Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

Season 2 Episode 11

The Bible: Fact or Fiction?

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Aired Monday 10:00 PM May 06, 2004 on Showtime
8.7
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Episode Summary

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Noting its contradictions and implausibilities, the boys question the reliability of the Bible as a true historical record. Special Guest Experts include: Dr. Paul Maier (Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University) Michael Shermer (Publisher of Skeptic Magazine and Director of The Skeptics Society)

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    • TRIVIA (2)

      • This episode of Bullsh**! is unique in that it contains primarily only two guest experts and a slew of man-on-the-street type comments.

      • The label on the bottle Teller pours his "wine" into from the opening water to wine gag reads "Bullsh**! Estate Vineyards, 2004 Las Vegas Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, merde du taureau BRUN (French for bullsh**, brown).

    • QUOTES (23)

      • Penn: Take some time and put the Bible on your Summer reading list. Try and stick with it cover to cover. Not because it teaches history, we've shown you it doesn't. Read it because you'll see for yourself what the Bible is all about. It sure isn't great literature. If it were published as fiction, no reviewer would give it a passing grade. There are some vivid scenes and some quotable phrases, but there's no plot, no structure, there's a tremendous amount of filler, and the characters are painfully one-dimensional. Whatever you do, don't read the Bible for a moral code: it advocates prejudice, cruelty, superstition, and murder. Read it because we need more atheists, and nothing will get you there faster than reading the damn Bible.

      • Penn: If you believe...it's your God...and your God is infallible, you can't throw out some of the rules just because you don't like them.

      • Shermer: Here is a big problem using the Bible as a guide for moral behavior and moral thought: which parts are you going to use and which parts aren't you going to use? Look, in the one passage that Conservatives always cite in the Bible about "a man should not lay with another man" and therefore, homosexuality is a sin. Yeah, well, go to the next chapter where it says that we should stone to death disobedient children. So, look, what we do is we pick and choose the passages we want, and that's not consistent and it's not fair.

      • Ten Commandments Protester: You ain't taking my Ten Commandments, you ain't taking my Bible, and you ain't touching my faith! It's part of the Constitution in this country!
        Penn: We IS taking you Commandments out of our courthouse, we ISN'T taking you Bible or you faith. The Constitution guarantees us freedom from you Bible and you faith while promising you can keep you Bible and you faith!

      • Penn: [on the Commandment monument debate] Polls showed that 4 out of 5 Americans wanted the Commandments to stay right where they were. And "Candle in the Wind" by Sir Elton John is the bestselling song of all time. Popular sure doesn't mean right. I bet more people can sing some Elton John than know all Ten Commandments huh?

      • Penn: Hearing that so many other Messiahs were walking around is weird, huh? It was a plague of Messiahs! Yeah, "Monty Python's Life of Brian" was more historically accurate than Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ".

      • Shermer: Jesus was not the only messiah at the time. There were lots of messiahs. In fact, there was another fellow named Apollonius of Tyana, who, in the first century, was claimed, by his followers, that he healed the sick, he raised the dead, he was able to walk through walls and buildings, that he was, in fact, persecuted for his religious beliefs, he was brought to trial by the local Roman courts, he was crucified, and after he died, he, we are told, ascended to Heaven, and he came back where his followers saw him. This is not the Jesus story, this is Apollonius of Tyana. Who the heck is that?

      • Penn: We know a guy named Jesus! He plays World Championship Poker.

      • Penn: There's this guy. Calls himself the Messiah. Says he's the Son of God. Says he's gonna change the world. Says he can cure the sick, but he only cures the ones he happens to bump into....JESUS CHRIST!

      • Penn: [on the Red Sea crossing] Once you buy the Red/Reed thing, well, they walked a low-tide marsh on a windy day. What's the miracle in that? The smell didn't annoy them?

      • Penn: [on the Moses story] Now why wouldn't God just appear to Pharaoh and say it himself? Because God works in mysterious, inefficient, and breathtakingly cruel ways.

      • Penn: Thousands of Jews are supposedly enslaved by an Egyptian Pharaoh. I don't wanna sound like Mel Gibson's dad here, but we can't find any evidence of that. None. Really none. Floods we find, but enslaved Jews in Egypt, nowhere outside of the d*mn Bible.

      • Penn: The Noah thing is probably a mixture of stories about a flood that really happened on the Euphrates River about 125 miles southeast of present-day Baghdad. Every Spring, the Euphrates floods, but, according to archaeologists, one June, around 2900 BC, there was a 6 day storm and the river rose another 22 feet. The river overflowed the levees, and a lot of people got killed. One of the survivors was a local Sumerian king named Ziusudra. He resourcefully commandeered a commercial barge loaded with merchandise and rode the flood downstream into the Persian Gulf, where he finally ran aground. Thankful to be alive, Ziusudra offered a sacrifice in a hilltop temple. That's it! Big flood, boatful of goods, happy landing on a hilltop. And we have geologic and archaeological evidence to support that. No surprise that at least 6 other cultures in the region had flood stories like Noah. But see what happens when you abandon the faith world and pretend to use science to prove your bullsh** myths? There's always a real scientist willing to check your facts.

      • Shermer: [on Noah's Ark] This is not a literal story. This is a story about destruction, redemption, starting over, beginning anew, forgiveness, redemption and so on. To try to read it literally is to miss the point of the story.

      • Penn: [with Teller in monastic garb] Let's take a moment to consider the important, relevant lessons Teller and I have learned from the King [drop garb to reveal Elvis jumpsuits] of Kings. Elvis Aaron Presley died in 1977. He was born and lived in a time when most people in his land were literate. We have many firsthand reports about Elvis's life. We have many reliable records, medical, musical and otherwise. Even so, there are people, LOTS of people, who insist Elvis is not really dead. Sound familiar? Even the dozens of books written by people who actually knew Elvis contain conflicting stories of his life. Sound familiar? There are people who insist Elvis didn't take drugs. Sound familiar?...yeah, that one doesn't to us either. We have photographs of Elvis in the morgue, DEAD as a f*cking doornail, and in just 25 years, there are stories that he's...not...dead. In "Fit for a King", an important work delving into Elvis eating habits, the author suggests that, in order to make Elvis's beloved fried chicken, you'll need 3/4 of a cup of flour, salt, paprika, and pepper. In..."Are You Hungry Tonight", a definitive look into Elvis's favorite foods, the King's beloved fried chicken recipe calls for 1/2 cup of flour, salt, and pepper. Glaring differences. 1/4 cup less flour, no paprika? F*CKING HERETICS! Now imagine trying to figure which is the true Elvis chicken 2000 years from now. Elvis...never did no drugs.

      • Shermer: [on the Creation stories] Now, believers will say that's just two different versions of the same event. Fine. But then don't, in the next breath, tell me "Oh, we have to take the Bible literally. When it says this, it means this."

      • Penn: [on the dual Creation stories] Ah yes, of course, two authors. Sometimes the Bible is the word of God. Sometimes it's the word of Man, and sometimes it's the word of two or more men. Sometimes the Bible is literal, and sometimes it's simply symbolic.

      • Penn: Did you people finally get your good books? Good, put those books down, and open your d*mn bible to Genesis.

      • Penn: Dr. Maier is a well-known biblical scholar whose written books on ancient history. He's got a Ph.D and calls himself "Doctor". Michael Shermer has written books on religion and skepticism, and he has a Ph.D. So, he COULD call himself "Doctor"...if he wanted to. But, he calls himself "Michael Shermer".

      • Penn: It's fair to say that The Bible contains equal amounts of fact, history, and pizza.

      • Penn: YOU KNOW! BEING ON TV IN A SUIT AND YELLING WITH THIS D*MN BOOK IN MY HAND...feels very natural. Look at the monitor, Teller, I look good like that, don't I? I look just like one of those Evangelical *ssh*les. The fact is, we are TWO Evangelical *ssh*les. Bullsh**! is an Evangelical show. TV preachers are doing exactly what we're doing. They are telling the truth as they see it. They just don't have the crack research team we've got at Bullsh**!

      • Penn: (reading onscreen disclaimer at the end of the episode) The characters and events depicted in the damn bible are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

      • Maier: Some have said that Jesus's miracles were simply sleight of hand, magic. But, again, you have to remember that Jesus's signs were not just changing water into wine, you know, maybe by a fake cannister there or something like that. But, we have blind people healed so they could see. We have deaf people hearing, we have cripples walking. That's hard to arrange, magically. I don't think David Copperfield could pull that one off!
        [record scratch]
        Copperfield: Don't be sucking up to me, it's not even my show!

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