We know that not everything we read or hear is true. However, it is easy to simply repeat information we hear without actually knowing if it true. Sometimes that’s fine, but other times we end up unintentionally perpetuating an error. Here are several myths that I’ve repeatedly heard from other Christians.
“Nero killed Christians by throwing them to the lions in the Colosseum.” This statement is repeated often, and has even made it into print (see Sproul’s commentary on Mark published in 2011). However, there are many things wrong with this claim. First, construction on the Colosseum (or Flavian amphitheater) began around 72 AD, four years after Nero’s death. Additionally, there is a complete lack of contemporary evidence that the Colosseum was used for Christian executions. The later tradition linking Christian martyrdom to the Colosseum is inconclusive. None of this should be taken to mean that Christians were not viciously killed by the Romans, or that Nero didn’t kill many of them while he was emperor. However, he certainly didn’t do so in the Colosseum.
“The word ‘love’ never appears in the Koran.” This is a claim that I have heard more frequently of late, but is completely false. While Muslims do not believe that the Koran can be translated, a popular English rendering is the Shakir version. The word “love” appears in it 86 times.
“The Hebrew word for hearing is the same as the word for obeying. Therefore, a person hasn’t really heard unless he obeys.” As is often the case, this seems to come from a superficial understanding of language, particularly the original languages of the Bible. It is true that the Hebrew word sha-ma can be rendered either to hear or obey. However, Hebrew is a lot different than English, and tends of be more abstract and rely on context for meaning. Thus, the Hebrew word ay-il can be translated as deer or oak tree, and the word ba-rak (used in Job 2:9) can be translated bless, praise, or curse. However, no one would claim that a person has not really cursed a person until they have blessed them!
“We should interpret the Bible literally.” Many Christians say that the whole Bible should be interpreted literally. It shouldn’t. This cliché completely ignores the role that genre plays in proper hermeneutics. The prophet Isaiah promised that the mountains and hills will break out in song, and the trees will clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12). Jesus said that He was a door (John 10:9). The truth is, scripture should be interpreted according to the normal usage of language, sometimes called a grammatical/historical approach.
It is important to be accurate in our statements. Sometimes this means researching a claim that doesn’t sound right or is unsupported. What are some untrue statements that you often hear?