Ingrate as Subject of Satire

J. P. Holding's Guide to "Ken's Guide to the Bible"
James Patrick Holding

The question: How do you satirize what is itself little better than a satire? How do you make a mockery of The National Enquirer when it is already a mockery in and of itself?

This was the question that came to me when I was asked to do a Rogue's Gallery portrait of one Ken Smith, of Ken's Guide to the Bible. As I read this tiny book it became obvious that a normal essay sorta item just wouldn't do...this volume needed special treatment. And so it is.

Ken's "guide" uses a dozen little cartoon icons to designate various entries. So, then, why not do the same for a guide to Ken's guide? It's much better than my usual foaming at the mouth diatribe, wouldn't you say? ;-) And with that, here are our own "icons" for designating entries in our "Guide to Ken's Guide to the Bible".

Skeptical Chauvinism

Ken's appreciation of Biblical culture and society approaches the average Klansman's appreciation of Kwaanza and the Chinese New Year.

Jes Plain Dumb

Mistakes so incredible that they win the Golden Duh Award.

Argument by Outrage

Ken imposes his values on the Bible, and shares Dan Barker's fear of blood.

Why Can't Kenny Read?

Errors in basic reading that would make Mr. Laubach lose a gasket.

Pearls Before Swine

Thoughts too lofty for Ken's little mind to appreciate.

Hayseed Scholarship

Simplistic analysis of vexing Biblical problems. Why consult N. T. Wright or Raymond Brown when you can read Ken?

A Night at the (Needs) Improv(ement)

Ken thinks he's funny, but he's not.

Titillation Central

Ken gets excited about sex in the Bible. Gee, he reads stuff like this for thrills? What a boring life.

The King of Chutzpah

Despite the occasional self-deprecation, it's obvious that Ken thinks he knows better about the Bible.

Helpful Household Hints

Once in a while, Ken knows what he's talking about. Most likely it's coincidental.

Circular Reasoning Ahead

The usual skeptical flaw. He hasn't caught his tail yet, though.

Welcome to Yo-Yo Land

Absurdities, pointless observations, childish complaining, and other statements so ridiculous that they require psychiatric care.

J. P.'s Guide to Ken's Guide to the Bible

The obvious question is, what business does Ken Smith have writing a guide to the Bible - of any sort? His only stated qualification is co-authorship of a travel book, and a self-description as a "professional authority". Smith perhaps hopes that in offering up this self-deprecating self-description, he is giving the impression that his work is to be taken with a grain of salt...but let's be serious here. Billions are starving for the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and Ken Smith, an "authority" without a single qualification in Biblical scholarship, has the abundant nerve to author this book which will only serve to drive people away from eternal life. He has no business writing such drivel, and that's that.

On the other hand, if there is any redeeming value to this work, it should at least drive us - by shame if by no other impetus - to increase our own knowledge of our faith.

Does Ken use any sources for his research? Oh, yes - and they're all quite relevant: A few different versions of the Bible, a Bible dictionary, a Strong's concordance (though I see no sign he has actually used it), H. G. Wells' Outline of History (this is recommended by most Biblical scholars as an outstanding reference work, along with The Time Machine and The Invisible Man), and Asimov's Guide to the Bible, which Ken says was "a source of inspiration and insights." I agree: Asimov's book, which consists of nearly a thousand pages, was so insightful that I actually learned four things from it.

Ken's motives in writing this book, needless to say, were not related to informing his readers per se - as one reads Ken's Guide, it becomes clear, what with his snide references to "family values" and such, that the real motive behind the Guide is to tweak the nose of the religious Right. As someone with mixed political views, I find this obsession amusing - but we have to wonder whether the likes of him will ever get over the Reagan era.

One of the book's categories is "Weirdness", designated by an icon of a crazed cuckoo clock. What fits in this category? It is used, Ken says, "when an event or a philosophy is incomprehensible even by Bible standards..." Needless to say, that there might be some deficiency in Ken's own comprehension on the subject is not taken into consideration. If Ken says it's weird, then it is - no questions asked.

Ex. 20:26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it. Ken says of this verse: "God instructs Moses that no altar should have steps; people ascending steps might expose their genitals." Not only might, but in some cases would: Exposure of the genitalia during ascent to an altar was a regular practice of the disgusting pagan rituals engaged by the Canaanites. Ken thinks that this is simply a weird and pointless rule put together by a deity with a dirty mind because he is ill-informed about the social context of it, and that is the case on a number of other occasions as well. For example...

Exodus 28:42-3 Make linen undergarments as a covering for the body, reaching from the waist to the thigh. Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die. Ken says of this passage: "God tells Moses that Aaron and his sons must always wear underwear when they enter God's tent or else they will be killed." In describing this in modern terms, Ken strips the passage of its sociological context and instead invokes an image of Aaron and his kids rushing down to Wal-Mart to buy Fruit of the Looms - when the reason for the command here is the same as the one above: It relates to the purposeful pagan practice of exposure for sexual rituals. The garment regulation above serves to prevent the activity, even the appearance of evil.

Noting diet regulations in Leviticus, Ken says: "God tells the people of Israel that they cannot eat bats, but that grasshoppers and locusts are okay." Yes they are, and they are a staple in the diets of many a Third World nation resident today, whereas bats continue to be a dangerous snack, since they basically live in their own excrement. What does Ken think people did in the ancient world? Order out to Pizza Hut? Ken is simply playing upon our modern, American idea that all such animals are "gross" and using it to imply that the Bible presents an inconsistency here, when understood in its social context, it does not.

Ken repeats Steve Allen's misunderstanding of the episode involving the golden tumors and rats - apparently having never heard of the practice of sympathetic magic, either.

Ken cites (not quotes) 1 Samuel 7:10 and says, "God confuses the Philistine forces by yelling at them." The Hebrew word used in this verse indicates not necessarily a voice, but any sound.

The "weirdness" icon is applied to a number of other places - and quite often to miraculous events, holiness codes, and prophetic visions. In other words, it is simply assumed that such things are weird, simply because Ken thinks so; it is never actually proved that they are "weird" - much less is "weird" defined in any other sense than, "Ken thinks it is."

The account of Jesus healing a man by mixing spittle with clay is designated as weird. Ken is unaware that spittle, especially that of holy men, was regarded as having healing properties in ancient times. Jesus was simply employing a current cultural paradigm.

Another category, signified by a winking bull's head, is titled "Bunk". This icon "signals things that many people erroneously believe about the Bible." As such, it is the one category where Ken's Guide actually has some usefulness - to anyone with knowledge below the level of kindergarten Sunday School, that is, for no one else could possibly be unaware of the things that Ken cites in this category. (For example, that the fruit in Eden is nowhere described as an apple.)

Jesus, we are told, was not killed because of his teachings, but because the crowd preferred to release Barabbas, "a much more charismatic radical."

Another Guide category, signified by an icon of a foreshortened observatory telescope, is called "The Big Picture." The description: "Some of our most cherished Bible stories and scriptures look a lot different when they're viewed in context." True enough, but rather a nervy statement from a Guide-writer who does not even bother to understand the material he reads in its own social context.

Citing Leviticus 19:18, the famous "love your neighbor as yourself" passage, Ken remarks that this command only applied to one's fellow Israelites. True enough: But being that all previous law codes didn't apply to the way royalty treated common people, Lev. 19:18, like the rest of the Torah, was a remarkable advance for the period...and a foreshadowing of Jesus' greater challenge to make everyone our neighbor.

It is noted that Balaam, who made a major OT prophecy of Jesus, was hunted down and killed in a massacre - to which we must ask, "So what?"

The comment is made that after Daniel was rescued from the lions' den, his accusers were thrown into it and killed. Yes they were: That was the way Persian justice worked. Daniel is recording true history here, and we might even argue that the punishment was justified, though perhaps not from the perspective of our modern, Western sensibilities.

Observation made that the story of Jesus takes up only 93 out of 923 pages in the Bible. Since when does the number of pages matter over and against importance of content? Moreover, considering that Jesus' life lasted but 30 years, while the OT covers over a thousand, doesn't the proportion actually make sense?

Ken correctly deduces that "the Jews" refers to the Jewish leadership, not the Jewish people as a whole.

Ken asks why Judas would need to kiss Jesus for the purpose of recognition. Well, have you ever heard of darkness under cloud cover, or under the shadow of trees in a garden like Gethsemane? And can we assume that the grunts with the party would recognize Jesus themselves? (More likely, though, that was just an excuse for Judas to try and ingratiate himself.)

Acts 20:35 is cited with the complaint that Jesus never said such a thing as indicated - which assumes that the Gospels record everything that Jesus ever said.

Ken explains James' suggestion that Paul pay for the expenses of the Nazirites, and the reaction of the Temple crowd to Paul's speech, saying that it "makes clear what the Bible never says outright: that Paul is preaching a very different form of Christianity from the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem." If that is so, one wonders, for example, why James himself was martyred by the Jewish establishment not many years later. Perhaps he converted to Paulinism? The real problem Paul had here is not that he was preaching a "very different form of Christianity," but that he was preaching and pronouncing the blessings of a Jewish Messiah to Gentiles at a time of fierce Jewish ultra-nationalism (which the Jerusalem apostles had no problem with, since they did not preach to Gentiles), a period when sicarii did their dirty work, and we had the first fomentings of what would lead to the 66 rebellion against Rome - no thanks due to Rome itself, which kept sending incompetent beasts like Felix and Albinus to rule the place. Ken simply has no cognizance of the historical context of these passages.

Ken complains that the word "intelligence" is found only once in the Bible, at Dan. 11:30, and that in a negative sense - which presumably, logically, leads to the argument that the Bible is an anti-intellectual book. It is true that this is the only use of the word in the KJV, which was written when "intelligence" did not have the stronger connotations it does today. But let's look at the NIV, if we're going to use this kind of argument. "Intelligent" and "intelligence" appear 9 times, with the spin split about evenly. "Wisdom" appears 218 times. "Wise" appears 186 times. "Think" occurs 87 times. "Ken" does not appear at all, and from that we may argue that Ken is totally irrelevant.

Ken also complains that the prophets didn't forecast neat stuff like the Nazis and space travel - certainly edifying topics for the ancient Israelites to be informed upon.

It is suggested - shades of Earl Doherty! - that because the Epistles say so little about the life of Jesus, the Gospels must have been written long after Jesus' death.

A category "Holy Distortion" is introduced with an icon of a crucified pretzel...

...and the subject of this category is described as being places where NT writers "have twisted sublime messages into self-serving theology." Put into language we understand but Ken does not, it is places where the NT writers use typical Jewish exegetical methods of the period, including typology. The real "twist" is in the eyes of the badly uninformed beholder Ken - not in the way the NT writers handle their material.

Many of the cites given in this category, in fact, are simply quotations of verses made with the assumption that in their mere quotation the distortion is obvious. Never mind any sort of social context for the material, or the fact that practically every idea found in Paul can also be found in rabbinic and/or Palestinian Judaism of the period. Ken reads it from his perspective, and that perspective is all that matters.

Acts 19:17-19, the destruction of magical scrolls in Ephesus, is described as the "first book burning in the name of Jesus." Not mentioned is the fact that the burning was voluntary, and on the part of the owners of the scrolls (not actually books) themselves, Ken's attempts to invoke images of hayseeds burning the public library's copy of Catcher in the Rye notwithstanding. Never mind also that the Romans were burning the scrolls of illicit and/or unaccepted religious groups as a typical controlling method long before the Christians ever lit the match.

The category "Family Values" - with an icon depicting a silhouette of a family holding knives aloft - is for: "The hellish spawn of today (who) are only following the examples set down in the Good Book." Translation: Ken is only interested in tweaking the likes of Falwell and Bakker in this book, and he will select any record of immorality from the Bible to do so, never mind the fact that things like Lot sleeping with his daughters is not recorded for us for the sake of example.

Ken misunderstands Luke 14:26 in the typical fashion.

Under the "Family Values" category is cited Genesis 50:1-3, where Joseph and his family "turn Jacob into a mummy." Uh, gosh, Ken, what would you expect folks living in Egypt to have done to their honored dead? Folded them up into a suitcase? And what does the disposition of the dead in this time - of which this method is also similar to the Jewish method of using ossuaries - have to do with "Family Values"?

The category "Gender Bashing" depicts a female being bopped on the head with a divine finger. Placed in this category are not only the expected cites of Paul (ripped out of their social context, of course) and the old Numbers 5 ritual (actually a means of protection for women, as Glenn Miller has shown), but also...

...anyplace where a woman is blamed for something, or where something bad happens to a woman, regardless of who did it, or why, or even if the blame is deserved...but for some reason, although plenty of bad things also happen to men in the Bible, we don't have a category for that. Hmmm.

Here's the topic you've all been waiting for, signified by an icon that is no more than the word S-E-X in bold letters. Ken tells us there's lots of sex in the Bible, and he acts like an over-excited 10 year old who has found his father's Playboy behind the dresser every time some sort of sex issue comes up in the Bible, regardless of context. Would that Ken would have gotten this excited about understanding what he was reading...but then again, I guess most folks who read that type of stuff usually go for things with lots of pictures.

The category of choice for counter-bigots, "Christian Arrogance," depicting a figure hoisting the Christian flag atop a mount. "Who's got the best religion in the world?" Ken asks. "You-know-who, and God have mercy on those who disagree." Uh, of course, this works under the assumption that Christianity is not the only way to God, which is the very point at issue...and certainly Ken's childish treading about with irrelevant sources like H. G. Wells and Asimov hasn't put any sort of dent in the issue. I'd like to see "Ken's Guide to N. T. Wright's Jesus and the Victory of God," for example...but again, since it doesn't have any pictures, I guess we're out of luck for Ken guiding us through it until Wright puts it out in comic-book format.

Citing Luke 7:44-8, Ken says that Jesus forgave the woman in this passage only after she had watered his feet with tears. Uh, yes, deeds are indeed an expression of the heart, which is precisely the point. Jesus forgave her because of her faith; but faith without works is dead. So, Ken, you want that thank-you for the charitable donation BEFORE you dole out the money, pal?

Ken complains about Jesus calling Peter a mouthpiece of Satan for disagreeing with him....which assumes of course that Peter actually wasn't...which is the very point at issue.

The last of the twelve categories in the set, depicting two pennies, is called "Ken's Two Cents Worth." Here we find more of that manipulative self-deprecation, as Ken tells us that his words are "as biased as any religious diatribe," with the difference that at least he admits he is biased. Actually the major difference is that Ken is colossally uninformed, and the only thing more dangerous than bias is uninformed bias...regardless of what perspective it comes from.

And let me just add that at two cents each, Ken's thoughts are badly overpriced.

Using a thought perhaps garnered from Asimov, Ken tells us that Cain's sacrifice was rejected because it did not use blood like Abel's. Perhaps...but if that were the case, then all Cain had to do was say, "Whoops, sorry, I'll try again." That he did not do so shows that the problem was the content of his heart, not the content of his sacrifice.

Ken gets really excited over Rachel and Leah giving Jacob their maids as partners. I imagine Ken would have had a lot of excitement in this time when such practices were part of the status quo in the ANE.

Citing Gen. 32:24-40, Ken says "God has a wrestling match with Jacob and loses." Uh, hello? Why can't Kenny read? Jacob is clearly the big loser of the match, and it isn't by countout, either...though he does hang onto his opponent pretty tenaciously even in defeat.

Citing Joseph's rule over Egypt, Ken complains that he "refuses to give grain to (Egypt's) starving people unless they sell themselves into slavery" to Pharaoh. Uh, yeah, Ken, that's how things worked in that time, in this age of corporate survival. But at least Joe ASKED if they wanted to accept the bargain first...instead of just forcing them into it, like most Eastern monarchs of the period would have done.

Citing Exodus 34:29-35 as "weird" - "Moses is forced to wear a veil in public; talking to God has made his face glow." So might yours, too, if you had been so closely exposed to the divine glory of a holy God. (Memo to Ken: To help you understand, think of how someone who stands too close to a source of energy actually absorbs and then later radiates some of that energy. Dig into your old copies of Spiderman to pick up an example you can grok with.)

Citing Lev. 19:28, with only the comment, "God forbids tattoos." As if simply by saying this the law itself is exposed as ridiculous, with perhaps the implication that God had a grudge against sailors who had "MOTHER" stenciled on their arm. Most authorities in the know, however, think the rule is directed against the pagan religious practice of tattooing - the idea of tattooing simply for the sake of being hip having yet to be invented.

Citing the story of Gideon, Ken writes of the three hundred in his army who are "handpicked after they display an aptitude for lapping water like dogs." He thinks it's weird; we say Ken is no military tactician. Those who picked up water in their hands and lapped like dogs were those who were most attentive to their surroundings - and were therefore the best candidates to conduct a night-time raid of the sort planned by Gideon.(See more here.)

Eli is described as "the only person in the Bible to die by falling out of his chair."

The usual cite of 50,000 being killed by the Ark of the Covenant; never mind that textual criticism has ascertained that the number was actually 70. Ken would presumably complain about that, also.

Objections to the death of Nabal, who "refuses to give food to David and his men." More than that: Nabal refused AFTER David and his men had protected his property - and thus he violated the most elemental rule of corporate survival. (See more here.)

Ken commits the usual "Who Killed Saul" blunder, but with an extra bit of nincompoopery, as he identifies the person who came to David as the same soldier who was with Saul - in spite of the fact that the solder in 1 Samuel kills himself, and the person in 2 Samuel clearly identifies himself as an Amalekite.

Complaints about David going to war in 2 Sam. 10:1-5 because the enemy shaved off half the beards of David's emissaries. Perhaps Ken wishes to suggest that this was a minor thing for David to lose his cool over, but he's out of the social context as usual: What was done to David's men was no mere college prank, but a deadly insult that amounted to a declaration of enmity and war. As Rihbany notes in The Syrian Christ [171-3], the beard and mustache, to an Oriental, signifies one's manhood, and swearing on one's beard, which seems odd to us, "means to pledge the integrity of one's manhood." To curse someone's beard or mustache "is to invite serious trouble." This is the sort of social knowledge folks like Ken are lacking.

Noting the comparison between the Samuel and Chronicles accounts of the Davidic census, Ken concludes that this shows that "God is actually Satan."

The books of the Kings are described as "chapters of confusion in which the Israelites are the good guys on one page, bad guys on the next." Whew, can you imagine Ken trying to handle the complexities of secular history with this kind of simple-minded analysis?

Insults abound where all else (like scholarship) fails. Elijah and Elisha are described as "two of the creepiest characters on the Old Testament." Isaiah is "an egomaniacal crackpot" whose writings are "often overblown and disjointed." Ezekiel is dismissed as "a nut" - but Daniel is more, "a bona fide nutcake." Amos consists of "nonstop nagging, judgment and calamity." Micah is a "ranting lunatic."

Ken complains about all boring genealogies in the Bible, hardly realizing that such listings were very, very important to ancient peoples, who were also very happy to be able to read and write at all and have the leisure to do so.

The arrangement of the Old Testament books is said to make for "lumpy reading." Hey, Ken, ever heard of a Table of Contents?

God's replies in the book of Job, regarded by literary experts in the field as masterpieces of ANE philosophy and thought, are described as "pretty shallow" and "scary." Psalms, also considered exemplary, is put off as "split fairly evenly between praising God and whining at Him." Proverbs - again, considered exemplary in the context of ANE literature by those in the field - is "like reading an endless list of Chinese fortune cookie sayings." Ecclesiastes, a very deep treatise on the human condition, is put off as a "Gloomy Gus sermon" put together by a "seriously depressed writer."

We wonder if what Ken said about Proverbs he would also say about the Egyptian Wisdom of Amenamope or the works of Confucius. I certainly haven't met any Klansmen who show a greater appreciation for the cultures of others than Ken does.

The Song of Solomon is described as "the kind of stuff you read aloud to your girl to get her in the mood." I guess Ken's girl leads a boring life, too?

A description of the prophets: "An occasional screwball, such as Ezekiel, Daniel, or Zechariah, lightens the proceedings with nutty visions, but for the most part the prophets are a dreary bunch." It's becoming quite clear that Ken was raised on TV.

A good question to ask at this point - with literally thousands of scholars over the ages having studied for hundreds of thousands of hours and having written hundreds of thousands of pages on the Bible...what kind of nerve does it take to publish a 138-page book that is at least 1/4 white space and call it a "guide" of ANY kind?

Shades of Farrell Till's chauvinism, as we are simply told: "God orders Jeremiah to wear a cattle yoke to dramatize his prophecies." -- as though this were actually something strange or out of the ordinary.

Ken finds hints of polytheism in the use of Daniel's terms, "the God of heaven" and "the God of gods."

On Hosea's kids: "God gives them funny names in His quest for a good religious metaphor."

Citing (but not quoting) Hosea 5:12: "God compares himself to mildew and a bug." The verse actually says, "I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah." - describing the fact that the people have deserted God to such an extent that they can no longer face Him except as an abhorrence to them, so wicked are their deeds.

Of Joel it is simply said, "Since Joel has nothing original to offer, one can safely avoid reading this book."

Ken prefers the NT to the OT, because, he says, after the "droning, endless repetitions of the same names, events, and themes of the prophets" with their "murky, inscrutable allegory and metaphor," it is nice to get to the NT, which has "clean, snappy prose that moves." Ken needs to buy that Bible version that features the dancing clowns and pop-up pictures; maybe then he won't suffer from such boredom, eh?

Why was Jesus crucified? Ken thinks that it was because Jesus betrayed the Jewish nationalists and Zealots (a few years too early for Zealots, by the way) who thought he would be a "warrior Messiah" - and that they were the ones who formed the mob demanding his execution. Jesus, therefore, who led them on to follow him, was "a victim of his own ego." Seems that Joel Carmichael has won yet another uncritical convert.

Ignorant of the methods of ancient biography and the ancient constraints of composition, Ken complains about the lack of details about Jesus' life in the Gospels and says that the account of Jesus' early life "moves along at such a clip that one becomes immediately suspicious" and says, "If Jesus was so important and if the Gospels were written so soon after his death, how come the details are so skimpy?"

Ken gets even more excited about the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary.

We are informed that the Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception are not the same thing, and that the latter is not in the Bible. You 3 people who thought otherwise will just have to sit down.

Joseph's attempt to divorce Mary is pointed up as exemplary "family values" - ignoring the fact that in their social context, Joseph's actions were actually just (indeed, required by the Jewish law!) and overwhelmingly merciful.

Regarding John the Baptist's testimony to the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus, it is written: "This vision, when attributed to a man who wears camel skins, lives in a desert, and eats only grasshoppers and wild honey, loses a lot of its credibility." It's too bad that Ken can't have the same kind of respect for John that Josephus had. Perhaps some sensitivity training would help.

Several verses are cited as proof of a "Commie Jesus" - places where Jesus allegedly advocated Communism, among them, instructions to the rich young ruler to give away his wealth. Of course many of the principles espoused in the NT, inasmuch as they promote sharing, do indeed resemble the same vein that Mr. Rogers might be a Communist when he encourages children to practice the virtue of generosity and sharing. Needless to say, the political complexities are much greater than that...certainly, seemingly, beyond Ken's meager grasp. (Hey, Mr. Rogers, get that picture of Marx off your wall! You're giving Ken ideas about you!)

Ken supposes that Jesus may have been fat - he calls up the moniker, "Tubby Jesus" more than once - because the Gospels "often depict him as eating and encouraging others to do likewise, and he always complains when people are bothered by it." This, incidentally, is in reference to the Last Supper and to the Pharisaic complaints of Jesus' table fellowship with "sinners"...what bothered them was not the eating, but the company Jesus was keeping, but Ken is too ill-informed of the social context to realize this.

The usual complaint about Mark 13:30 not being fulfilled, but we can't really blame Ken for this one - many scholars have been looking at this one the wrong way for years.

Luke 11:5-10, the parable of the man who knocked on the door of his neighbor, is interpreted as meaning "its okay to be pushy and annoying as long as the result is worthwhile." As Rihbany shows in The Syrian Christ such persistence is an Oriental characteristic -- which indeed Westerners find unendurable, but not Easterners, who expect it. When will Ken stop thinking like someone with a cultural superiority complex?

Luke 16:19-31, the story of Lazarus and the rich man, is interpreted as telling us "who should go to hell: rich people." The lesson of the story: "poverty, regardless of how it is attained, guarantees admittance to heaven." We could really blast this dilettante exegesis to bits here - pointing out that the issue was not poverty or wealth, but how the rich man's heart was inclined - but there's really no need, because Ken has committed here a bungle of tremendous proportions that blows his idea to smithereens. If the point of the story is that the rich go to hell, and the poor go to heaven...then what was Abraham, a wealthy tribal chieftain, doing on the Paradise side with Lazarus?

Luke 24:41, where Jesus eats fish to prove the corporeality of his resurrection body, is interpreted as proof of Ken's "Tubby Jesus" who always wants to eat.

Why did Jesus fail, according to Bible Scholar Ken? (Sounds like a Barbie companion doll, no?) Because "He wanted too much too soon." Good behavior, Ken tells us, "requires at least a twelve-step program."

John 18:9 is cited; John is accused of using "a passage from his own book as a scripture reference." Huh? Ken says 18:9 is a quote of John 6:39. It is, but it is Jesus citing his own words, not John citing his own book as Scripture.

The Jesus of John's Gospel is described as a "whiny, overbearing know-it-all who can't seem to stop making brazen claims of divine origin." Too bad Ken doesn't realize just how brazen the Synoptic claims are...some are as brazen as those found in John.

The practice of baptism is questioned, since Jesus is not said to have baptized anyone. We know that, of course, but we also know that Jesus commanded it (Matt. 28:19), supervised it as his disciples did it, and that baptism and/or immersion was a standard ritual practice among various Jewish groups.

Expressing pleasure at being martyred for the sake of the Gospel, as Stephen was, is described as "Christian masochism" -- which is understandable, since Ken seems unlikely to be the type who can comprehend dying for a principle. Perhaps he has no principles?

Paul is described as "a classic type-A overachiever possessed of too much energy and not enough comprehension" whose writings are "tenuous and full of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo." So indeed might Ken also say of the writings of rabbinic Judaism. So indeed might Ken say of anything beyond his limited understanding, like the instructions for opening a box of cereal.

Demonstrating his vast appreciation and understanding of apocalyptic literature, as well as of gemology, Ken says: "When John says that God looks like jasper, what he is saying is that God is green."

And now, our own final comments. Ken's Guide closes with a set of "Embarrassing Bible Questions" - mostly of the "Do You Believe..." (Something That Ken Thinks is Ridiculous) sort, no real threat to any informed believer.

What is to be done with Ken? We can laugh at him; we can be offended by him...but that is precisely what he wants in both cases. Like a child who has spilled milk on the floor looking for attention, Ken smears the Bible for the sake of a reaction. Well, he's got one - but not the one he wants. He hopes the Falwells in our group will condemn him to hell without answering him, but what he does not count on - because such is beyond his conception - is an informed response to his charges - such as they are.

In truth, Ken is an ingrate and an ignoramus. Ken Smith writing a guide to the Bible is like Louis Farrakhan writing a guide to race relations, or Bill Clinton writing a guide to marital fidelity. This is no insult, but a simple fact, and we have made that abundantly clear in this article. Our challenge to Ken is the same as it is to all skeptics: Go out and get yourself informed, and then come and see us.