The Bible’s Top Ten Worst Verses

masthead_452_100Ship of Fools just released the results of its survey: What is the Bible’s worst verse? They asked readers to contribute verses and then conducted online polling to determine the worst.  Here’s how they phrased it:

We want you to tell us: which sacred text makes you reach for the red pen? Which hallowed verse makes you laugh for all the wrong reasons? Which blessed passage leaves you groaning with embarrassment? Which piece of holy writ troubles you at night, but at least keeps you awake in sermons?

The survey’s results were just reported in the excellent newletter from the Evangelical Alliance, a British organization.  Here are the Top Ten worst Bible verses, according to this online poll.  As I’ll discuss below, THEY MISSED THE WORST BIBLE VERSE OF ALL!!!!!!!! (sorry for shouting and exclaiming).


  1. The ban on women teaching in church (1 Timothy 2:12)
  2. Samuel’s instruction to ‘totally destroy’ the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:3)
  3. Moses’ command ‘Do not allow a sorceress to live.’ (Exodus 22:18)
  4. The ending of Psalm 137 ‘Happy are those who seize your infants and dash them against the rocks’
  5. The gang rape and murder of a concubine (Judges 19:25-28)
  6. The condemnation of homosexuality (Romans 1:27)
  7. Jephthah’s vow which led to his daughter being sacrificed (Judges 11)
  8. God’s instruction to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:2)
  9. The instruction that wives submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22)
  10. The instruction that slaves submit to their masters (1 Peter 2:18)

As I said, they missed the TRULY WORST verse in the Bible, which I’ll get to soon. The incentive for this poll seems to be a desire to make the Bible palatable to our larger culture. This, surely, is a good thing… or is it? As the website says,

[The Bible] doesn’t have to be a textbook of infallible information and unbreakable laws to be God’s book. And it doesn’t have to be one big pile of lies and atrocity just because it has its dodgy bits.

Interesting. It doesn’t have to be “infallible” and its laws don’t have to be “unbreakable” to make it God’s book. Uhhhh… meaning the Bible is God’s book of potential errors and optional suggestions?

If the Bible has errors in it, would somebody kindly tell me where they are, because I’m banking my life on this book. Ditto for the “breakable laws.” Which ones? I’d like to know so I can teach my children which of God’s laws are mutable. Same for the “dodgy bits” which, if my dictionary defines British English correctly, means “dishonest or unreliable.”

So, the motive for the poll seems to be as follows: Let’s be good chaps, and ‘fess up to the dishonest and unreliable parts of the Bible, so that our unbelieving friends will know that we’re good chaps and feel better both about us and about the Bible, and perhaps give it another look, now that we’ve abandoned the brittle assumption that God’s Word is infallible and his laws are unbreakable.

God help us!

Yes, let’s VOTE on which parts of the Bible must be uprooted in order to make it palatable for society. Let’s create a Bible for the masses — a Bible edited under the principle of MAJORITY RULES.

Right. All it would say is, “God is love” and even that would be questioned.

I’m not suggesting that these verses and others pose no problems. I’m not suggesting they make me feel good, or seem right by my standards. I’m not suggesting that the poll is inappropriate — it’s important for us to know where the offenses lie so that we might be better equipped to evangelize. In context, most of these verses do not represent God advocating anything, or if they do, he’s just going  with some then-cultural norms.  (Check out the excellent analysis at the Evangelical Alliance).

Regardless of what these difficult verses are saying, the poll has a built-in dishonesty, because it omitted the WORST BIBLE VERSE OF ALL TIME… (you have to click “read the rest…” to get the big reveal).  Here it is…

The worst Bible verse of all time is….

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3, NKJV.

There it is. There is the massive stumblingblock. The great offense of the Bible. Because if there is a God, and if he exists as described in the Bible, then our assumptions of right and wrong, good and evil, true and false, must be give way to His.

The human problem is not that we find certain verses objectionable; it is that we find submission to God objectionable. We wish to do what is right in our own eyes, and balk at bowing the knee to a God Who Knows What He’s Doing. We much prefer to go our own way, and to not have this God to rule over us. Any honest person would admit it. Any honest poll would take it into consideration.

But we can’t, because once we admit that we don’t like the idea of a God who rules over us, we immediately verify the conclusion of St Paul:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” Romans 1:18, NKJV.

We are, one and all, guilty of suppressing the truth about God… we know it. We sense it. We intuit it. And we hate it. So we suppress it. Can anyone honestly argue his wrath is unjustified? Can anyone deny our innate desire to exalt ourselves above our Maker? To shatter the first commandment as surely as Moses shattered the tablets on which it was written?

Or is Romans 1:18 just another “dodgy bit?”

Let God be God and every person a liar. Truth is not up for a vote. Neither is God. Yes, we must deal with the difficult Scriptures. But let’s not kid ourselves into believing that people reject the Bible because it has hard verses. No. They reject the Bible because it makes them subject to a God they can’t tame, whose ways are higher than our ways, and always will be.

I don’t like having a boss.

Thank God for a gospel of a Savior’s Cross by which God forgives and embraces the most fervent rebel. Thank God for Jesus, who felt the weight of humankind’s hatred of the first commandment, and redeemed us from the curse of breaking that — and all other — commandments. Thank God for so great a salvation as revealed in God’s perfect Word… a salvation unlike any other, incomparable among world religions, and without peer in the annals of human history.

Thank God for Jesus, our Savior and our King. Let us have no other gods before him.


12 thoughts on “The Bible’s Top Ten Worst Verses

  1. I mean, to be fair, I look at the list of verses they chose and while I don’t think, “hey, lets just cut that stuff out, its not to my taste,” I do find myself raising an eyebrow at God and asking “so, you’re going to explain some of those to me someday, right? Cuz that genocide stuff…not cool, I thought.”

    And though I agree with you that as people who live and are formed in a democracy, we sometimes think its our right to tamper with anything, regardless its REAL authority, its important to recognize a helpful implicit insight in this quote:

    “[The Bible] doesn’t have to be a textbook of infallible information and unbreakable laws to be God’s book. And it doesn’t have to be one big pile of lies and atrocity just because it has its dodgy bits.”

    The majority of the bible ISN’T a textbook. Nor is most of it a set of unbreakable laws. There’s huge chunks of the parts that ARE “unbreakable” laws that we break all the time because they aren’t apart of a covenant that applies to us. Even some of Paul’s commands you let slide. You shave your face and I don’t think your wife wears a head-covering to church….at least you’ve never mentioned it.

    There are HUUUGE swaths of the bible that are ambiguous stories. Or poetry that uses imagery we don’t find all that familiar (the queens breast’s are like WHAT, Song of Songs?). Or really violent political histories. Or letters written to weird little confused church communities trying to figure out what it means to be Christians when noone’s really done it before. Or baffling paradoxes (so, you’re saying to gain my life I have to LOSE it?).

    So, there is an insight in their little quote there, but there’s also a mistake. And its a mistake that happens because THEY IGNORE THEIR OWN INSIGHT. They say “ya know, the bible isn’t just a textbook full of data and it isn’t just a book full of arbitrary laws and the parts that aren’t that stuff can STILL be helpful, useful, life-changing, God-teaching stuff too.”

    But then they screw up and say “but the stuff that is ‘inaccurate data’ or ‘bad laws’ is dodgy and we can ignore it.” Wait a second! No, no, no.

    I think rather the idea is that we keep that stuff and we try to make sure our understanding of those difficult verses is in line with what we know of the character of God. And that’s a wrestling match that could take a long time, but I have faith it would be rewarding.

    Much more rewarding than using the Bible like an almanac or encyclopedia. Cuz its much too powerful a tool for that job.

    • Right on, Jonathan! I’m with you… no, the Bible isn’t written as a texbook, but as a story of people’s lives in interaction w/God and his truth. There are, however, didactic portions and I view those as controlling…

      Nevertheless, the verses chosen by the survey are those verses which are used against Christ-followers, as if to say… “See, the Bible is dodgy (unreliable and deceptive)! See, this verse or that verse is WHY I DON’T BUY INTO THE BIBLE!!!!”

      And I’m suggesting, that if we were honest, the real reason, the true truth, behind our objections to Scripture is NOT the objectionable verses as much as it is the First Commandment.

  2. Wow – I wanted to leave you a comment to let you know how thought provoking this article is, but I do not know what to say. Other than this has captured my thoughts and caused me to ponder what is going on in the church and in the world.

  3. Amen Bill!

    I am a new believer and currently reading the old testament. That said I myself have wrestled with the alarming amount of people killed in the promised land. I would like to share the conclusion I came to from that wrestling match.

    1. When God makes a promise, He keeps it. His Promise to Abraham-Genesis 12:2&3. If you read from there to Joshua 21:45 “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

    2. God is not without feeling. Scripture also tells us in Genesis 1:27 that God created man in His own image. The God of the universe did not create us with emotions that He does not have. Our sense of horror at the destruction of so many people did not come from the Devil. God gave us those emotional guides of right and wrong. 2 Timothy 1:7

    3. God is merciful. Genesis 18:22-33! Just because we can not fathom that many people being completely committed to sin does not mean we can sit in judgment upon “the Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25).

    God is Agape. He loves even those who know not what they do.
    Thanks for Listening.

  4. I like how you turned that around Bill. Nice. But not nice.

    Well said Ernestine! Seriously, very well said. You should blog too. I’d read ’em.


  5. A harder verse still: I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things (Isaiah 45:7).

    Not only are we to have no other gods but the LORD, but what kind of God is He?! The rationale mind does not (nor can it) trust this God. Nor will it ever trust the Bible. A transformation is needed. To argue for the inerrancy of Scripture is pointless; bad eyes cannot be adjusted, we need new eyes to see.

  6. I think Justin hit the nail squarely! We need new minds too!

    I have discovered, as well, that the whole of the Bible is condensed into “Thou shalt have NO other gods before Me!” It is HIS story and HIS rules. Can we understand it even a little bit? Probably not, but we do accept it because we do have new minds and eyes to see by faith and believe it.

    Terrific blog, Dr. G! Sure have missed you….

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