Monday, December 20, 2010
Good and Evil, by Michael Pearl
My knowledge of Michael Pearl is that he has some legalistic and aberrational teachings, so seeing that this comic-book version of the Bible was authored by him immediately set my alarm bells off. While the premise of this book is good (to get the Bible into the hands of Muslims), one cannot ever justify twisting the Biblical story to match a personal theology. I understand that one must take artistic license to round out some of the story to keep interest, however we cannot allow such license to teach what is blatantly false
I have to admit that this book is fairly good overall, but where it messes with Scripture it is sometimes grievous in its error. With that said, let us begin to look at Pearl’s idea of what the Bible teaches.
To begin with, Pearl uses the name “Jehovah” for God, which I am guessing is due to his KJVO stance. I think he should use Yahweh.
Pearl apparently subscribes to the “Gap Theory” of creation, wherein there was a previous creation which was destroyed by a war with Satan, because he has Satan - who he erroneously calls “Lucifer” - rebelling and becoming Satan before man was created. (pp.2-5) Also, by being a proponent of the King James Version as the only correct English translation, Pearl ends up with much error in his understanding of what it says.
Before proceeding farther, let me state that the name “Lucifer” comes only from the King James version of the Bible (and the New King James which keeps it) and the Latin Vulgate. The King James translators didn’t know what to do with the Hebrew word and simply transliterated it from the Vulgate. When Jerome was translating the Hebrew into Latin, he came across the word “Helel,” which means something like, “shining one” or “bright one,” in Isaiah 14:12. The passage described Helel as the “son of the dawn.” Jerome decided that Isaiah was describing what Jerome knew as the “morning star” (what we know as Venus). In Latin the name for this “star” was “Lucifer,” which means, “light-bearing,” so that is the word Jerome used to translate “Helel.” Modern translations all use “morning star,” “star of the morning,” “Day Star,” “shining one” or similar in their translations at this point, because “Lucifer” is a Latin name for Venus. It was never the name of Satan.
Part of the issue is how to translate Isaiah 14:12ff; some say it is about Satan, but the context is about the king of Babylon and some say that Satan is addressed as the power behind the king. However you want to interpret this passage, the point is that Satan never had the name of “Lucifer.”
So, what is wrong with Satan’s rebellion taking place before man is created? A couple things. First, the “gap theory” has been debunked from just about every scholarly point possible. It was a theory designed to fit long ages into the Bible, but it isn’t necessary to do this because those long ages supporting evolution are all theories in and of themselves with absolutely no proof. Secondly, since God called all of creation “very good” when He finished (Gen. 1:31), Satan could not have yet fallen.
On page two there is an image that is supposed to be Satan, which is an angel with the head of a bull. Pearl’s belief that this is Satan’s real pre-sin appearance plays later in the story. This idea is purely fictional and extra-biblical.
Because of his belief in the “gap theory,” Pearl has Satan and the demons watching as Adam and Eve are created. This has absolutely no biblical support and is just plain false teachings.
Not reading his Bible, Pearl has Eve already created when Adam is told not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and has God telling the both of them. But Scripture says Eve wasn’t created until after Adam received the command (Gen. 2:17). Pearl then has Satan telling Eve that if she eats of the fruit she will become “like the gods,” whereas Scripture says Satan said she would become “like God.” There is a big difference here in that Pearl has Satan teaching polytheism.
Pearl depicts Adam and Eve believing God will kill them because God said they would die. (p.9) Then when God kills animals to make skins for clothes, Pearl says God killed the animals instead of Adam and Eve. From Scripture it is apparent that God had no intent to kill them.
Apparently misunderstanding what the text says, Pearl has the curse of Satan including Satan’s “seed” and Eve’s child (p.8) to be enemies, whereas Scripture says the enemies would be the seed of both - not necessarily Eve’s child but rather her descendants.
The artist depicts the cherubim guarding Eden as having a lion’s head (p.9). This is extra-biblical.
Pearl makes the decision that the offerings Cain and Abel brought were sin offerings and that they were supposed to be sacrificed animals, supposedly based on Adam telling how God killed animals instead of killing Adam and Eve (p.10). However, there is nothing in Scripture saying that the animals were killed in their stead, nor is there anywhere in Scripture where it says Cain and Abel were offering such a sacrifice.
Pearl says that Cain gave his best offering but it wasn’t accepted because it wasn’t an animal. However, that is not what Scripture says. Scripture says that Abel offered the firstborn and fat of the flock - the best he had to offer. Cain was a farmer and should have offered his best - i.e, “first fruits” - but Scripture says he only offered “some” (NET, NIV, et al) of his produce. Hebrews 11:4 says it was by faith that Abel offered a better sacrifice, intimating that the problem with Cain was his attitude towards God where he did not offer the “first fruits.” It had nothing to do with being a “bloodless” offering, yet this is the reason Pearl has Cain getting angry at Abel - he has Abel telling him there is still time to do a blood sacrifice - another extra-biblical claim. (pp.10-11)
Next, Pearl has God telling Cain that Cain will rule over his brother and Abel will be in subjection to him (p.11). This is nowhere in Scripture, but it is apparently Pearl’s misunderstanding of the passage (Gen. 4:7) where God tells Cain that sin is desiring him but that he must rule over it (“him” in KJV).
Moving on to Noah, when he comes out of the Ark, Pearl has his sacrifices being for sin and to pay for the lives of his family (p.18). This is not what Scripture says, and shouldn’t be assumed. This is a common theme with Pearl; all animal sacrifices are in trade for the lives of the persons offering them.
Pearl has Noah discover wine, as if before the flood no such fermenting of grapes took place (p.18). This is just silly.
When Pearl is telling the story of the Israelites making an idol while Moses is on the mountain, he says they made it in the form of a bull because that is what satan looked like before he sinned (p.79). As noted previously, this is extra-biblical. Where Pearl gets this information is unknown.
Pearl again does the Satan/Bull thing when telling the story of Jeroboam where he depicts them making an idol of a golden calf. (p.106)
The next thing I found difficult to pass by is when Pearl is telling the story of the magi. He has three of them, as in the song “We Three Kings.” (p.166ff) Scripture tells us there were three gifts brought, but doesn’t say how many magi there were. While this could be passed over as artistic license, it tends to solidify the legend into fact for those who don’t know better.
When Jesus is fasting in the desert, Pearl has him just then understanding poverty, hunger, being alone, sick, weak, etc. (p.175) This denigrates the deity of Christ; wouldn’t he as God already understand that?
At the end of the temptation of Jesus, Pearl has Satan owning the world since Adam and Eve sinned (p.177). This is very common for those who believe in Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance ministries. However, Satan may be ruling the world, but he doesn’t own it. Many Scriptures tell us that all of Creation belongs to the Lord.
Pearl does as many others do, which doesn’t excuse him, as he identifies Mary Magdalene as a prostitute (p.219ff). There is no Scriptural warrant for this charge against her. But Pearl conflates stories and has prostitution as the reason she is demon possessed.
On page 236 Pearl puts Jesus’ words in the mouth of the woman who anoints him and washes his feet. He has her telling Jesus, “You are the resurrection and the life. He that believes in you will never die.” This gives Mary the origin of this very important citation by Jesus.
When Jesus is being ministered to by the angel in the Garden prior to his arrest, Pearl has the angel paraphrasing Psalm 23 to Jesus: “Abraham and all the host of Paradise are awaiting you coming. They have prepared a table before you in the presence of your enemies; your cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy will follow you and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (p.249). I think this is a bit ridiculous.
The back of the book, several pages long, tell the story of why this particular book was developed, as well as a story depicting its use and success; I hope this book I have is not a version which goes to the field, as I don’t think this is appropriate.
While many of these problems can be somewhat harmless, they can be misleading to those new to the Gospel. However, I feel Pearl’s handling of Genesis is grossly errant due to propagating false “gap theory” teachings, which undermines the literal teachings of Genesis. For me to recommend this book, the section on Genesis would have to be re-written.