that is not God’s ideal standard (but only ideal for governing ancient Israel). Jesus clearly undid many of the laws of Moses. That is why Paul argues that we are no longer under the law (Romans 6:14).
So what is Matthew 5:18 saying? Well, Jesus was preaching a message that seemed radical to the Pharisees. He was assuring them that he is not some foreign preacher, or Greek philosopher, but that he held to the Scripture as firmly as they do. Further, Jesus was saying that he came to fulfill the sacrificial commands that were illustrated in the Old Covenant. That is why he said that he came to fulfill the prophets. Again, atheists are just misinterpreting this verse.
4 – “…the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time.” Acts 16:6
Atheists will use this verse to prove that the Bible contradicts itself. While Jesus clearly teaches that the gospel is a message that is meant for everybody, this verse teaches that they were not permitted to go to Asia to preach the gospel. The problem with this is that this is a contextual event. I am certain that everybody realizes this. The Holy Spirit was not commanding that they never go to Asia, but only prevented them in this particular case.
So this, in no way, contradicts the universal call to salvation nor the command to preach to all nations. The gospel is for everybody. But in this particular case, they were unable to go to Asia. It is like a parent tells their child that they can do anything that they want in life. One day, the teenager says, “Let’s go take a tour of the local university,” to which the parent replies, “Not right now. I am too busy today.” This does not contradict their promise that they can do anything they want. It is a contextual restriction.
5 – I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.” Isaiah 45:7
Atheists will use this verse to prove that God created evil. But he did not. Evil is not an element; it is not a thing. Evil is just the absence of goodness. This was recognize by Aristotle as well (many atheist would benefit from studying the work of ancient philosophers). God did not create evil, nor is this particular passage teaching that.
Instead, this passage is teaching that God uses everything that happens, good or bad, for his ultimate purpose. For instance, God used the Babylonians to bring his wrath upon Israel. The Babylonians were intending evil, but what they intended for evil, God used for good. So the same with the crucifixion. When men do evil, God uses it for good. That is what this verse is saying. This verse is not saying that God created evil.
Can you think of any more misinterpreted verses? Leave a comment!
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