10 Strange Misconceptions About Christianity
Both around the world and across the country, there are a lot of misconceptions about religion, especially Christianity. Though Christianity is one of the most popular religions in the world, and the most prevalent in the United States, there are many areas of the world that have no idea about Christianity. There are even many Christians, themselves, who may have misconceptions about the religion they follow.
Christianity is approximately 2,000 years old, give or take, and was started by the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and his apostles throughout the 1st century AD. Compared to other world religions, however, Christianity is rather young. However, the 2,000 years that it has been around has proved to be ample time to not only create and enforce the religion throughout the world, it has also been enough time to create confusion and controversy.
To some, Christians are a group that seem boring, hypocritical, judgmental and insensitive. To others, Christians are good people, who go out of their way to help and serve others. Since there is such a vast range of opinions about Christianity throughout the world, it is easy to understand how there are so many misconceptions out there.
If Christians and non-Christians alike want to set people straight about Christianity, it is important to get some of these misconceptions out of the way. By taking a look at the top 10 strange misconceptions about Christianity, some of the truths about this religion can now be out in the open.
10. Jesus Was Born on December 25
One of the two main Christian holidays, Christmas, is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus. However, there is no biblical nor scientific evidence that Jesus was actually born on or even around that day. Instead, scholars believe that Jesus was born in the fall, likely in September.
Though there are no biblical nor other sources that give this information, we do know a few things that lead us to the September date. First, the shepherds, who were part of the story of the birth of Jesus would never be watching the flock outdoors at the end of December, as it would have been much too cold. Second, we know that Mary and Joseph, the mother of Jesus and her husband, came to Bethlehem for the census, another event that would never occur in winter.
The third thing that shows us that Jesus was not actually born in December, and was actually likely born in September, is the story of John the Baptist. John was the cousin of Jesus, which we know from biblical sources, and he was born six months before Jesus. We can estimate that John was born in June based on the fact that his father, Zacharias, was a priest, and we know when he was at the temple. John was conceived within days of Zacharias’ return in June. This means he would have been born in March of the next year, and Jesus came 6 months later, in September.
9. The Bible was Written by God and/or Jesus
Another common misconception of Christianity has to do with the Bible. Many people believe that the Bible is the end all, be all of Christian doctrine, and that it was written by God, and/or Jesus. This is not true, and what most people do not know is that the Bible is only a small number of the many books that were created by Christian leaders, and these books were written by around 40 different people.
The people that wrote the books of the Bible came from many different walks of life. Some names, such as Moses, Jonah, Paul and Peter are well known to those who follow the Christian faith, but there were also many other authors. These authors came from three different continents and were written in several different languages. In addition, these authors wrote over hundreds of years, so the Bible was not written at some time.
So how did the Bible come to be? It took many years to compile the Bible that we know of today, and many modern Christians would be surprised to know that there were several versions of the Bible over time. Essentially, high church officials picked and chose books to put into the Bible, sometimes adding one or two, while taking one or two out. There are many published copies of the books that did not make it into the final version of the Bible, and this has caused critics of Christianity to point out that the Bible was just created on a whim, and was created by the whim of man, not by God.
8. The Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden was an Apple
If you know the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, you likely know that there was a fruit tree in the garden that God forbade the couple from eating. As can be expected, Adam and Eve did eat the fruit, and because they sinned against God, they were banned from the Garden and forced to live difficult lives.
Most Christians today believe that the fruit that was given to Adam and Eve by Satan was an apple. In fact, even in artwork from hundreds, or thousands, of years ago, Eve and Adam are often seen holding apples. However, scholars are almost universal in their agreement that an apple was not the forbidden fruit. Instead, they believe that the reason we believe it was an apple is because of the translation of the word for apple from Latin. The word for apple in Latin is malus, and the word in Latin for “evil” is malum.
So, if the forbidden fruit was not an apple, what was it? Based on scripture, both those books chosen for the Bible, and those that were not, there are a few ideas. Figs or olives are popular choices, as the Bible specifically states that these trees were present in the Garden of Eden. However, they were not referred to as forbidden. Pomegranate is also a popular choice, as are apricot, citrine and grapes. As of now, however, there have been no discoveries of text that tells us definitively what variety of fruit was forbidden in the Garden of Eden.
7. Mary Magdalene Was a Prostitute
If you are a follower of Christianity, you likely have grown up knowing that Mary Magdalene, one of the apostles of Jesus, was a prostitute. Unfortunately, this is probably incorrect information. In fact, there is no evidence in the Bible whatsoever that supports the “fact” that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Instead, she was described as a financier, a witness to the death and burial of Jesus, and she was present at the resurrection of Jesus. Only western Christianity also adds that she was a prostitute. Other Christians, such as those from the east, do not believe this.
What makes people believe Mary Magdalene was a prostitute? It has to do with the Book of Luke in the Bible, as well as some possible misogynistic views of the Medieval compilers of the Bible.
First, let’s look at the Book of Luke. In Luke, Mary Magdalene is referred to being “released from the power of the seven devils.” However, this doesn’t necessarily mean she was a prostitute. This was a phrase often used to describe people who were down, depressed, or melancholy. Also in the Book of Luke, she was referred to as a “sinful woman,” but no exact sin was ever mentioned, and she was “taken in adultery.” Again, however, prostitution is never mentioned.
So why is she described as a prostitute? It could come down to the misogynistic group of men who compiled the Bible during the Medieval era. In these days, they would not look kindly upon a woman holding a place of power among the apostles, which Mary Magdalene often is portrayed as having. To put her down a notch or two, they referred to her as a prostitute.
6. There were Three Wise Men, or Magi, Who Came to Visit the Infant Jesus
The story of the Three Wise Men, or the Magi, is a common one in Christianity, but there is no evidence at all that there were three men who came to visit the infant Jesus. Though there is evidence that wise or learned men came to visit Jesus after he was born, no number of men were ever mentioned in the Bible. So how did the number three become associated with the Magi? It has to do with the gifts they brought.
Even in the time of Jesus, when a baby was born, it was customary to bring gifts, and these men, however many there were, were said to have brought three gifts: gold, myrrh and frankincense. So, early Biblical scholars naturally just assumed there were three men, each who brought a gift for the baby.
However, it is certainly possible that there were more than three men who came, and it’s possible that there were only two. We know that the word used was men, in the plural, so it would be unlikely that it was only a single man. Critics of the Bible also claim that these are the only gifts that are mentioned, but who is to say there were no other gifts. Remember, the Bible was not written like a newspaper is; it does not describe events as they happened. Instead, it could have been written decades after the event occurred, and in that time of word of mouth storytelling, many details can be lost and/or changed.
5. All Christians Believe the Same Thing
When you talk to non-Christians about Christians, you will find that, in most cases, they believe that all Christians believe the same thing. There is certainly a certain Christian stereotype out there, but this is not a stereotype that all Christians appreciate.
The typical Christian stereotype is that they are judgmental and close-minded. This is shocking to outsiders looking in because they often know that the main lesson of the Christian lesson is to “love thy neighbor” and “do not judge.” This is even more startling to outsiders because they always see Christians doing things such as fighting against the rights of gay and lesbians or being intolerant of other religious groups or people. They do this, of course, by claiming these thoughts and feelings are OK because the Bible says they are. However, the Bible says a lot of things that we would never do in this day and age, such as keep slaves. Yet these particular Christians don’t ever have an answer why one thing is OK, such as eating shrimp or pork, two things forbidden in the Bible, but two men who love each other and want to be married and start a family is a sin.
Unfortunately, many outsiders lump all Christians into this group, and they believe all Christians have these beliefs. Fortunately, there are Christians out there who actually follow the teachings of Jesus, who they believe to be their Lord. These people are those who accept and love all.
4. The Immaculate Conception Refers to the Virgin Conception of Jesus
Most Christians would recognize the term, “immaculate conception,” and when asked, they would say that the term refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus, becoming pregnant with him, though she was a virgin. This, however, is untrue.
Though it is true that the conception of Jesus was immaculate, this term doesn’t refer to him at all. Instead, it actually refers to Mary, his mother. According to Roman Catholic doctrine, the immaculate conception refers to the belief that Mary was protected from the original sin that all people, according to Christian belief, are born with. In other words, Mary was sinless.
There is an issue here, however, as this is not a concept that was ever taught in the Bible. In fact, the Bible doesn’t describe Mary as anything other than a normal woman who God simply chose to carry Jesus. Mary was described as a godly woman, a wonderful mother, devoted wife, and a woman who Jesus greatly loved, but not once was she ever describes as “sinless.” On the contrary, there are several passages in the Bible, including in the books of Romans, 1 John, 1 Peter and Ecclesiastes, that refer to Jesus, himself, as the only one to ever walk the Earth who was truly sinless.
3. Christians Worship Three Gods
If you are not Christian, and you ever attend a Christian place of worship for a service, you may hear a lot about the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit/Ghost. You may also hear about the Trinity. This is a difficult concept for people to understand, especially those who are non-Christian, because it seems as if there are three Gods that Christians worship. This, however, is untrue. There is only one God in the Christian faith.
So, what’s all of this about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? Well, the Bible teaches about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As you can see, God is part of all three. Christians describe God as being part of a three-dimensional universe because he/she is much more advanced and complex than any human. This is a confusing concept, as most people, even if they are not Christian, know that Christians only worship one God, so how can they speak of three?
Christians tell non-Christians, and even Christians who do not understand, that you can think of the Trinity as the sun. From the sun, we get light, heat and radiation, but it is all the sun. From God, Christians get the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but it is all God. You may also be able to understand this from the view of water. Steam, ice and liquid water are all three very different things, but they are all H2O.
2. Jesus Was a White Man
it would surprise most people that Jesus was not a Caucasian man. The traditional portrayal of Jesus is a white skinned, blue-eyed, flowing blond haired man. However, Biblical historians and scholars claim that this is simply not the case. Based on forensics, cultural traits and early art, it is highly likely that Jesus was dark skinned, had brown eyes, and short, curly hair.
The first artist renditions of Jesus show him with a beard, short hair and dark skin. In fact, for several hundred years, Jesus was portrayed in this manner. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages when the portrayal of Jesus changed, as Christians did not like the fact that he had Jewish features, including dark skin, hair and eyes. There is also speculation that these artists changed the coloring of Jesus because the Medieval church was very symbolic, and darkness symbolized sin and evil, and lightness symbolized pureness.
Jesus as a dark-skinned man is problematic for some Christians today, as there are some who do not look kindly on people of a certain color or race. In fact, there are numerous studies that show some of the most racist people in the country are white and proudly Christian. Though not all Christians, of course, are racists, those who are often fight the portrayal of Jesus being a dark skinned man because they want to keep their personal beliefs that Jesus was just like them.
1. If You are Christian, You Don’t Have to Be Good
One of the unique things about Christianity is that followers of the religion believe that Jesus died for their sins, so they are always forgiven for what they do. Though this is true, this is also not a one-way ticket to heaven.
As a Christian, followers are expected to work hard and live godly lives, and THAT is how one would get to heaven. In other words, just because a person claims to be a Christian and claims that Jesus died for their sins does not give them free rein to lie, steal, kill and cheat. Instead, Christian leaders of the past, as well as the teachings from the Bible, give Christians a list of things that they must do in order to truly be a good Christian, and to make it to heaven based on the beliefs of the religion.
One of these things is to love all people. This means, if you are one of those Christians who has hate in their heart for someone of a different race, color, gender or orientation, you have not yet become someone who would be seen as a true Christian. Another thing is to be an ambassador for God. In other words, if you are not sharing the word of God with others, you, again, are not someone who has grasped exactly what it means to be a Christian.
Critics of Christianity, of course, find a lot of issues with these “rules,” and they are quick to point out that these go against the teachings of Jesus dying for the sins of believers.
To those on the outside, it can be difficult to understand Christianity. Even for many Christians, the religion that they follow can be confusing. Because of this difficulty in understanding the religion, it is unsurprising that there are misconceptions, both from Christians and non-Christians, alike.
Whether you are looking at the teachings of the Bible, or the historical beliefs of Christianity, you will surely find things that are confusing and difficult to explain. However, you will also find this with all religions, and Christianity is not along in having misconceptions. In fact, all major world religions have misconceptions, and those who are interested in religion should take some time to not only learn about these belief systems, but also to learn about the misconceptions of them.
Christianity has been around for more than 2,000 years, and it is unlikely to go anywhere soon, though it is no longer as popular as it used to be. Instead, modern research shows that people are choosing to walk away from religion altogether and instead, choosing to live a secular life.