Category Archives: Hermeneutics

The Brick Bible: Subtly Deceptive

brickbibleThe Brick Bible, which comes in several books (such as The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Brick Bible for Kids: Six Classic Bible Stories, The Christmas Story: The Brick Bible for Kids, as a complete set, etc.) claims to be “an original, modern interpretation of the Bible, based on older public domain translations such as the King James VersionDarby’s Bible, and Young’s Literal Bible.  In addition, modern English Bible translations were used as references, and the author consulted the original Hebrew for certain passages.”  After one reads (views) The Brick Bible, he should come to realize that it is not a Bible at all.

Up front note that the LEGO Group does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse the publication or content of these books.  

The Brick Bible attempts to illustrate the stories of the Bible using LEGO bricks in various dioramas.  The author states on his website “For ease of understanding and avoidance of bpsmith lego bible2copyright issues, The Brick Bible uses its own wording of the Bible’s text.  But chapter and verse numbers are always cited and also act as clickable links to the rendering of the same verses in the King James Version, the New International Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New Living Translation, and the Easy-to-Read Version.”  The author is simply trying to appear to give a fair rendering of Scripture while using his own wording to create the impressions and emotions of the Biblical text that he wants regardless of whether it is faithful to the original text. 

The Brick Bible does not contain the Bible in its entirety.  Through selective editing, the author creates his own (mis)interpretation of Scripture.  Small, almost imperceptible edits turn a reasonable Biblical story into something suitable for mockery.  For example, brickbiblenoaharkthe author portrays on page 27 of The Brick Bible: The Old Testament an ark crammed with Noah’s family and the animals, which perpetuates the skeptic’s tactic of debunking the historicity of Noah’s flood by showing how the ark could not possibly have contained all the animals as claimed. 

He portrays Yahweh as a singular being, instead of a Trinity.  See page 20 where Yahweh is depicted as talking to the angels instead of the other members of the Trinity when he said “The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil….”  The author’s God-caricature is always as an angry, vengeful, human-killing monster.  As an example of this type of portrait, page 29 shows skeletons everywhere when God is brickbiblefallmaking his covenant with Noah.  Instead of emphasizing the promise of a new start, the author subtly reminds us that God (unjustly) killed everyone else in the world.  Every single facial expression of Smith’s chosen LEGO character for God is with furrowed brow and angry eyes.

In going through the Ten Commandments, and the punishments for violations, he depicts the punishments (death) to be carried out at the scene of the “crime” instead of after a trial and the testimony of at least two witnesses.  He creates two misconceptions in the mind of the reader.  First, that the punishments are disproportionate to the wrong, and secondly that the punishments are administered on the spot instead of after careful deliberation based on the evidence.  This strategy is to make God’s justice to be unreasonable, if not immoral.  The author chose to illustrate the more violent passages of the Bible, and failed to provide these passages in context.  The theme of his illustrations is simply God’s wrath. 

Depictions of the events in the New Testament are similarly flawed.  Matthew 27:52-53 describes the opening of graves and many who were dead came back to life after the brickbiblezombiesresurrection of Jesus.  On page 134 of The Brick Bible: The New Testament, the author states “At [the moment of Christ’s death] the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who died were raised to life.”  The author shows zombies leaving the tombs instead of resurrected bodies.  This alone is problematic.  He also misunderstood Scripture because the resurrection of these people occurred after Jesus’ resurrection, and not at his death.  This point is important because Colossians 1:18 and 1 Corinthians 15:20 state that Jesus is the firstborn of the resurrection, not these people who are mentioned in Matthew.  Downplaying the miracles, the author shows the Apostles performing “many signs and wonders” as if they were conducting mere magic tricks.  By doing this, the author turns brickbibleapostlesthese accounts into goofy legends and undermines the evidence of the Apostles’ authority as eyewitnesses to the resurrection.

The use of LEGO toys to depict Bible stories does not allow for a clear understanding of Scripture.  The depictions are often silly, and limited by the “brick” nature of the medium.  The limitations of the medium, combined with the likely nefarious aim of the author, turn the serious nature of the Biblical accounts into silly stories akin to the absurd tales of Norse or Greek mythology.  Through his Brick Bible the author would have us believe that God is hateful and vengeful.  He makes no attempt to portray the real theme of the Bible: redemption.

Though marketed to children, The Brick Bible is not suitable for children with its cartoonish depictions of killing and sex.  The Bible itself with its adult themes, may be unsuitable for children without their parents close supervision.  Parents need to explain the hard passages of the Bible to children, and not just assume kids are going to get the right impressions from descriptions of killings and rapes that are recorded in Scripture.

The content of this “Bible” is not accurate or theologically sound.  But now I want to discuss the author.  His name is, Brendan Powell Smith, or at least that is what his

bpsmith trans

Brendan P. Smith, a.k.a. Elbe Spurling

name was until he legally changed it to Elbe Spurling after he announced that he is a “transgendered lesbian atheist.”  What he has told us is that he is a man who likes women, and that he doesn’t believe in God.  So, he is in denial about his gender, in denial about his sexual preference, and is in denial about his creator.  Such a person is not in a good position to offer spiritual guidance to our children.  Yet, some parents still think giving his books as gifts to children is a good idea.  After reading some customer reviews on Amazon, clearly some parents have no discretion.  Here are some examples:

Someone whose screen name is 250xGirl stated “Bought for my step son who is autistic and here (sic) loves Legos. This is perfect for him to relate to the Bible.”  Another customer identified as Janyre said “My little guy (who’s 8) LOVES this. Not only is it super creative, but the stories are quite accurate too. I’d recommend it to any other boy mom out there.” “Sombrero” exclaimed “My Kids (5 and 3) will not go a day without reading this bible. What can I say to the author besides THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for such a wonderful work of art that gets my kids to read their bible daily!!! Its beyond imagination how amazing this work is. God bless.”

Another Amazon customer gave the product five stars, stating “This was a huge hit as a gift as a confirmation gift.”  Confirmation of what?  That parents who do not read the actual Bible really have no discernment when choosing illustrated Bibles for their children?  The Brick Bible is not a gift to give to children for their spiritual growth.  Parents who give these books to their children are giving them a completely wrong understanding of God.

On his website Brendan Smith, a.k.a. Elbe Spurling, uses the imagery of his LEGO photos to misinterpret Scripture and cast the Word of God in a bad light.  For example, in brickbiblenazi1interpreting the source for governmental authority, Smith insists Romans 13:1 (“Everyone must submit to governing authorities, for those in positions of authority have been placed there by God”) required unquestioned devotion to Hitler and his Nazi government, and that the American War for Independence was also rebellion against God.  Smith also plays fast and loose with enemies, slavery, women, marriage, wealth, wisdom, those who will never inherit the Kingdom of God, justice, and the Jews.  He simply parrots how atheists characterize what Scripture says about these issues without bothering to understand context or nuance.

In his desultory, disconnected spirituality, Smith has drafted up something called “The New Morality: Living on the Right Side of History.”  He condensed this “new morality” into 10 “New Commandments” which are more like guidelines than commands.  These new guidelines, however, are a mishmash of some of the “Old Commandments” and some brickbibleguidelinesprogressive platitudes, like do not alter the environment, and minimize the suffering of “sentient animals” which presumably means we should protect the animals, but not babies in utero.  But, I will discuss this “New Morality” in another article.

Brendan Powell Smith is a troubled man.  That he is an atheist should lead us to question his motives for illustrating the Bible.  That he is mentally disturbed by his pretending to be a woman also raises concerns of whether we can trust his perceptions of Scripture.  Do not mistake my review of these books to be a call for burning them.  I believe God has given us liberty, even liberty to choose what is wrong.  Though, with wrong choices certainly comes consequences.  I also believe that truth will prevail in the ultimate sense over lies like those promoted in The Brick Bible.  But, until truth triumphs, lies may deceive many into forgoing eternal life offered to us by Jesus.

Also, do not think by my evaluating the author that I do not care about him.  We should pray for him.  He is deeply disturbed.  Atheism is currently being studied either as a cause of mental illness, or a mental illness itself.  His transgenderism is also a mental illness.  I am not saying this to insult him.  As a man created in the image of God, he is of inestimable worth.  But, we still need to be discerning in what we allow our children to consume.  Like the lie the serpent told Eve in the Garden of Eden, The Brick Bible is subtly deceptive.  It pretends to be a fair rendering of Scripture, but it paints a distorted portrait of who God is.  We should not let Brendan Smith’s fun, and somewhat funny, misinterpretation of the Bible put another brick in the wall that separates our children from God.


The Million Years March

Did you know it took Joshua and the Israelites millions of years to destroy the city of Jericho?

My daily (24-hour period) Bible reading took me into Joshua 6 this morning.  In chapter 6, the Israelites encircled Jericho, walking around the city once a day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day.  This week of Jericho’s destruction reminded me of another week: the week of Creation.

Many Christians wrap themselves around an axle debating “young earth” or “old earth.”  Most cannot really explain their positions very well.  One has “faith” in what his parents told him, or in some cursory reading of scripture.  Another has faith in what atheistic scientists tell him. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if an eyewitness to Creation wrote an account of the events?  Then we could know what really happened.

What?  You say there is such an account?  In Genesis?  Oh, but we don’t really know what God meant by “day,” huh?  There are two hermeneutical approaches to interpreting scripture.  One is exegesis and the other eisegesis.  The exegesis of a text involves deductive reasoning.  Deductive reasoning is allowing a set of premises, if true, to lead to a proper conclusion.  The most famous example is:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

“Exegesis” comes from the Greek language which literally means “to lead out” or “to guide out.”  Exegesis looks at the words of the text to build on one another in order to come to a proper meaning of the words. 

Smartest Man In America

Smartest Man In America

Exegesis seems to be the Justice Antonin Scalia approach in constitutional and statutory interpretation: the plain meaning of the words.  Unless it leads to an absurd result, the plain meaning of the words should be followed.  That way you don’t get “emanations from penumbras” that insist abortion and same-sex “marriage” are constitutionally protected.

Humpty Dumpty Hermeneutics

Humpty Dumpty Hermeneutics

The other hermeneutical approach is eisegesis.  Eisegesis is an approach to understanding a text and is contradictory to exegesis.  Eisegesis comes from the Greek meaning “to lead into.”  A person employing eisegesis brings to the text his own ideas of what the text should mean.  In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty approaches words the same way an eisegete approaches scripture: the words mean precisely what he intends for them to mean.

Here is a little dialogue between Humpty Dumpty and Alice:

Humpty Dumpty remarked ‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’

‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

If we are to interpret the word “day” (the Hebrew word “yome” or “yom”) in Genesis 1 as an indefinite period of time (“meaning millions of years” because people who claim the authority of science insist on it), are we to insist on the word “day” (the Hebrew word “yome” or “yom”) in Joshua 6 as an indefinite period of time, to include millions of years?

Genesis 1:5 reads in the King James Version “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”  “Day” is found twice in that verse.  According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, both “days” in English are the same Hebrew word “yome” or “yom.”  The word can mean a period from sunset to sunset, the hot part of the day (daylight hours), or even a space of time that is defined by an associated term.  The associated terms that we find in Genesis 1:5 (and the other portions of the Creation account) are “evening” and “morning.” 

And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

“Evening” is the Hebrew word “ereb” which means “dusk” or “night.”  The word “morning” is the Hebrew word “boqer” (pronounced “bo-ker”) which means “dawn” or the “break of day.”  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance does not offer “figurative” meanings for these words.

If we simply read the text and understand the words to have their plain, ordinary meaning without adding what we think the scientists are saying, Genesis 1:5 reads “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the dusk and the dawn became the first day.”  An exegetical reading of God’s words leads us out to a 24-hour understanding of day.  This is certainly not an absurd reading of the text.

On the other hand, those who have an interest in disproving the words of God, (and those who are simply ambivalent to Him) use radiometric dating methods that appear to show layers of rocks to be very old.  They ignore the grand assumptions required to make the radiometric dating methods work and cling to millions of years.  These “science” guys then use the data they collected through faulty dating methods to make philosophical conclusions: “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be” as Carl Sagan said in the introduction to the Cosmos series.  Sagan also said this “scientific” gem: “The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard, who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by ‘God,’ one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God.”

Because “science” supposedly makes God out to be a liar, well, God must not have meant what he plainly said in Genesis, right?  We have to fit these millions of years somehow into the text.  And a scriptural eisegete is born.  For me, I prefer not to argue young or old earth.  I argue for the plain meaning of the text.

So, in approaching Genesis 1, which is to be master?  The Author of the plain meaning of the language or the eisegete who believes in millions of years?

I guess another way of phrasing the question is “Did God really say…?”