It is Hell for real, not just Dante's imagination…

…This bottomless intellectual sewer…

I here reprint comments made by Robert Conner, responding to my article posted here yesterday, The Why-Bother Bible Factor. His reply was prompted by my observation, "But academic Bible study is a large, sturdy industry."


There are at least 30 Christian book publishers of some size, and the number of books on Christianity published each year in the US exceeds 5,000 according to the best estimates and may approach 9,000 annually. Christian bookstores have been closing—Cokesbury closed 38 stores in 2013, Family Christian Resources closed 240 in 2017 and Life Way closed 170 in 2019, but notwithstanding those closures it is estimated the religious book business is still worth $600 million per year. Understand also that there are over twenty major refereed journals devoted to New Testament studies.

Academic publishers release titles that cost over $100 per copy, but recoup the cost through the library trade, nearly astounding if one considers the subject matter is demonstrably folklore of no relevance to anything, past or present, folklore that has, nevertheless, been analyzed down to the most esoteric, most minute detail by people of undeniable intelligence.

To visit a major reference library, the stacks of Harvard or Yale for example, is to realize that New Testament studies is basically an immense hall of mirrors, the same meager set of founding documents endlessly reflected, an enormous fun house of fantasy. There are more New Testament Greek grammars than there are books in the New Testament, to say nothing of voluminous specialist lexica, theological dictionaries, and commentaries that are commentaries on other commentaries which in turn are commentaries on previous commentaries, an infinite regress.

The non-specialist, a person who has (mercifully) never been sucked into the vortex of academic New Testament studies, literally cannot conceive the vast mountains of verbiage, the bottomless oceans of blather, dedicated to the New Testament, a field, like theology, in which there is no discernible subject.

Given the sheer mass of material, row upon row upon row, section after section of books in library stacks, multiple learned disquisitions about every word and passage in the New Testament, to say nothing of multiple professional journals, some published for a century or more, one could be forgiven for supposing that Jesus Studies is really about something when, in fact, it is arguably about almost literally nothing at all.

Academic departments by the scores, celebrated professors with impressive lists of publications to their credit, prestigious peer reviewed journals, endowed chairs in world famous universities, all based on a hodgepodge of delusional visions, on nonsense, on conflicting pious forgeries and recycled Mediterranean and Middle Eastern folklore.

It is nearly pathetic that anyone has spent a few hours, much less decades or a lifetime, flailing about in the quicksand, the putrefying muck of this bottomless intellectual sewer, but there it is. I, for one, an amateur, have devoted decades to it and another decade or more to escaping it, writing books in the process but barely able, until now, to extricate myself. Abandon hope, ye who enter here. It is Hell for real, not just Dante's imagination. The sheer suction of religious delusion upon the human mind is sufficient reason to sink Humanity's Biggest Mistake to the deepest trench in the sea after burning it to the water line.


Before extricating himself, Connor authored these books:

Apparitions of Jesus: The Resurrection as Ghost Story
Jesus the Sorcerer
Magic in Christianity: From Jesus to the Gnostics
The Secret Gospel of Mark

Two of Conner’s essays are in the new Loftus anthology, The Case Against Miracles.

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University.