When I read of fringe folks making fanatical comments, my first response is usually to try ignoring them, and hope others do the same. They’re usually out for publicity, and I don’t like contributing to their notoriety. Sometimes, however, their inanity gets enough traction to go viral, and there’s no chance of it being ignored, so I figure it’s better to say something than to let misinformation go unchallenged.

Two relatively recent things come to mind: one is an independent Baptist preacher in Canton, N.C. whose recently-started 14-member church (which appears to consist mainly of his family and one other) is sponsoring a book burning for Hallowe’en, and the books to be burned include Bibles. News reports including this video have taken delight in the story for its weirdness factor. Sadly the story has made news sources as far away as the United Kingdom and India.

Marc Grizzard is a true believer in the King James Version of the Bible, and labels all modern translations of the Bible as “Satanic” and “perverse.” Thus, he’s collecting other Bible translations to throw on the bonfire, along with books by Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Mother Theresa, and a long list of other authors that he considers to be heretics.

Grizzard, who preaches a hell-laced gospel of intolerance for anyone who disagrees with his views, gave his congregation the ironic name of “Amazing Grace Baptist Church.” On the fairly elaborate website he had set up — which has since been taken down by the webhost — he set out a doctrinal statement that says more about allegiance to the KJV than to Christ. In a faux-academic note on the website, he pointed out that copies of the Geneva Bible would not be burned, or any others based on the Textus Receptus, a 16th century compilation of six Greek New Testament manuscripts. The combination text, put together by Desiderius Erasmus in 1516, was used as the basis for the New Testament of the KJV and some other Reformation-era translations.

Of course, very few people have a 400-year-old Geneva Bible laying around, so his caveat matters little. KJV-only folk believe as a statement of faith that the Textus Receptus is inspired by God, even though the most reputable scholars of the Greek manuscript tradition demonstrated long ago that manuscripts belonging to the Western Tradition (which formed the basis of the Textus Receptus) are demonstrably inferior to other manuscripts.

Grizzard is welcome to believe the KJV is the preferable translation, but making a spectacle of burning other translations and books is an act of violence against hundreds of translators and authors who love God deeply. I suspect that Grizzard truly believes that his attention-drawing witch hunt honors God, but the truth is that it makes him and his church — and other churches by association — look like narrow-minded bumpkins. Such publicity stunts work in direct opposition to the call of Christ to transform our world through compassion and care.

The second thing has been hanging around for the past three months or so, but only recently got enough momentum to find its way into millions of email in-boxes. It is an anonymous anti-Obama video that uses pseudo-scholarship and scare tactics to suggest that Jesus spoke the name of the antiChrist, and it would have sounded like “Barack Obama.”

The video is wrong on so many fronts that they don’t all bear discussion. Mark McEntire has done a nice job of debunking the claptrap at EthicsDaily.com, as have articles at Salon.com and at Snopes.com. I’m sure there have been others, but the video hasn’t gone away and the author, rather than admitting his errors, inexplicably took some of the criticism as confirmation of his argument, and posted a “new and improved” version on YouTube.

McEntire identifies the video’s producer as Carl Gallups, pastor of the Southern Baptist-affiliated Hickory Hammock Baptist Church in Milton, Florida. The church’s website is chock-full of similar sensationalist videos, though I couldn’t find this one posted among them, and I wouldn’t expect to. A website called WorldnetDaily reported that the video originated with an “American Christian” who contributes to YouTube as “ppsimmons” and who agreed to be interviewed only on condition of anonymity “out of concern for members of his local church.”

Whoever did put that piece of digital garbage together ought to be ashamed to admit it, because it’s filled with half-truths, mis-truths, and an obvious effort to bear false witness against another. The sad thing is that his fake scholarship sounds just convincing enough that many uniformed viewers will be gullible enough to believe it, or to wonder if it could be true.

In short, the narrator says that Jesus’ statement in Luke 10:18 (“I saw Satan fall like lightning from the heavens”) could be Jesus’ prediction that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, claiming that in Hebrew “lightning from the heavens” would be “barak 0(u)bamah.”

That’s just wrong. The narrator starts by saying that Jesus would have spoken in Aramaic (probably true), then says Aramaic is the oldest form of Hebrew (not true — they’re both dialects of a common Northwest Semitic predecessor). Using Strong’s numbering system (which reveals that he has no personal knowledge of Hebrew), he says that the Hebrew word for “lightning” is barak (that’s one of several optional ways “lightning” can be expressed) and that the word for “the heavens” is bamah (false — bamah means “high place,” normally used for the top of a hill: the narrator uses some proof-texting sleight of hand to claim that it could just as well refer to the sky or the heavens). He then says that the Hebrew word for “and” is the letter waw, which can be pronounced as either “u” or “o” (that’s true, except that it’s never pronounced as “o” at the beginning of a word, and when it occurs before a “b” sound it changes it to “v”).

Using this mis-represented Hebrew hodge-podge, he claims that “lightning from heaven” would sound like “barak 0(u)bamah.” Nonsense. Not only would bamah never be used in that way, the preposition “from” (min) would have been used instead of the article. The video’s claims to have grammatically “revealed” the sound of Barack Obama’s name in Hebrew are nothing more than balderdash, blarney, or baloney — take your choice. If you don’t like those, try bilge, b
unk, or bull.

Beyond his linguistic conjuring with Hebrew flash cards, the narrator appears to confuse Satan with the antichrist (clearly two different characters in the New Testament), and makes the common error of thinking that the so-called “Lucifer” (based on a Greek mis-translation carried on in the KJV) of Isa. 14:12 — clearly addressed to a Babylonian king — has anything to do with the Satan character of the New Testament.

The video, viral as it has become, is not only wrong, it is a mean-spirited attempt to deceive people who are uninformed and to undermine and discredit a fairly elected president that the producer apparently doesn’t like. Despite the video’s closing disclaimer, its intention is clear: it is a dirty trick, a low blow, a foul play. It is an open offense not only against the president, but against the one who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

With witnesses like these, is it any wonder so many people look askance at the church?

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